Everything You Need To Know About Marriage Counseling Before You Seek Out A Therapist
Marriage Counseling Columbus Ohio
If you're considering marriage counseling, read this first.
Did you know that it can damage your relationship further if you don't know what you're getting yourself into?
Why? Because not every couple is ready for therapy, and not every therapist is trained to counsel couples.
I am a trained marriage counselor in Columbus Ohio and I'm going to show you what to expect: what it is, why people start, what it costs, how much time it takes, treatment outcomes, and how to decide if you're ready. I've provided links to help you educate yourself further.
Most importantly, I'll help you choose the right counselor.
According to the Gottman Institute and research conducted by John Gottman, Ph.D., the average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital problems (Gottman, J.M., 1994).
Look, you and your partner can keep fighting, or you can fight to keep your relationship alive and thriving. It's your choice, and marriage counseling with an appropriately trained therapist can help you turn towards each other to build a culture of appreciation between you.
Set you and your partner up for success by preparing for marriage counseling. Let's get started!
Table of Contents
What is marriage counseling?
Marriage counseling, marriage therapy, couples counseling, couples therapy – they all mean the same thing. It's psychotherapy for same-sex or heterosexual couples where treatment goals include improving communication and developing healthy conflict management to strengthen your relationship. For simplicity, I will refer to it here as marriage counseling.
It's important to note that it isn't just for couples who are married. Any couple wanting to improve the relationship will benefit from counseling.
It is NOT is a weekly bitch session. It's a safe place to face issues and gain the tools to resolve them. By the way, the skills you'll learn will apply to other relationships in your life.
Considering getting help?
Marriage should be fulfilling, fun, and make each partner want to be the best version of themselves. If you feel like something has changed between you and your partner, and it doesn't feel right, marriage counseling can help.
You try to talk to your partner, and the conversation quickly turns into an argument because it seems like one or both of you get defensive when issues are brought up. One person pushes for answers; the other partner withdraws and shuts down.
You're left feeling frustrated, isolated, and angry. It feels overwhelming like it's never going to change. When is your partner going to see things your way? How are you ever going to resolve these issues?
Franklin County including Columbus Ohio has a 15% divorce rate compared to a 9% average in the State of Ohio (Statistical Atlas, https://statisticalatlas.com/state/Ohio/Marital-Status.)
Don't be a statistic!
Imagine building a relationship where you can voice your complaints, feel like you're understood, and talk through solutions without hard feelings and arguments. If you think a relationship like that is unattainable, then chances are you haven't tried marriage counseling.
Couples seek professional help to resolve problems such as past hurts, past infidelity, gridlock, long-distance relationships, parenting, to name a few. Whether you're married, living together, dating, or in a platonic relationship, marriage counseling principles can help improve communication and help each partner change resolvable problems and accept what cannot be changed.
Recently, I had a client tell me that his family shamed him for entering into counseling with his fiancé. He was asked, "If you're having problems like this already, that's a bad sign. Maybe you shouldn't marry her."
The truth is that my client and his fiancé had very different conflict management styles because of past trauma in her history. They decided to start therapy because they were fighting more frequently due to him relocating for a new job; she plans to join him in a year.
The couple decided they wanted to get a handle on resolving their conflict sooner versus later, which is caused by differing expectations in the now long-distance relationship. The couple recognized that this phase of their relationship was causing friction and that this was one of many roadblocks they would face as they pursue a long life together.
According to Andrew Christensen, Ph.D., known as "The Couples Doctor," when two people engage in an intimate relationship, conflicts arise. What's important is how the couple resolves the conflict. Every couple has problems that are either solvable or unsolvable. Marriage counseling helps a couple solve solvable problems and accept problems that don't have a clear solution.
Why couples seek professional help
Please don't wait until your relationship is in crisis to try to improve it!
According to Charleston counselor and Psychology Today author Donna White, couples seek counseling for the following reasons:
Communication has deteriorated between the two of you
If one or both of you are considering or having an affair rather than working through the problems in the relationship
You're living in the same house yet it seems like there is distance between you
Perpetual issues never get resolved
You're harboring resentment, disappointment, hurt, or frustration, or your partner is
If one or both of you threaten divorce or think that separating is the only option that makes sense
Constant arguing in front of others, including your children
Benefits, or treatment goals in marriage counseling include:
Building trust and commitment in the relationship so you can address conflict head-on
Deepen fondness and admiration between the couple, so each partner feels valued
Improve communication by learning how to compromise and accept core characteristics between partners rather than trying to change your partner
Learn how to complain to your partner without criticizing to solve problems
What sessions are like and the cost
The first thing the counselor must do is assess the issues from the couple together, then each partner's point of view. If s/he is refereeing debates between the partners right off the bat, that may be a sign that they're not properly qualified. An assessment provides the therapist with important information about each partner, the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship, attachment styles, communication patterns, and so on.
