Marital Counselors

What do marital counselors do?

Marital counselors are professional, licensed therapists that help people who experience difficulties within their intimate relationships. Marriage counseling, sometimes known as couples therapy or counseling, can help couples to resolve conflict, understand the other person better and improve the relationship in general. Marital counselors provide couples with the tools to communicate in more productive and positive ways, and show them how to negotiate their problems in a way that is healthy for the relationship.

Although the term may suggest that marital counselors only help people that are in legally recognized relationships, marital counselors work with people in all kinds of relationships - whether heterosexual or same-sex relationships or whether the couple is legally married, co-habiting or in a relationship where neither partner lives with the other. Sometimes marital counselors work with only one partner in the relationship if the other partner is unwilling, or unable, to attend the therapy sessions.

A common misconception that people have about marital counseling is that the aim is always to rebuild the marriage. For example, marital counselors may work with couples that share the responsibilities of raising their children in a way that does not lead to the child resenting either or both parents. The goal is to help the parents --- whether staying together or not --- reach decisions about whether or not the relationship has a future. Ultimately, this conclusion may be reached that it would be better for the relationship to come to an end.

Why do people choose to see marital counselors?

People choose to see marital counselors for a variety of reasons. Some are seeking to strengthen their relationship after a series of unresolved or ongoing arguments. Some couples wish to understand their partner better. Others seek guidance after one or both partners has had an affair. Marital counselors may also help couples who are planning to get married. This is known as pre-marriage counseling.

Reasons for attending therapy with marital counselors include:

  • communication problems
  • sexual problems
  • infidelity
  • cultural differences
  • financial problems
  • unemployment issues
  • anger issues
  • substance abuse
  • mental or physical illness
  • retirement phobia
  • infertility problems
  • parenting and step-parenting issues
  • problems with the extended family
  • separation or divorce, and the associated child relationship and custody issues

Marital counselors and domestic abuse

Marital counselors can also help in some cases where domestic abuse is a problem. However, this type of martial therapy is only likely to work if the abusive partner is willing to accept that their abusive behavior must stop immediately.

In some cases, both partners are abusive towards each other. In some cases, marital counselors can help these partners to resolve their anger issues and work towards rebuilding the relationship. In others, the counselor is unable to heal the long-term damage and dysfunctional marital partners.

If domestic abuse has reached a point where a person’s life or physical well-being is in danger, he or she will be advised to seek emergency support from the police and a domestic abuse group. The closest relationships can spawn the most dangerous violence and abuse.

How do marital counselors work?

Marital counselors bring couples together to discuss their relationship issues. During therapy sessions, marital counselors encourage each partner to communicate his or her thoughts and feelings in an open, honest and rational way. The aim is to help the couple look at their relationship objectively and to seek to resolve their differences in ways that are satisfactory for both partners.

Marital counselors never take sides, nor are they present to decide who is right and who is wrong. They aim to show couples how their behavior may be affecting the other person or the relationship as a whole. If substance abuse, mental or physical illness or anger issues are the cause of the relationship dysfunction, the counselor may refer a couple to other professional agencies or physicians that can be of help. For example, a bipolar partner is unlikely to get better except with prescribed medication from a psychiatrist or physician well-versed in pharmacology.

Marital counselors usually work with couples on a short-term basis; the number of therapy sessions needed by each couple or individual will depend on the severity of the problems the pair is experiencing. Therapy may, continue for a period of weeks or months, as the circumstances dictate.

Sometimes relationship issues can be resolved if both partners are willing to work hard at the relationship with the marital counselor. Other times, it may not be possible for couples to resolve their differences. In these cases, the goal of the marital counselor is to help couples work towards an amicable separation or divorce, as the circumstances and religious teachings may dictate.