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2014

Couples Counseling: Sooner Rather Than Later

Couples Counseling: Sooner Rather Than Later by Kaylena Satiacum

People prevent disease and weight gain by going to the gym. Essentially, couples counseling is going to the gym for a relationship. It is vital that couples seek counseling before the relationship become distressed because professionals generally believe that after the relationship had become distressed that the couple is not as good of a candidate for couple’s education (R.M., 2005). Couples who choose to attend marriage counseling early are considered better suited for couples counseling and more likely to prevent divorce (R.M., 2005).

Prevention is a lot less complicated than rebuilding something that is cracked or completely shattered. While studies show, marriage counseling does not have high success rates for feuding couples, pre-marital counseling does. Pre-marital counseling and prevention programs aid in lowering divorce rates and supports the improvement of a harmonious relationship (Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., St Peters, M., & Leber, B. D.,1995). Many share the opinion that only couples with major problems participate in counseling. Many couples view counseling as a last resort instead of a tool to utilize. While early-on counseling has been confirmed to help couples establish a healthy foundation, there are still negative characteristics associated with couples counseling. Some negative characteristics include that counseling is only for the mentally ill and the fear of judgment from one’s peers. There are many reasons why people avoid couples counseling including lack of motivation, fear of hearing unpleasant comments from their partner, the challenge of self-confrontation, and the fear of the unknown (Bader & Pearson, 2014).

An individual’s fears can be persuasive. Those fears leading the belief to be the individual will be ganged up on, their spouse will only speak ruthlessly about them, or that there is not a problem. Counseling is none of those things. The professional is there to guide the conversation, educate, and assist the couple to find solutions. While the conversation may become uncomfortable or intense, it will never be an attack on one individual or the other. Discussing uncomfortable topics and finding a solution is what helps strengthen relationships. There might be heated discussions or even fighting amongst the couple during a session but, the counselor is there to mediate and help the couple cope with the feelings arising. Furthermore, there does not have to be vast issues within a relationship to seek couples counseling. In fact, the earlier couples participate in counseling the lesser the risk of the relationship ending. Couples who complete pre-marital counseling have a thirty percent more chance at a successful marriage (Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., St Peters, M., & Leber, B. D.,1995).

Reducing the negative beliefs of couples counseling comes with knowing the facts of the process. Couples counseling is a type of psychotherapy which helps couples of all types identify conflicts and find solutions to those conflicts. Couples will seek counseling to strengthen bonds, improve communication skills, discuss differences rationally, and to gain a better understanding of one another (Mayo Clinic, 2014). The couple and the professional will practice emotional engagement, emotional responsiveness, effective communication skills, conflict resolution, transparent expectations, and the needs of the couple as a whole and individually (Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., St Peters, M., & Leber, B. D.,1995). Couples will analyze the positives and negatives of their relationship to better understand the source of the conflict (Mayo Clinic, 2014).

Overcoming the negative stigma associated with couples counseling is one barrier. If one partner refuses to attend couples counseling then the other party in the relationship may attend couples counseling alone. While it is more beneficial to attend together, both parties are not always willing at the same time. It is possible that the unwilling partner may become willing in the future. Until then, individual couples counseling can help the attending partner be aware of their reactions, behavior, conflicts in the relationship, and possible solutions (Mayo Clinic, 2014). The partner who is not ready or unwilling to attend counseling may reconsider when they see the positive changes in their spouse. People only have control over their reactions, attitude, and behavior. Anything outside of one’s self is uncontrollable.

Lifting the negative stigma off of couples counseling comes with educating the public. Communities knowing what counseling sessions are, how they work, and the benefits received will move couples counseling from last resort to routine protocol in a newly committed relationship.

References
Bader, E. & Pearson, P. (2014). Psycho Therapy Networker. Tips of Divorce. Retrieved from http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/recentissues/2011-novdec/item/1435-facing-our-fears
Mayo Clinic. (2014). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/marriage-counseling/basics/definition/prc-20012741
R. M. (2005). Distressed couples and marriage education*. Family Relations, 54(2), 242-253. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/213933656?accountid=458
Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., St Peters, M., & Leber, B. D. (1995). Strengthening marriages and preventing divorce: New directions in prevention research. Family Relations, 44(4), 392. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/213935713?accountid=458

Owner and Clinical Supervisor at Pacific Mental Health.

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