Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How effective is marriage counseling?"
What sort of success rates are there. I'm a middle aged woman and my marriage is basically on the rocks.
Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, there is no "straight answer" as to how effective marriage counseling is, for a couple of reasons: first, "success" has a wide range of meanings, from an amicable divorce to a happy marriage, and second, marriage counseling is confidential, and there is no general central location where data from all marriage counselors are stored. That said, I have referred many patients to marriage counselors with overall very positive results. Marriage counseling can be of benefit for a variety of reasons. First, marriage counselors are trained in the typical problems that married couples experience, from infidelity to financial stress, and have extensive experience about successful coping strategies in each instance. Marriage counselors are also trained in communication techniques, to help couples communicate their feelings to one another without becoming confrontational. Furthermore, marriage counselors can serve as a neutral "third party" in common arguments, allowing a more rational, calm, and less emotional approach to common disagreements. Although there is no guarantee of "success" by visiting a marriage counselor, were one of my patients to be experiencing marital difficulties, I would certainly refer them for a trial of marriage counseling. Should you decide to pursue marriage counseling, it is important that you do so knowing that not every counselor is a good fit for every couple; it may take several visits and trials of several different counselors before you find a good fit for you. Finally, do not forget that your primary care doctor can act as your advocate if you decide to pursue marriage counseling. A healthy marriage is an important part of any patient's overall well-being, and if you would like to pursue marriage counseling and you find that your spouse is reluctant, often the advice of your doctor can carry a great deal of weight towards the decision to attend. You should seek an appointment with your primary care doctor to discuss whether a referral to a marriage counselor is appropriate for you.
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