American Marriage Advocacy Association
Married With Problems? Therapy May Not Help

On April 19, 2005, Susan Gilbert wrote an article in the New York Times revealing the failure of marriage counseling.

The article explained that every year thousands of people go to marriage counselors to try to repair their marriage. But researchers say it doesn’t work like it should. Two years after therapy twenty five percent of couples are not doing better, in fact worse, than before marriage therapy. Within 4 years thirty eight percent of those same couples are divorced.

Most of the typical marriage counseling strategies, like communication skills and conflict management, can be helpful for a year or so, but in the long run make no difference on the overall quality of the marriage.

Many counselors and therapist do not have the training or the skills to work with marriages in real crisis. So many professionals resort to either:

1.      Having each spouse take turns talking week after week. This, of course, accomplishes nothing.

2.      Steering them to divorce after having given up themselves on the marriage reconciling.

One professor of psychology was actually quoted as saying that some therapists do more harm than good.

One couple was reported to have seen 2 marriage therapists over thirteen years. One of them was credited (or accused) of having caused the couple’s separation.

But the article does acknowledge that sometimes counseling helps. And counselors were quoted as saying that they could be more productive if couples would come to them sooner. People wait for an average of 6 years before reaching out for help. At that point, it’s challenging to help.

The article mentions alternatives to marriage counseling.

Behavioral couples therapy, for example, has been more successful than traditional counseling.

Traditional marriage therapy tends to help couples solve problems. But integrative therapy aims to help couples accept differences. This approach is based on the fact that marital success is not dependent upon couples not fighting but upon how they fight.

Some therapists themselves have become so discouraged with their own results that they’ve stopped taking clients and instead urge people to do marriage education courses, practical workshops like Mort Fertel’s Marriage Fitness Tele Boot Camp, and other programs that teach people how to succeed in marriage.

Marriage education is more empowering. Therapy can be a blame fest and cry session, which is not productive.

Some research shows that couples who do marriage education courses lower their chances of divorce. But in cases where one spouse is depressed, therapy might be necessary.