How Does Marriage Counseling Work?

Couples going through a rough patch or seeking to strengthen their shared bond often seem to resist the idea of professional counseling services. Many people have their own ideas of what couples therapy is like and what it can do for a relationship. Understanding how counseling works goes a long way in providing clarity and helping couples strengthen their relationship. So, we asked Becky Thebes, MS, NCC to share her insights and explore some of the common questions and concerns people have about couples counseling. Becky facilitates the SMART Friends and Family meeting at Mazzitti and Sullivan Counseling.

What are some common reasons couples seek counseling?

The most common reasons that couples seek counseling are communication issues, lack of expectations in the relationship, and one person realizing that their partner has checked out of the relationship. Co-dependency is also an issue that commonly prompts therapy.

Understandably, such intimate issues are difficult to discuss and do so openly in front of a stranger, which is another reason some couples are reluctant to seek out professional help.

What is marriage counseling/couples therapy like?

During initial counseling sessions, the couple breaks down what brought them to the counselor in the first place and what they hope to get out of their sessions. Often, it’s necessary to lay out a timeline so the counselor can understand what brought the two together, what works in the relationship as well as what doesn’t and where things first started to take a turn for the worst. Depending on the counselor, he or she might begin by meeting with partners on an individual basis.

Rather than feel apprehensive, couples should instead understand that relationship counseling is conducted in a relaxing, supportive and safe environment so that an open and honest discussion can take place and the healing process can begin.

What are some of the greatest benefits of couples counseling?

Partners who actively engage in couples therapy learn new communication skills, empathy, and trust. They also learn to take time and care for the relationship and themselves as individuals.

How can couples get the most out of their sessions?

Couples gain the most from therapy when they are honest, engaged, and can drop their defenses. Participants have to put effort into their sessions if they truly hope to see results. If the counselor gives a take-home assignment, each partner should be intentional about implementing the suggested changes outside of the counselor’s office. While it might take time to fully trust and engage with the counselor, couples should focus more on their marriage or relationship and less on their initial discomfort.

What to Look for in a Marriage Counselor

It’s essential that couples know how to identify a reputable and trustworthy facilitator. The first thing to look for is experience, and not just years, but experience with the specific problems a couple has. The counselor should also operate with a style that the couple is wholly comfortable with. Finally, the counselor should have the proper education and licensure to practice.

For information about attending couples therapy with an experienced and fully licensed counselor in Central Pennsylvania, contact Mazzitti and Sullivan Counseling Services.