Does marriage counseling work?

March 5, 2018

The short answer…it depends. Couples counseling can be one of the most powerful healing agents available. It can truly transform your relationship and your life. But it can also turn out to be a huge waste of your time and money and, in some cases, make things even worse than they were before.

Your best bet to getting the most out of the counseling experience rests with YOU. It is YOUR relationship. YOUR money. YOUR counseling.

To begin with, do your best to choose the right counselor. Here are some quick guidelines to finding the “right” counselor.

  • You and your partner feel comfortable with this person.
  • The counselor is truly a relationship expert. 75% or more of their caseload should be working with couples. This is harder to find than you might expect, but it’s worth the effort.
  • The counselor is not afraid to call either of you out on your stuff. Some counselors are conflict avoidant and have a very difficult time holding a partner accountable for bad behavior.
  • The counselor is directive. They offer you more than the standard “How does that make you feel?” line.
  • You can afford to see this person regularly for years if that’s what it takes. A solid, experienced couples therapist will be costly. Expect $150 to $400 an hour. This is not the time to look for someone cheap. A really good couples therapist is worth the cost. You can certainly find someone for less money but that doesn’t mean you will get anything of value from the experience.

Finding the right therapist is only the beginning. After finding the right therapist, it is important for you and your partner to be the right kind of client. Being the right kind of client is more than just showing up to your session each week and hoping the counselor is good enough to fix what is broken. Fixing you is not their job. Showing you what needs to be fixed is! A good therapist will help you see things about yourself, your partner and the pattern of interaction between you. It’s up to you to find the motivation and courage to be willing to look at yourself honestly and change. So here are some quick guidelines for how to be the right client:

  • You are patient and willing to put in the time. Lasting change is not quick or easy. Expect setbacks and have the persistence to keep working.
  • Be willing to be uncomfortable. Few people are comfortable being confronted with how they really show up in their relationship. Most people have an idea or story they tell themselves where they are more innocent and their partner more guilty. Be willing to look at yourself honestly.
  • Manage your reactions. If you are someone who is very reactive to criticism, you are going to make the therapy process much harder and longer for everyone, including your therapist!
  • Be willing to focus more on changing you than changing your partner. If you really want your partner to change, you will have to focus on what you do that makes it harder for your partner to give you what you want.
  • Risk vulnerability. You will have to speak up about what you want and need even if your partner reacts poorly. That takes courage!

When the right kind of client finds the right kind of marriage therapist, big impactful change in your marriage is possible! If you are the right kind of client and ready for change, consider giving us a call or scheduling a Discovery Call to learn more.

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KIM BOWEN is a licensed professional counselor who offers relationship therapy through her company, The Marriage Place. Her blogs and newsletters have been featured in various publications

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1 Comment

  1. elisalanzanova

    Thanks so much, Melissa!

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