Being in a loving, committed relationship is a common need across all humanity. The process of finding a partner and staying together is always challenging but usually very worthwhile. Making a binding commitment such as marriage and raising a family together makes the relationship even more complex.
Most relationships experience conflict at some stage. For some, it might be the occasional tiff while others may lose their spark or experience full-scale arguments.
As this form of relationship is one of our most important; when it begins to develop cracks and weaknesses it can have a detrimental effect on our health and happiness. When this happens, many couples usually attempt to work through the issues on their own. This approach can be haphazard and quite stressful so it can be very beneficial to seek help from an impartial third party using couples counselling.
Marriage counselling is a form of talk therapy aimed at helping both partners to improve and maintain an intimate relationship. It is different to other forms of counselling for relationship issues as they can be conducted with individuals. Marriage therapy essentially involves both parties attending sessions jointly or having a combination of individual and joint sessions with the counsellor.
Practitioners who choose to offer this type of therapy need to have specific training to allow them to manage the unique dynamics of working with two people at the same time as opposed to individuals.
Most of the therapy work takes place during the sessions however couples may often also be asked to complete some ‘homework’. This could include doing a particular task or doing something specific between sessions. They can use the time in between to discuss any issues or experiences that arise and also to discuss how they feel about them.
Some people may be uncomfortable with the idea of seeing a marriage counsellor for fear of being judged, told what to do or because they find it hard to admit that they could use some help.
The role of a couple and marrige counsellor is to provide an opportunity for couples to discuss their issues in a structured manner with the guidance of an impartial observer. They will not give their personal opinion or suggest any particular solution. Instead they will allow both parties to explore your situation openly and to reach your their conclusions.
Counselling can be undertaken at any stage of a committed relationship including the very early stages. It is sometimes referred to as marriage counselling and can be used to help couples with pre-nuptial discussions.
In this form, it is not about the distribution of assets if the relationship fails, but instead, it can help couples anticipate likely areas of conflict or confusion and to develop ‘contingency plans’ to help them navigate the road ahead. It is especially useful for people with different cultural backgrounds or languages.
Any couple may choose to seek counselling during periods of conflict, lifestyle changes or when communication has become difficult. It can also be useful for those who are considering separation as they can spend time reflecting on the positive and negative aspects of their life together and gain some perspective before make any permanent decisions.
This form of counselling gives couples the opportunity to speak with someone who has no connection to either party, no pre-existing ideas of what the relationship ‘looks’ like and who is also highly trained in resolving relationship issues.
Couples and marriage counselling can help both parties:
Through the course of the sessions, the couple may find ways to improve their communication and resolve their issues, or they may also come to agree that the relationship has reached its end and they want to part ways. In either case, the counselling process gives them the opportunity to grow and to make rational decisions about their future in a calm environment.
Marriages turn to counselling for a variety of reasons both positive and negative. In the early stages of a relationship a couple may want help to plan ahead for any issues that may cause them concern in the future and discuss potential ways of dealing with them if and when they occur.
Others may become aware that their relationship has become a bit stale or that they are not communicating as well as they used to so they want explore ways they can refresh their relationship. Many marriages also seek counselling when their relationship has reached a crisis point and they can no longer move forward on their own.
Although each marriage has different needs, there are some issues that frequently arise including:
There are many other issues that couples could explore with counselling but no matter what the situation, taking the time to discuss it with the guidance of an experienced professional is usually very worthwhile.
There is no right or wrong time to seek help and a lot can depend on the nature or urgency of the issues involved. Generally, when either party starts to become concerned about the relationship or it appears unlikely that they can resolve the issues together, then it may be a good time to seek the help of a third party.
Some may believe that counselling is only for ‘emergencies’ in times of crisis, however, it can provide useful support for couples at any stage of their relationship. Dealing with concerns before they escalate to overwhelming proportions can be quite empowering and healthy for a relationship.
There are no official requirements for a couples counsellor to have a particular qualification or level of training; however, using a therapist that does have recognised qualifications and proven experience in some form of relationship counselling will help give you confidence and trust in them.
It is also useful to see if they are a member of a related professional association as this will show they have completed specialist training in their field.