Does Marriage Counseling Work: Statistics Can Help You Find the Answer
Does marriage counseling work?
That’s a really big question, but in reality, what people are asking is, “Can marriage counseling save my marriage?” The answer to that depends a lot on a number of factors that are outside of the counselor’s office.
While some of these points are highlighted below, here are some of the factors to look for when considering marriage counseling:
- Have you waited too long? If you’ve been tearing each other apart for ten years, there’s a really good chance that there’s so much damage that unraveling it can’t be done.
- Do you really want to save your marriage? Sometimes people go to counseling just to say that they tried. They aren’t really wanting it to work. They’re just saving face to assuage their guilt.
- Is there violence or abuse in the relationship? If there is, you’re not trying to save a marriage, you’re trying to stop criminal activity. Abusers, whether physical or emotional, aren’t “unhappy” in their marriage; they are often scared and impotent people who feel powerless everywhere else in their lives.
- Does this arrangement meet your needs? If saving your marriage means that you get to spend another 30 years suppressing everything that you want to do, is that worth it? It takes a hard and honest look at what each person wants to make sure that you’re getting from the relationship what you need.
A Hidden Factor in Marriage Counseling
One of the biggest factors in the success of marriage counseling is the counselor. Almost every counselor in the world says that they do marriage counseling, but most never received any training. Often, they got a degree in psychology or therapy and feel that they can do it.
Marriage counseling isn’t just one person and his or her issues. It’s two people, their issues, and interaction and dynamics of those issues. Marriage counseling isn’t just counseling – it’s a learned skill that requires a specialist.
1) Statistics Show High Rates of Patient Satisfaction
According to research done by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, families and couples who have attended family or couples therapy sessions indicate high levels of patient satisfaction. Over 98 percent of those surveyed reported that they received good or excellent couples therapy, and over 97 percent of those surveyed said they got the help they needed. After working with a marriage or family therapist, 93 percent of patients said they had more effective tools for dealing with their problems. Respondents also reported improved physical health and the ability to function better at work after attending therapy.
2) Marriage or Family Counseling Takes Less Time than Individual Counseling
If you are wondering “does marriage counseling work?”, the answer may depend on whether or not your partner is even willing to go to therapy with you. If your partner refuses to go to therapy with you, you may be able to change the dynamic of your relationship just by going to individual therapy. However, statistics show that couples or family therapy is usually faster and more effective than individual therapy alone. When a couple or a family goes to therapy together, they have the chance to work on their group dynamic, and this leads them to success faster. Typically, it takes about a third fewer sessions to accomplish a goal in family or couples therapy than it does in individual therapy. This means you will spend less money and get your marriage back on track sooner than if you just tried to help yourself.
3) Working with a Licensed Family and Marriage Therapist Is Usually Cheaper than Seeing a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist
Unfortunately, when many couples start therapy, they feel stressed about money as well as many other things. Adding the additional stress of a therapy bill can be overwhelming for some couples, and in certain cases, it may be so overwhelming that it could derail the therapy. If you want to avoid that extra stress, you should try to use your insurance to pay for couples therapy. However, if your insurance does not cover the cost of couples counseling, you should look for a professional who has reasonable rates. If you turn to a licensed marriage and family therapist, you will typically spend 20 to 40 percent less than you would if you had opted to work with a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
4) Marriage Counseling May Lead to Divorce
When many people ask the question “does marriage counseling work?”, they are really asking whether or not marriage counseling can save their marriage. Unfortunately, this is not always the right question to ask. In some cases, marriage counseling works by convincing a couple that they are not in a healthy relationship and by giving the couple the encouragement they need to end their relationship. According to some research, approximately a quarter of couples who receive marriage therapy report that their relationship is worse two years after ending therapy, and up to 38 percent of couples who receive marriage therapy get divorced within four years of completing therapy. These statistics lead some people to consider one of the growing number of alternatives to marriage counseling. One of the more popular alternatives is Marriage Fitness, created by relationship expert Mort Fertel, who has had over 2 million users.
