A Look at Marriage Therapy
Are you experiencing
problems in your marriage and wonder whether marriage counseling might be
helpful? If so, your best chance at success is not to wait until things get
worse, but to address your issues as soon as possible. Research shows that
couples wait an average of six years from the time problems start before going
for outside help. At that point, one person is often ready to leave the
relationship and is agreeing to therapy as a last resort. By then, it may be too
Changing approaches to
The field of marriage
therapy has been searching for ways to make the process more successful for
couples. One of the newer types of therapy, called “integrative behavioral
couples therapy,” showed in one study that couples who used this approach saw
significant improvement in their relationship. This technique teaches couples
how to argue in a less hurtful way and to accept each others’ differences. Many
of the couples in the study had been in other types of therapy and had not seen
Another approach is
marriage education programs. These programs traditionally offered to help
prepare engaged couples for married life. Now, couples who perhaps did not find
traditional marriage therapy helpful are trying a marriage education program.
These are courses that come in various formats—2-day classes, evening classes,
4-hour classes, etc. They give couples the skills to recognize behaviors that
are harmful and to replace them with behaviors that are more loving. The
programs can be both faith-based or secular.
If you’re interested in
marriage education, go to
http://www.smartmarriages.com to find a listing of programs.
In some cases, actual
couples therapy is likely to be more effective than marriage education. Problems
such as infidelity, depression and addiction are generally best address in a
Types of couples therapy
that have shown success
Couples therapy, which is
also called marriage therapy or marriage counseling, is conducted by
psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and marriage and family therapists.
There are three types that have shown more success than others:
- Behavioral marital
therapy teaches couples to be
kinder to each other, to improve their communication with each other and to
improve the way they resolve conflicts.
marital therapy helps couples
understand the power struggles, defense mechanisms and other behaviors that
cause tension in the marriage
- Emotionally focused
therapy, the newest approach,
teaches couples to break free of the destructive emotional cycles they
experience over and over again.
Studies have shown that
about half of the couples who use the first two types of therapy see initial
improvement but relapse in about one year. With the third type, one study has
shown that about 70 percent of couples reached a point where they were satisfied
with their relationship. The satisfaction lasted for the duration of the study,
which was two years.
For those interested in
a Roman Catholic program
Retrouvaille is, according
to its Web site, “a live-in weekend and post-weekend program for married
couples. The emphasis is on a technique of communication between a husband and a
wife.” Retrouvaille is not marriage therapy, which is what makes it appealing to
some couples. During the Retrouvaille weekends, participating couples view
presentations given by married couples and a priest. Presentations focus on a
specific area of a marriage relationship. Each person in the couple views the
presentation in private and then discusses it with their spouse in private.
During the weekend, couples are encouraged to put the past behind them and to
begin to start rediscovering each other again. Post-weekend sessions are
designed to follow up in greater depth the work that began during the initial
Visit the Retrouvaille Website
to find contacts near you.
A healthy marriage is
good for you
There have been lots of
studies showing that people who have good relationships with their spouses
experience greater health benefits. And people who are married tend to have
better health than people who are not. In general, separation and divorce are
hard on everyone. If things aren’t feeling right between you and your spouse, it
may be time to explore ways that can help you get past the problems and create a
more loving marriage environment.
American Association for Marriage and Family
Therapy; Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy; The New York
Times, “Married with Problems? Therapy May Not Help,” 19 April 2005; The
Relationship Research Institute.