Relationship or marriage counselling is a relatively new branch of the counselling profession. It has grown in popularity over the last so years as more people seek help for their relationship. Many couples report that therapy saved their relationship from separation or divorce.
Can counselling help your relationship? What are the indicators that you may benefit from counselling and how can it help?
Indicators you may need counselling
Couples come to counselling for many reasons. At a simple level, one or both partners are dissatisfied with the state of the relationship.
This can manifest itself in many ways:
- Arguments and conflict: This is the most common presentation I see in my therapy room. These couples can feel locked into a cycle of anger and resentment
- Lack of intimacy. This often applies to couples who have been together for a longer period of time. They may still love each other but it seems that life keeps getting in the way. Somehow the relationship gets lost in the competing demands of jobs and family.
- Affairs. Many couples come to therapy after one partner has had an affair. Like the other points in this list, affairs are a sign that the relationship is not working
- General dissatisfaction. Your relationship has the potential to be your greatest source of joy and support. If this is not the case counselling can help you get back on track. You don’t have to put up with a mediocre relationship.
How Couples Counselling Helps
As I said in a previous blog (https://ukcounsellingnetwork.co.uk/blog/what-is-couples-counselling) relationship therapy helps you develop a conscious relationship.
Couples Counselling helps you understand the underlying problems in your relationship. When you understand what is not working you have a greater chance of fixing it.
Many couples describe the problems in the relationship at a surface level. For example, they argue about who put the bins out or other domestic chores. A skilled couples counsellor will help you look below the surface. Arguments about domestic chores often mask deeper feelings. For example: “he doesn’t appreciate me”, “nothing I do is good enough for her” or “I feel unloved”
These statements of feelings have more power than an argument about bins. You can see that talking about feelings opens up options for new behaviour. When the discussion moves from blame about chores to feelings we open up a chance for resolution.
I usually start my work with a couple by looking at their communication. Most people I know are not good listeners and this applies to the couples in my therapy room. I start by asking two questions:
- Can both partners discuss the problem without apportioning blame on the other?
- Are both partners able to discuss how they feel in a given situation?
Once I know the answer I can assess whether the couple has the ability to problem-solve. If they don’t, the couple will tend to get stuck in conflict and blame. I have many tools to help couples develop effective communication.
Many couples have been burying their issues for years. They have never told their partners how they really feel. This leads to a huge buildup of emotion, which will result in stress and tension. Unaddressed, this tension leads to affairs and divorce.
Factors that affect outcomes
There are two big factors that affect the outcome of couples therapy:
- How quickly do the couple come to therapy? Often couples think of therapy as a last resort, the point of no return. In this type of relationship, the problem has often been festering for some time. The earlier a couple comes to therapy the easier it is to help them rebuild their relationship
- How committed are the partners to change? Couples counselling can be tough. It takes honesty and vulnerability to work through relationship problems. Both partners must be willing to listen, accept, self-reflect, and learn from their mistakes.
Does it work?
Research suggests that couples counselling can be effective in helping relationships.
Two studies consider marriage counselling to be an effective approach that can significantly reduce marital distress (Dunn & Schwebel, 1995; Shadish & Baldwin, 2003).
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy presents interesting numbers about marriage counselling. They show that 90% of couples report an improvement in their emotional health after counselling. Another study found that 66% of partners presented an improvement after counselling (Byrne et al., 2004).
There are good long-term results too. A similar study showed that 48% of couples remained content at a five-year follow-up (Foote, 2014).
Does any of this article resonate with you? You would probably benefit from couples counselling. At the UK Counselling Network, we have experienced couples counsellors waiting to help. We are one of the few organisations to offer low-cost couples counselling. Our prices start at £45 per session. If you would like to book couples counselling complete our self-referral form here. (https://ukcounsellingnetwork.co.uk/book)