Can marriage counseling make things worse?

People who aren't happy with their marriages can turn to mental health professionals for help, since unconscious therapy could actually make things worse. I'm not talking about poor couples therapy, although therapists who lack training in effective couples therapy can certainly do more harm than good. When done wrong, it can make things worse, Gehart said. No real change will happen instantly and it can get worse before it gets better, but if your therapist is good, it doesn't have to be torture.

Although my sessions with couples can be intense, they usually leave the room feeling better than they came in. This is because we focus on them connecting and relating to each other instead of giving them a bunch of advice. Does anyone have a good experience with marriage counseling? I hope so. In my experience, marriage counseling actually made things worse.

Chuck, 60, who asked that his last name not be published, said poor counseling failed to rescue his marriage when he and his wife of nine years sought help for their unwavering intimacy. Of course, there are couples who without marriage counseling may have decided to leave their relationship and get divorced, but honestly, I think most of those who get a lot out of therapy would stay together or get by even without the help of a marriage therapist, except that therapy accelerates their growth and intimacy or makes it much easier to overcome painful conflicts. Before the early 1960s, husbands and wives used to seek advice alone, not together; that advice was provided by a member of the clergy, a doctor, or a social worker, and the mode of conversation was didactic (here's what you have to do), not therapeutic (let's find out why you feel so bad). A couple often goes to marriage counseling and discovers that they actually feel worse later, rather than better.

Keith Haggan
Keith Haggan

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