Marriage therapy (or marital counseling) is designed to assist the two of you in addressing and resolving the issues or conflicts in your marriage. But marriage counseling is also very likely to include assistance with specific problems or conflicts unique to your relationship. The intent is to reduce the power of those conflicts and to create agreements between the two of you so that those issues are reduced to a manageable level.
Very often the goal of marriage therapy is to assist the two of you in reconnecting, in resolving the conflicts between the two of you and in addressing the distance between you, so Neil can help the two of you to grow closer. Very often, long-standing conflicts, hurtful words or behaviors, and breaches of trust need to be addressed (and resolved) before your relationship will feel close and intimate again.
What Will We Do in Marriage Therapy?
Among other things, marital counseling frequently includes:
- Enhancing what Neil calls “intimacy skills,” such as good communication, good listening skills, conflict resolution, problem solving, negotiation, benefit of doubt, trust, affection and romance—among others
- Relationship repair
- Rebuilding trust
- Anger resolution
- Boundary setting
- Creating a vision (or goals) for the future of your relationship
- Looking at how the two of you can have more fun together
- Looking at how the two of you can strengthen the romance in your relationship
- Looking at how the two of you can strengthen the affection in your marriage
How is Marriage Therapy Different From Couple’s Therapy, Relationship Counseling and Marriage Counseling?
All of these terms are used to describe essentially the same thing. That being said, there is one essential difference between a married and an unmarried couple. Marriage is a legal agreement, and depending on your religious beliefs, it may also be an agreement made between you and God. Although an unmarried couple may have all the same feelings as a married couple, when you are married and your relationship is threatened, so is the legal agreement (your marriage certificate). Therefore custody of your children, your finances, your savings and retirement accounts and your house and/or living quarters are all potentially affected, and sometimes radically so. These same worries and anxieties may not impact an unmarried couple as dramatically. See How to Choose a Good Couple’s Therapist on this site if you want more information.
Can You Do Marriage Therapy Alone?
Sometimes one person can correct an issue or a problem alone. Most of the times, successful marriage counseling requires both of you to work together with your marriage therapist in order to resolve issues or conflicts between you.
How Do I Choose a Marriage Therapist?
First, choose a licensed marriage and family therapist. Licensed marriage and family therapists have either a master’s degree or a doctoral degree, and they are trained to evaluate and treat relationship issues. They are the experts in marital counseling and marriage guidance. If you want marriage therapy, you want a marriage and family therapist.
If you wish to evaluate whether a particular marriage therapist is right for you, you may consider asking the marital therapist the following questions. It’s important to choose a marriage therapist with whom you have a good fit in order to get the most out of marital counseling. Most of these questions come from University of Minnesota professor William Doherty:
- “What is your experience in marriage therapy or marital counseling?”
- “Do you see yourself as helping a troubled couple to stay together, or do you sometimes recommend that a couple break up?”
- “What is your approach when one partner is seriously considering ending the marriage and the other wants to save it?”
- “What percentage of your practice is marriage, family or relationship therapy?”
- “Of the couples you treat, what percentage would you say work out enough of their problems to stay married with a reasonable amount of satisfaction with the relationship?”
- “Of the marriages you treat, what percentage are able to resolve their issues with a reasonable degree of satisfaction?”
Neil Rosenthal is a specialist on what goes wrong in intimate relationships and how to strengthen or repair your marriage through marital counseling. He was among the first marital counselors in the State of Colorado to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.Schedule a marriage counseling appointment today