Couples counseling has something of a bad reputation. Success rates are dismal, and for many couples, enrolling in marriage counseling signifies the beginning of the end of a relationship. This should not be seen as a shortcoming of marriage counseling itself, but rather a shortcoming of individual counselors who might provide counseling to couples without any formal training.
In an article in Psychotherapy Networker, William Doherty summed up the issue. He said, “Couples therapy may be the hardest form of therapy, and most therapists aren’t good at it.”
He goes on to explain in a little more detail: “Surveys indicate that about eighty percent of therapists in private practice do couples therapy. Where they got their training is a mystery because most therapists practicing today never took a course in couples therapy, and never did their internships under supervision from someone who’d mastered the art. From a consumer’s point of view, going in for couples therapy is like having your broken leg set by a doctor who skipped orthopedics in medical school.”
Couples counseling is not the same as individual counseling, and yet many, many therapists do not make this distinction. This means you have counselors employing techniques and strategies they learned for treating individuals, but in a couples’ setting. It’s little wonder that the results are not always ideal.
The other side of the problem is purely situational. Couples will often seek counseling when the marriage is already in trouble. Because seeking therapy is often done in this “emergency” context, most couples do not take the time (or can’t) to fully research therapists and select the best fit.
While it can be difficult to do, we recommend “shopping around” for couples counselors to ensure that the therapist you choose actually has training for relationship counseling. There is no harm in asking a potential counselor about their training, experience, and approach to couples counseling.
Different counselors will have different strategies, and it will be up to you to decide what works best for you and your spouse. Just remember that many therapists, no matter how skilled in other areas, may not have any training specific to working with couples, or with improving marriages in particular.
Choosing an unqualified therapist will be a drain on both your time and your money, and may actually do more damage than good. Make sure you’re choosing the right person for the job.
We also recommend exploring alternatives to face-to-face counseling like we offer here on our site. We offer videos and articles on a variety of marriage counseling and relationship topics including:
- How To Save Your Marriage
- How To Stop Divorce and Avoid Separation
- How To Fall Back In Love
- How To Survive An Affair
- Improve Communication In Your Relationship
- End Conflict
- Rebuild Trust
- Plus Lots More
For a full list of our topics, you may want to explore our Marriage Help Library.
If you are already seeing a counselor, make sure that they are providing you with real value. If you’re considering it, do your best to make the most informed decision possible. You’re taking a big step forward by committing to improving your marriage, and it would be awful to put that in jeopardy with an unqualified counselor. Choose wisely!