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Is Your Marriage Counsellor a Home Wrecker?

posted Feb 6, 2015, 1:30 PM by Bruce Cowper-Smith
I recently read an opinion, expressed on the internet, by someone proclaiming to be a marriage expert. They were clearly trying to make a case against marriage counselling. Instead, this person argued the marriage mediation they offered was far superior. These allegations are so serious, and I believe so inaccurate and misleading, I needed to set the record straight. First, marriage counselling, as practiced by appropriately trained and specialized counselors, has been very thoroughly researched and  has been found to have an approximately 70% success rate. This means that 3 out of every 4 couples who attend such counselling report improvements at the end of counselling. Unfortunately, because there are many people providing marriage counselling who are not appropriately trained, it isn't possible to say this high success rate will apply to everyone who provides couple counselling. Second, marriage counselling takes a very different perspective on both the goals and the process  from individual counselling. Couples counselling isn't focused just on the emotional health of the individual. The focus is on how the couple are functioning. But this can be a challenge when a couple presents with goals that seem incompatible. Sometimes one person wants to make the marriage work, but the other already has one foot out the door. In these situations its necessary to respect both parties and not simply jump on one side and argue against the other. Third, it was argued that counselling isn't a male friendly experience. Though this can be true, its also true that more effort has gone into making counselling something men can enter into more willingly, even to the extent that articles have been written specifically addressing this concern. I have noticed a change in how many men I now see in counselling compared to 20 years ago.  Fourth, the author of the article tried to argue that often people who do marriage counselling are generalists who may have training to work with concerns like anxiety, depression and addictions, but they aren't marriage experts. Even worse, the counselor may be divorced or possibly single and never married. The truth is that since marriage concerns often go hand in hand with other concerns like anxiety, depression and addictions, its a very clear advantage to be knowledgeable in a multitude of areas beyond just the processes of intimate relationships. And its also a huge advantage to have life experience that contributes to healthy ways to understand the issues you deal with as a counselor. This may mean counselors who have been successfully married for many years are better than counselors who have never married. Yet, research has not been done to show this is true. Fifth, the self proclaimed marriage expert questions why psychological counselling should have a monopoly on providing marriage help. This statement is simply not true. What is true is that virtually anyone can provide marriage counselling and charge clients a fee for their services. What non qualified counselors can't do is get hired by government agencies to provide counselling, and so far insurance companies have not been willing to pay for the services of non qualified counselors. This does not indicate a "monopoly".  Instead it indicates that governments and insurance companies aren't willing to take the risk of paying for the services of people who are not trained and do not belong to professional associations that govern their counselling practice. You, as the client, can take the risk with anyone you wish to see, but you can't expect the government or your insurance plan to take that risk. The author of the article ends by saying that many people feel that marriage counselling is ineffective yet it remains the prevailing approach to relationship troubles. What I have shown, is that research demonstrates marriage counselling is effective, and that is partly why it remains the prevailing treatment option to treat distressed marriages. While some people may "feel" let down or disappointed by the results they obtained when seeking marriage counselling, well documented research results show a very different picture. So the answer to the question,  appropriately trained and experienced marriage counselors are not home wreckers!