My approach to counseling looks like this: The first three sessions focus on assessment. The first session is conjoined so that I can observe the interaction between partners and each one's perception of their "story."
I am a Gottman-trained couples counselor in Columbus Ohio, and we'll start with the Gottman Relationship Checkup, a series of assessments to provide you with feedback in several key relationship areas including:
Division of Household and Family Responsibilities.
I'll provide you with detailed feedback about your unique relationship strengths and how to use the coping skills of the healthiest couples to get through the rough waters.
The second session consists of separate sessions with each partner so that I can learn about their history. Each partner also completes an online assessment that covers both individuals' perceptions of the different areas of the relationship.
The third session is a presentation of my findings to the couple. We work together to set treatment goals, and I discuss which interventions I feel will be most helpful to resolve the problems presented.
After the assessment is complete and goals are set, treatment begins. Researched-based interventions and tools are introduced to the couple and discussed in the controlled environment, then practiced in real-life.
A couple should expect to participate in twelve sessions on average, and the cost is generally around $2500 - $5000. Good marriage therapy is not quick, nor is it cheap. Compare this cost to the average cost of divorce in Ohio, which is $12,500 according to lawyers.com. Children, length of marriage and assets drive the cost of divorce up even further.
An important aspect to take into consideration is that things may get worse between the partners before it gets better. That's because change doesn't happen overnight.
However, with commitment and patience, the relationship will bloom into a new, improved version of itself. It's like a caterpillar that hides away in a cocoon and emerges later as a beautiful butterfly.
It may feel counterproductive to sit in front of a stranger and air out your relationship problems. If you can't talk to your partner, why would you think it would be helpful to talk to someone who knows nothing about you?
According to Psychology Today, before the 1980s, the average success rate was around 50 percent. Thanks to the work of psychologists John Gottman and Susan Johnson, current success rates are roughly around 75 percent, meaning couples report "positive and substantial" improvements in their relationship.
Outcome studies continue to show that if the couple puts the work in, the result is a happier, healthier relationship.
I'm worried that the counselor will gang up on me and side with my partner.
This is a legitimate worry for most people entering into couples counseling. This dynamic should never happen!
Not all licensed therapists are qualified to provide marriage counseling because it's very different from individual therapy. Marriage counseling requires specialized training where the relationship is the focus and not one individual. When you're considering a counselor, make sure you take the time to talk to him or her before you start therapy. A counselor should provide a free consultation to make sure s/he can meet your needs, and you can feel comfortable s/he is qualified to provide couples therapy to you.
It is not the role of the counselor to take sides, judge either partner or tell one or both of you what to do and what not to do. My job is to help you identify the root of your conflict and to resolve it or accept that it will not be fixed; in other words, you both agree to disagree and live with it. Or, if you both decide to split up, I can help you do so respectfully and healthily to minimize damage to yourselves and any children who may be involved.
Choose a counselor that has had specialized training in marriage counseling and has more than a year of experience working with couples.
Are you ready for marriage counseling?
To determine if counseling is right for you and your partner, you and your partner need to ask yourselves the following questions:
Are you willing to invest the time and financial resources required to resolve your relationship problems?
Are you ready to own your responsibility in the conflict you're experiencing in your relationship?
Are you willing and able to change negative behaviors?
Can you stop blaming your partner or others for the problems you're experiencing and focus on solutions?
Will you make a concerted effort to use the tools you will learn in marriage counseling and apply them outside of the sessions?
If you answered "yes" to all of these questions, then you're ready to engage in counseling successfully.
However, if either spouse is participating in counseling as a gesture to say they "tried" or if one spouse doesn't want to attend, it will fail. Domestic abuse, active addiction, or one or both partners currently involved in an affair will also cause therapy to fail.
If any of those factors apply to you, discernment counseling may be a better option for you.
That's everything you need to know about marriage counseling - so what's next?
If you're in the Columbus Ohio area, feel free to contact me at 833-WE-HELP-3 and schedule a free consultation. If you're outside the area, please feel free to email me any questions you have and I'll be happy to help!