5) Emotionally Focused Therapy Works Most of the Time
There is no magic formula that can fix a broken relationship, but many therapists have had incredible success using a type of therapy called Emotionally Focused Therapy or EFT. When asking “does marriage counseling work?”, statistics show that the answer is usually yes when couples use EFT. EFT works by helping a couple understand and reorganize their emotional responses to things. By working with their emotional cycles, a couple can come to a greater understanding of each other, and this can help them create new cycles of interaction. When couples turn to EFT, 90 percent of them report significant improvements in their relationship. Between 70 and 75 percent of couples who are in distress are able to move into recovery using EFT. Essentially, EFT helps a couple foster their attachment in healthy and productive ways.
6) The Sooner the Better: Couples Therapy Works Better When Couples Seek Help Early
Unfortunately, there are no hard numbers to back up this assertion, but it is commonly believed by therapists that the answer to “does marriage counseling work?” is more often yes when the couple seeks therapy as soon as possible. If a couple waits until their problems are too far advanced, one person may have already given up on the relationship, and saving the relationship at that point can be difficult. In other cases, communication patterns have become so abusive or negative that the therapist may struggle to teach the couple new communication techniques. For the best chance at success, couples should seek therapy as soon as possible. Couples may even want to sign up for premarital counseling.
7) Degrees May Not Matter: The Importance of Finding a Therapist Who Is Right for You
Research from Consumers Reports indicates that the amount of education your marriage therapist has may not be that important. A survey of 4,000 people revealed that people felt the same about their therapy regardless of whether they saw a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a social worker. In cases where patients only had a limited number of choices because of restrictions set by their insurance company, they felt the therapy was less effective. Because there seems to be so little difference between the efficacy rates of different mental health professionals, you may simply want to choose your therapist based on your instincts. If it feels like a particular therapist could help you, then schedule a session. If not, talk with another professional.
Related Article: 7 Tips to Finding a Great Marriage Counselor
8) Marriage and Divorce Statistics May Undermine Your Marriage
For years, most people have believed that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Sadly, that statistic can make people feel like their marriage is half over before it even starts, and unfortunately, that statistic may not be true for modern marriages. Couples who got married in the 1970s have a 47 percent rate of divorce, but those who married in the 1980s or 1990s actually have a lower rate of divorce. Couples who are getting married now tend to be much older than those who were getting married in the 1970s, and those extra years help to lower the divorce rate. Before throwing in the towel on your marriage, you should carefully assess whether cultural assumptions about the high divorce rate are making you give up too easily.
9) Marriage Counseling is Specialty that Requires Shopping Around
According to William Doherty, in an article in Pshcytherpa Networker, “Surveys indicate that about eighty percent of therapists in private practice do couples therapy. Where they got their training is a mystery because most therapists practicing today never took a course in couples therapy and never did their internships under supervision from someone who’d mastered the art. From a consumer’s point of view going in for couples therapy is like having your broken leg set by a doctor who skipped orthopedics in medical school.”
It’s important to not simply choose someone close by or just someone who has a degree, look for someone who has been trained in marriage counseling. Ask them, look online at their training, and ask other therapists for a referral. Does marriage counseling work with the person doing the counseling has never been truly trained in marriage counseling? Not often and not well.
10) The pain of Divorce Needs to Outweigh the Pain of Marriage
“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”
― Tony Robbins
That might seem like an odd statement, but it’s really true. Most of us don’t think of divorce as being less painful than staying married, but it can be. There are a lot of factors that can cause a marriage to be painful. When considering counseling (and this can be conversation number one with a great counselor), consider if splitting up isn’t what’s best for you, the kids, and the other person.
No one wants to admit it, but there are times when getting married was a mistake and it’s something that you should undo. If you’ve built a life, started a family, and shared years together, though, that’s a decision that needs to be made very carefully.
Special hint: If your marriage is on the rocks or has ended and you know a couple that has recently gotten married or is considering it, encourage them to get counseling now. They shouldn’t wait until their marriage is falling apart. Just like you go to a doctor every year, you should look to keep your marriage healthy by actively working on it. In this case, does marriage counseling work? Yes. Especially when you get it before you need it.
Learn more about how to avoid divorce in our Marriage Counseling Guide.