The average time couples wait to seek counseling while they wrestle with their problems is six years. By then, it can be too late for counseling to save the relationship and sometimes too late to facilitate a peaceful ending of the relationship. For this reason marriage or couples counseling can have a somewhat low success rate. This, however, should not be seen as a shortcoming of marriage counseling itself, but rather a shortcoming of individual counselors who provide counseling to couples without any formal training.
“Couples therapy may be the hardest form of therapy, and most therapists aren’t good at it.”
In an article in Psychotherapy Networker, William Doherty summed up the issue. He said, “Couples therapy may be the hardest form of therapy, and most therapists aren’t good at it.” He goes on to explain in a little more detail, “Surveys indicate that about eighty percent of therapists in private practice do couples therapy. Where they got their training is a mystery because most therapists practicing today never took a course in couples therapy and never did their internships under supervision from someone who’d mastered the art. From a consumer’s point of view, going in for couples therapy is like having your broken leg set by a doctor who skipped orthopedics in medical school.”
Couples counseling is not the same as individual counseling. Most therapists do not acknowledge this and include couples counseling among, sometimes, 30, 40 or more speciality areas of their practice. Many of these therapist have not completed any courses or had any supervision in couples counseling.
Couples counseling often times includes comples issues such as substance abuse or addictions, infidelity, behavior addictions (pornography, cybersex, sex, love, food, etc.). It is important for couples on the brink of divorce find a therapist that is skilled in facilitating these difficult areas. When shopping for a therapist that engage in couples counseling ask them about their training, experience, areas in which they practice the most, and their approach to couples counseling. Don't wait till you are up against the wall to avoid picking a couples counselor in a panic.
Above all you and your spouse or partner must feel comfortable with the couples counselor. A mega study recently revealed approaches to counseling have no significant differences in the outcome of counseling. It is the trust and bond developed with the counselor that is the most important. At the end of your sessions both people should feel heard, included and that their needs are being met.
Earl Ledford, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Clinical Director, ACF Therapy Associates