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Those who are experiencing relationship and communication problems can meet with a Marriage Counselor for the purpose of improving their marriage or relationship. Marriage Counseling takes a holistic approach in making the primary focus of the therapy on the relationship, rather than solely on the individuals in the marriage. Many therapists offer adjunctive Marriage or Couples Counseling to supplement one's individual or family therapy and many therapists specialize in Marriage Counseling or Family Therapy, and have a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) license. The same theorists who were at the forefront of family therapy such as Murray Bowen and Virginia Satir, of course, contributed to Marriage Counseling, as has Dr. John Gottman, a recent phenomenon in the field of marriage research.
When undergoing Marriage Counseling it may seem that your "relationship" is the "client" as you, your partner, and your therapist work together to determine what your goals are within your relationship. A Marriage Counselor will also be on the lookout for other feelings or experiences that are being "brought into" the relationship. You, your partner, and your therapist will look at patterns that show up between you, as well as other internal and external experiences that impact the relationship. With that in mind, those patterns are likely to show up in your sessions, just as they do outside of it. When they do, your Marriage Counselor may also encourage you to explore them as they occur, "in the now," in order to support you in adopting more helpful patterns, roles, and ways of communicating.
There are a multitude of different approaches to Marriage Counseling, Imago Therapy, for example, explores how we, unconsciously, choose a partner who reflects back the very things that we must "work on." The inevitable conflicts that arise in relationships are actually ways to explore what you, yourself, can start healing. Your partner becomes a "mirror" of sorts, reflecting back what is in your subconscious world. In Emotionally Focused Therapy, partners are encouraged to examine how communication styles, or "attachment" experiences present themselves in their current communication and interactions.
Regardless of the particular theoretical approach to Marriage Counseling, a couple's communication patterns are always explored in an effort to make positive changes. You may be asking, why is communication so important? A good marriage, it is often said, is not one without problems; it's one that can work through the problems. And this is where communication plays an important role. If a couple does not know how to navigate peacefully through a conflict, and rather tends to avoid it or perhaps gets into heated power struggles, nothing gets resolved, resentment builds, and repairs are never made. John Gottman, who collected decades worth of data on marriage and relationships, identified through his research that the lack of adequate repair following an argument is the biggest contributor to marital unhappiness and divorce. Marriage Counselors know that one of the first steps in improving a relationship is to teach a couple how to regulate their emotions, stay calm, and use healthy communication skills so that new problems and old problems can finally be resolved. Of course, it can take months if not years for a couple to heal, recover, and again feel emotionally close to each other.
Marriage Counseling is often held one time a week. But, depending on whether you are also doing any adjunctive healing work, such as individual therapy or group, the sessions may be more or less often, depending on your therapy goals. Marriage Counseling is offered in a wide variety of settings including private practices, university counseling centers, and group practices.
Articles on Relationships and Marriage
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