Marriage counseling treats multiple concerns that couples bring to us. We do pre-marital counseling with a state of the art assessment called Prepare-Enrich, which will give the couple an in depth look at 9 major categories of their relationship along with plenty of time available for their questions about what to expect, how to build a deep commitment, and what works and does not work in marriage. We also see couples who are in crisis. Marital repair and restoration are addressed with effective processes that reshape the plan and “change the game.” Learning new communication skills, learning effective conflict resolution, and learning how to be empathic are classic and major emphases from an experienced, effective therapy. We also do marriage and relationship strengthening, with tried and tested therapies that help people become their own therapists. We also do appropriate sex therapy from a Christian and biblical perspective.
Regarding marital repair, statistics tell us that couples wait on average 6.5 years after they first notice they have difficulty in their marriage. By then patterns of behavior, belief, and emotional reactivity have had a chance to become entrenched in one’s marriage. These patterns are the real enemy. It’s better for couples to seek professional care as early as they can in their marriage, so as to increase the opportunity for change. We also recommend that couples do not take the common view that marriage therapy is for the weak or for “crazy people.” Even great surgeons do not operate on themselves for a very good reason. In an online article, therapist Racheal Tasker reports, “According to research done by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, after working with a marriage or family therapist, 93% of patients said they had more effective tools for dealing with their problems. Respondents also reported improved physical health and the ability to function better at work after attending therapy.”
Couples therapy and/or marriage therapy works best when both people want the therapy to work. Typically one partner is more motivated that the other, but in the course of good therapy, the less motivated partner may reverse their thinking and come to understand that they can be empowered to be an agent of second order (permanent and deep) change. The best therapy helps people see their possibilities or choices more clearly, and assists them in believing that they themselves have great influence and even control over how their relationship goes and grows.
This worthy, change-oriented goal of empowerment and believing in one’s own influence in shaping the relationship is of utmost value. People who before, believed their emotions and beliefs were fixed and unmanageable, can grow into a new belief system whereby they are the agents of change in their own lives and relationships. Our emotions are not a force that comes over us like the common cold, where we have no say-so about “how we feel”—especially towards each other.
Good marital/couple counseling can relieve one of irrational beliefs that plague us with inaccurate directional thinking. Effective therapy helps one discover how real change is created. Not just surface or first order change…but durable, lasting, second order change where belief systems change for both partners and behaviors and emotions follow along with better living and better, more peaceable, satisfying intimacy is achieved. People who come to couples therapy as a last resort with the belief that they don’t think the therapy will work, or it is simply a way to check a box and assuage guilt over not having “tried everything” are certainly welcome to come. But the likelihood that the therapy will be of good use is already self-sabotaged with such thinking and we recommend these folks do some real pre-examination of their own motivations before coming in.
Lastly, we want our prospective couples to know that there is good cause to be hopeful. For those of a faith informed life, a “bigger, better” theology includes the belief that God lives in you and He chooses to empower you to be an expert on building your house and relationship. Good therapy is designed to do just that, empower you and give you hope and competence in how to create lasting change.