Marriage counselling is a process through which two people, in a committed relationship, are supported with guidance, advice, challenge, and relational skill building, by a professionally trained therapist. The focus is on the relationship dynamics that have been co-created by both partners.
You may be wondering if couple’s counselling would benefit your relationship or if you should “wait it out” and hope that the problems will go away on their own over time. The truth is, most couples wade through seven years of unhappy and disconnected relationship before they seek professional counselling. It is best to attend counselling when the emotional pain is too much to manage or when living in the day to day realities is too overwhelming. It is best to interrupt and address negative patterns before they are too deeply ingrained. Your marriage is best served by seeking help sooner rather than later.
Premarital Counselling – occurring before the couple makes a long term relationship commitment
Marital Support – supporting couples throughout the marriage with transitions and growth such as having children, in-law interactions, ageing parents, child rearing, maintaining their romantic connection etc.
Separation/Divorce – Discernment Counselling that helps couples understand clearly the option of ending their marriage
Divorce Counselling - Supporting the partners (either with the individual or with both partners together) as they transition to co-parenting, and/or a relationship as a divorcee.
Marital Enrichment Counselling – partners who have a good relationship who want to take their relationship to an even deeper and more intimate level.
More often than not, couples are not sure what to expect during a marriage counselling session. There are many different styles and theories therapists use during their work with couples and you may find it helpful to have a general idea of what to expect when working with Wendy Hart.
During the first few sessions of marriage counselling, I prompt discussions that help me gain a clear sense of the relationship dynamics that have been co-created in your relationship, as well as gaining an understanding of the goals you are looking to achieve in counselling. These first few sessions give you the opportunity to reflect on your relationship and the role you have played in co-creating both the well- functioning and dis-functioning parts in the relationship. You also have the opportunity of hearing your spouse’s reflection on his/her role in the co-creation of both the well-functioning and dis-functioning parts in the relationship.
The next stage of counselling involves the development of personalized goals for the life you want to build together, the kind of partner you want to be, and learning and practicing specific relationship skills tailored to the specific difficulties you face as a couple. Each session has assigned activities to be completed before the next session. Insight without action is passivity. Effective and permanent change requires insight plus action.
As all couple’s relationships are unique in where they need support, and how much support they need, the amount of time spent in marriage counselling varies anywhere from 6 – 8 sessions to 8 - 24 sessions, and possibly more if the concerns have been long standing or especially damaging to the relationship.
As mentioned before, there are many different styles and theories therapists use during their work with couples. It is most beneficial to work with a therapist who specializes in Marriage Counselling/Couples Counselling. It is not well known that counsellors and therapists are not required to have special training in these areas. In fact, most therapists are generalists and do not hold specialized certification for Marriage Counselling, Couples Counselling, Discernment Counselling, or Divorce Counselling. These counsellors, while still able to be helpful to their clients, may not have the deeper understanding and expertise that many couples need.
During feedback with my couples, they have described our work together as deep, intense, effective, fair, and sometimes even fun. I believe that the majority of problems in marriages and committed partnership is a fundamental lack of knowledge about how to “BE” in a great relationship. As a certified Imago Relationship Counsellor as well as a certified Discernment counsellor, I help clients get directly to the point so that we begin working to shift the relationship in the direction that is most helpful to them to reach their goals. Within a non-judgemental environment, meaning we do not work with bad/good or right/wrong thinking, but rather the concept of effective/ineffective, couples learn to dialogue, mirror, validate and empathize with each other. Relationship skills are taught and practiced repeatedly in the office and then assigned for couples to practice between sessions, in order to master the skills.
I find that when partners fully engage in the counselling process with the intent of working to better understand themselves first, then their partner, the maturity of the relationship produces a healthier and more satisfying relationship.
Review your goals for your marriage, this helps influence the attitude you bring to the session
Focus on the change you want to see in yourself to avoid frustrating and fruitless attempts at trying to change your partner
Come prepared to every session. Have assignments fully completed.
Do assignment well in advance so you have time to reflect on the experience.
Review assignments the day of the session so that you are mentally into the marriage counselling mode upon arriving for your session
Show for sessions as scheduled, research indicates that cancelled or rescheduled sessions interfere with the momentum in couple’s counselling
Allow yourself to be challenged, sometimes you have to be open to seeing things in a new way in order to get things to change.
Be patient, counselling is an investment in creating positive and effective change and permanent change takes time
Understand that marriage counselling only works if you work the marriage counselling