A relationship may sour for a variety of reasons, including stress, infidelity, and incompatibility. Several types of marriage counseling methods have been developed and tested over the years, allowing you to choose the right type of marriage therapy to address your relationship’s unique set of issues. You may be tempted to try to work out the problems on your own, but using a licensed professional who can engage you and your spouse in one of the most successful methods in marriage therapy will give your relationship the best chance for success. Choosing the right therapist is critical. A study performed by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy concluded that although 80 percent of therapists who engage in private practice use tailored marriage counseling methods for couples, many of those same therapists have never had any formal training in marriage counseling methods or marriage therapy. Experts say that if you are engaged in the right type of marriage therapy, you will start to see some value within three therapy sessions. If you don’t, it may be time to try a different method or seek out a new therapist.
1) Behavior Modification
Successful marriage counseling methods will address and attempt to modify any dysfunctional behavior so that you and your spouse can change the way you behave with each other. This type of marriage therapy also ensures that you or your spouse do not continue to engage in any type of behavior that causes harm to the other, whether the harm is physical, emotional, or financial. If you engage in domestic violence, for example, your therapist might recommend that your spouse enter a shelter for abused women until therapy has concluded. A drug abuse problem might cause the therapist to recommend specialized rehabilitation treatment. Most marriage counseling methods address and begin treatment with the root cause of the problem before any other type of marriage therapy or couples counseling can begin. This type of counseling follows a solution-focused therapy model in which the couples are taught to focus on solutions instead of problems, and the bulk of the initial therapy is focused on actions rather than feelings.
2) Attachment-Based and Behavioral Marriage Therapy
Emotionally focused marriage counseling methods study how each person engages with the other and then tries to expand the emotional responses, create new types of interactions, and nurture the bonding process. This type of therapy usually has the best success rate with couples who do not share their private feelings, causing an emotionally distant relationship in which partners simply grow apart. The use of attachment therapy in these instances is designed to minimize the fear of expressing private emotions and the need for closeness to each other. Therapists who engage in this type of marriage therapy tend to believe that this fear is the result of unmet emotional needs at an early age that have been carried into adulthood. Therapists who engage in behavioral therapy, on the other hand, tend to believe that the fear of expressing emotion and private feelings is due to a fear of being rejected. However, both types of marriage counseling methods have a clear focus on helping you to express your emotions and feelings to each other in a healthy manner that draws you together.
Related Article: How Much Does Marriage Counseling Cost?
3) Insight-Oriented Therapy
Marriage counseling methods that employ insight-oriented therapy take a slightly different approach. The focus is on changing the way each partner views their relationship with each other and helping them to look at each other more objectively. When marriages start to sour, it’s all too easy to play the blame game, pointing out specific actions and identifying the culprit. If you bought a new car, for example, your spouse may blame you for all of the family’s financial problems. Marriage therapists who engage in insight-oriented therapy will spend a good deal of time studying the interactions you have with your partner, collecting data along the way. Once he or she has enough information, your therapist will start to develop a hypothesis concerning what causes each of you to react to the other in the way that you do. At this point, but your therapist will develop a strategy for how to share this information with you and counsel you from that point forward, but the end goal will always be to help you and your spouse develop new ways of viewing each other and your interactions.
4) Communication Coaching
Successful marriage counseling methods will address the way you communicate with your partner, helping each of you to express your true feelings without fear. If you or your spouse uses ridicule or abuse to communicate, your therapist will employ one of several communication coaching strategies in the marriage therapy sessions to change that type of behavior. Your therapist may also teach you to understand which types of communication are the most effective and which types will simply cause more conflict in the end. These types of marriage counseling methods also involve sharpening each spouse’s listening skills, since effective communication requires that one person speak while the other listens. The goal of this marriage therapy is to teach you how to listen more actively and employ more empathy when your partner is trying to communicate with you. No approach to communication is one-size-fits-all, as partners who do not express their feelings at all will require very different marriage counseling methods and strategies than partners who have historically engaged in mutual criticism of each other.
Related Article: When to Divorce: 7 Signs You Need to Get Out
5) Strengthening the Overall Relationship
Successful methods in marriage therapy will employ strategies to get each partner focusing on the inherent strengths in the relationship. If you and your partner spend most of your time focusing on your problems, even if the goal is to find a solution, you may lose sight of the most important aspects of the marriage—what brought you together in the first place and what makes your relationship strong. This phase of all successful marriage counseling methods will help you to identify those strengths so that you can start to truly enjoy each other again instead of just tolerating each other. How this comes about will depend on the views and methods of your marriage counselor. If your therapist engages in therapy that focuses on emotions, you might be asked to develop a story that puts a positive spin on your relationship. If your therapist believes in marriage counseling methods that involve behavior modification, you might be asked to go out of your way to do things that please your partner.
An Alternative Method to Marriage Therapy
There are different methods used within marriage counseling, and then there’s an alternative method to marriage counseling altogether.
A lot of people resist digging into their past and bringing up all the marriage problems. And the truth is…it’s not necessary. There’s a relationship healing alternative to marriage counseling called Marriage Fitness with Mort Fertel. Marriage Fitness is not about fixing what’s wrong; it’s about making new things right. And it’s not about what happened in the past; it’s about what’s going to happen in the future. By focusing on instituting positive relationship habits and building good-will between husband and wife Marriage Fitness succeeds to save marriages and turn relationships around at a very high success rate.
How to Approach Marriage Counseling to be Successful
When you decide to go to marriage counseling, there are some things that you should do to be successful as a couple and an individual.
- Have clear goals – The goals of marriage counseling can seem obvious, “having a better marriage,” but it’s important to consider what that means. If you can discuss what your “better” marriage would look like, it might help the two of you arrive at the counselor’s with a shared vision for where you want to get to.
- Be ready to compromise – Up to now, it’s likely that at least one of you has been rigid. It’s possible that both of you have been unwilling to compromise or change your views. One of the keys to being successful in any counseling, let alone marriage counseling, is to be ready to give a little to get a little.
- Be prepared to work – Falling in love and getting married can seem like falling off a log. It just happened. When the happiness is over, it’s work to get back to happiness. It’s going to be something that you will both need to expend energy on or it simply won’t succeed.
- You’ll give up time – One of the places that we can often become the most selfish is with our time. Your time will be taken up while you try to repair your marriage. In fact, if it isn’t, you aren’t doing it right.
- Remember why you’re here – You married this person because you loved them. If you don’t remember how that felt, you need to take some time away from life and think about it. Few of us get married lightly. Think back to the reasons that you married this person. Those reasons are still there; they’re simply covered over by the stresses of life.
These are a few of the things that you need to be aware of when you decide to get marriage counseling. It’s hard work but it’s important. Approach it from a place of love and you should be fine.
Learn more about how to avoid divorce in our Marriage Counseling Guide.