Better Marriages > Does marriage counseling work?
30-40% of couples who go to counseling report significant improvement, and half of those relapse. However, there are some therapies that are twice as effective and report much lower relapse.
On problem is that couples wait on average 6 years after problem starts to go to marriage counseling. By then there could be so much negativity or each person is so entrenched in their position that it's harder to repair the damage.
So if you're thinking about marriage counseling, go early for best results. It can help couples get the most out of their good marriages, not just to fix broken marriages.
Some critics also think that marriage counseling lack solid research in their approaches.
The good news is that there are at least a couple of types of marriage counseling that report much better results.
1) John Gottman (see book below) is famous for predicting whether a couple will stay married with 91% accuracy. His view is that while many standard therapies teach active listening as an important component, his research shows that most successful couples don't use these techniques. He claims the therapy he's developed based on his research has 2x the success rate of standard approaches.
2) Emotionally Focused Therapy pioneered by Dr. Sue Johnson (see book below) has been shown in multiple studies to be 75-85% effective with lower rate of relapse, as reported by Time and NY Times. She views a marriage as an emotional bond, and sees recurring fights as caused by one or both parties feeling insecure about their bond.
Finally, most couples in crisis that choose to stay married find that they are much happier in 5 years. So hang in there!
There are a lot fewer marriage counselors than individual therapists. The Psychology Today site has good bios on each therapist and their areas of speciality.
"It’s widely acknowledged that couples therapy is the most challenging. " according to many therapists. This article gives you good guidelines on choosing therapist: pick those who primarily does couples therapy rather than individual therapy, and has training in evidence-based therapies.
A more in-depth article by a well-known therapist, who found that most couples approach therapy expecting that they will describe their distress and somehow the therapist will assist them to create a better relationship. She instead believes couples should create their own individual objectives for being in therapy, and the therapist will help them get there.
She also talks about how a common yet unproductive pattern in couple’s therapy is making the focus be whatever problem happens to be on someone’s mind at the moment. This is a reactive (and mostly ineffective) approach to working things through.
UCLA psychologists published a major review of over 40 years of research on couples therapy where they synthesized the approaches of the most successful methods of intervention. Couples can benefit when they receive treatment that follows five underlying principles:
1) Creating a more objective view of the relationship - rather than continuing the blame game.
2) Modifying dysfunctional behavior.
3) Helping the couple to expresses their true feelings and needs to each other
4) Improving communication
5) Promoting strengths
No clear answers here, just a good exploration through interviewing therapists and offering some data on why it's hard to answer the question.