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Does Marriage Counseling Work?

Does marriage counseling work?Does marriage counseling work? How often have you heard those same words in one sentence being directed at you?

It’s the million dollar question, right?

How does one even get to answer given that every couple’s life experience is different and combining that with the makeup of any given therapist, you would get as many different answers as many people were in the room when you posed the question to begin with.

Yes, we – therapists that is — might use different methods or different exercises that we give you for homework. We might not give you homework at all. We might want to see both of you together sometimes and each of you individually other times. We may have a more direct way or less direct way of approaching certain topics. We may be waiting for you to bring issues to the table and we might point them out to you as they come up in session. There are tons of variables, clearly.

Does marriage counseling work – The pre-requisite

The one and only pre-requisite that I bank on most is this: Both people involved have to want to be present. And when I say ‘present’, I don’t just mean, they have to drag their physical body into my office. I mean they have to be behaving as if to say:

I am here because I want our relationship to change. I am not here because someone else dragged me to come. I am genuinely aware of the issues that are in the way of my spouse and I being well together. I recognize that I have a part in the [insert size: big, small, moderate…] mess that we are in. You always need two people to tango. And I care and love my partner enough to want to do something about it.”

I make it part of my initial intake. A question that won’t go unanswered when a couple walks through my door.


Because it’s an essential part of the success that you are going after. And if one, or both of you, for one reason or another, are one foot in and the other foot out the door — no matter what the other person will do or what I would do as the counselor in the room, we will not be able to get anywhere at all until this pre-requisite is taken care of.

That, right there, is the hard reality. Once you can both genuinely answer that question positively, we can get the process underway.

If you don’t know where you stand, or need help figuring that out, there is a process for that too. It precedes couples’ work and is called Discernment Counseling. If that is, in fact, where you are, click here to read more.


This post was initially motivated by a podcast a while back on MPR. The topic resurfaced via a question posed during a recent session in my office. (If you would like to listen to program on MPR, I believe it’s still available here:http://www.mprnews.org/story/2012/03/22/daily-circuit-couples-therapy)