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What Marriage Counseling Looks Like

Marriage is different these days. First, young people are getting married much later than previous generations — an average of about three years later since 1990 and more than seven years later since the 1950s. Secondly, young people have different expectations from their marriage than previous generations had. For decades, America has long cultivated the […]

Marriage is different these days. First, young people are getting married much later than previous generations — an average of about three years later since 1990 and more than seven years later since the 1950s. Secondly, young people have different expectations from their marriage than previous generations had. For decades, America has long cultivated the roles of a dominant and dependent spouse, where one partner relies entirely on the other for financial support, decision-making and more. Modern marriages are defined by egalitarianism rather than authoritarianism, with each partner pulling an equal amount of weight in financial earning, home management and more.

However, perhaps the most famous difference between marriages today and marriages of the past is this: The divorce rate is dropping. Within the last decade alone, the overall divorce rate dropped roughly 18 percent, and the vast majority of that decline is attributable to people younger than 45. Though the reasons for this drop are myriad, ranging from millennials’ fear of divorce thanks to growing up in divorced homes to the statistically significant advantages of staying married, there is one factor that no one seems to appreciate: marriage counseling.

Millennials, more than previous generations, trust the process of therapy, and the rates of married couples acquiring marriage counseling services are going up. But what does marriage counseling entail, and how does one get involved in this field? Read on to find out.

Reasons for Marriage Counseling

A couple doesn’t need a reason to seek marriage counseling; in fact, it is often advantageous to begin seeking counseling before relationship problems develop and escalate. Still, there are some common grievances that often bring couples to a marriage counselor’s office, to include:

  • Communication problems
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Conflicts about child-rearing
  • Substance abuse
  • Infidelity

In truth, any issue coming between two partners and preventing them from working together happily and lovingly should warrant a marriage counseling appointment.

What Happens in a Counseling Session

No two counseling sessions are identical because no two married couples are exactly alike. Every marital issue is unique, and different counselors will approach problems in different ways, but there tends to be a common pattern that most marriage counseling experiences follow:

The Basics. The first appointment will entail the counselor getting to know the couple, to include learning individual backgrounds as well as a shared history. It might seem more like an interview than a counseling session.

The Exercises. There are many counseling exercises used to inspire openness and closeness between people, such as trust falls, eye contact and hand-holding, role play and making appreciation lists.

The Questions. As couples begin delving into their relationship, they will be encouraged to ask and answer open-ended questions. Often, having a counselor in the room encourages honesty and sharing in ways that partners fail to do alone at home.

The Tasks. Counselors usually assign homework at the end of a session, which should help a couple apply any lessons to their regular life. At the beginning of the next session, the counselor will review the at-home task to see if progress was made.

Choosing the Right Marriage Counselor

The counselor him- or herself can be the difference between a reparative session and a session that makes everything worse. Thus, it is imperative that couples do research on prospective counselors before committing to one practice or one provider. First, it’s important to know what qualifications certain counselors have. It is possible to practice with only a bachelor’s degree in some states, but often some counselors may have additional credentials, such as a master’s degree in MFT or even a doctorate in clinical psychology or a similar field.”

Next, couples should investigate certain counselors’ reputations. Most often, couples receive recommendations through friends or family members, but those who cannot find suggestions from loved ones should look at ratings and reviews online. There are several services for this, including Psychology Today and Good Therapy.

Finally, it’s not uncommon for clients to shop around with different counselors until they find a match. Many counselors will permit an initial meeting with low or no cost to determine whether the client and provider are a fit. Clients should take advantage of these opportunities to feel out the counselor’s personality and style before expecting them to fix their marriage.

Marriage counseling is not a guaranteed solution to any marital distress, but it can help couples identify issues and work together better as a team. As younger people start pairing off in greater numbers, marriage counseling will likely become a booming industry that keeps couples together with greater success and happiness.

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