West Virginians will be required to show certification of premarital education classes or pay an extra $20 starting June 8. How effective is counseling for unmarried couples? What are the most important things a couple should discuss going into a marriage?
"There was a big myth back when I was growing up that, fortunately, has been dispelled," said Michael Broder, psychologist, author and speaker. "It's that 'when you get married it'll all be OK' - nothing can be further from the truth. And now the word's out."
We wanted to do an in-depth segment on couples counseling after we had listener interest during a previous show.
Broder will join The Daily Circuit Thursday to talk about unmarried couples counseling.
"Pre-marriage counseling is not just teaching them to solve one issue, it's teaching them how to fish," he said, "how to resolve conflict in general."
Steven Harris, director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at the University of Minnesota, will also join the discussion.
"It's interesting because when you interview people, one of their top priorities is almost always a successful marriage," he said. "But they have no models. That's where education comes in... The assumption that people have a base level of how relationships are supposed to happen just isn't the case. It's a huge mistake to assume that."
Should every couple attend a counseling session before committing to a life together?
We had an extrordinary experience with our pre-martial counseling which solidified our love for each other, reiterated communication skills, trust, our expectations and outlook.
I am thankful every day for creating this solid foundation and as we plan for children am looking for a similar type of in-depth counseling to prepare us for parenthood.
My daughter and her fiance have gone to "marital" counseling since they live together and plan to get married next year.
He comes from a family of MULTIPLE divorces and remarriages. She comes from the opposite, but we are not the best at marital communication.
She said that although they didn't like the two counselors that they went to, they did find out how much they need to work on their communication skills and they figured out that they were blaming each other for problems.
I'd say that they are trying to nip problems in the bud rather than letting them fester as so many married couples do.
I am dating a therapist and I have a background in counseling. I think we both see the world in a similar way and so we are really good communicators. We both would like to go to counseling, but we are kinda bias.
My father is a congregational minister. He requires all couples he marries to first go through pre-marital counseling with him. Having seen his process from the outside, when he did my friends wedding, I can see how much it has helped people with communication issues.
Before you settle down, should you go to a couples therapist? Tell us your experience with counseling.
I’m a Marriage and Family therapist and am in general a supporter of pre-marital counseling. Couple - and other types of Relationship(s) - Counseling can be more complicated, but not necessarily.
If the people in a committed relationship are experiencing problems with value/core differences, lack of acceptance of the other, and problems reducing/repairing conflict, then the right counselor can help.
My boyfriend and I have been living together for 7 years, own a home together and are planning on starting a family soon.
We are both turned off by the idea that 'marriage' is some sort of privileged status, and even a religious expression rather than a secular/civic one. While I think counseling could be helpful, my partner is totally against it. Maybe those of us who don't buy into 'marriage' are also wary of other kinds of formalized interventions?
This brings up another point about gay/lesbian couples. By separating the conversation according to married or not, this excludes gay couples from the conversation altogether, since we are not allowed.
(Ed note: That is why I labeled the question here "before committing to a life together." I want the conversation to involve same sex relationships and the heterosexuals who are unmarried like Allison.)
I support any consensual relationship two or more individuals want. I’m intrigued by the evolution that the definition and expectations of marriage is undergoing. Soon we will see marriage equality, and I predict next will be contracted marriages of specific time periods.
...I wanted to add, that it's important the therapist know and disclose any bias about LTRs.
My husband and I did premarital counseling before getting married, even though we were pretty good communicators on our own. There's a such a stigma on "counseling," and doing it before we got married gave us the chance to get that knowledge without having to admit to any problems.
The tools we learned during that time are SO useful, and come in handy so often, we've actually helped our friends and family members by recommending they seek the same kind of counseling.
(May we recommend Rebekah Miller in Golden Valley! She's an amazing family counselor!)
My parter and I communicate differently; I'm direct and he is indirect. Knowing this is a potential for unneeded miscommunication, I went to a weekend conference at the UofM to learn how to communicate effectively with those that have communication styles different from mine. I think all couples should learn to be cognizant of their partner's natural style of communication as it allows better for understanding of one another.
Different communication styles are a big one!
A few others include:
Togetherness vs. Independence, Future vs. Now Orientation, Predictability vs. Spontaneous, Quick vs. Slow Emotional Sensitivity.
My boyfriend and I sought counseling at the 2 year mark and now again at the 6 year mark.
Each time was to tackle the bigger issue of commitment and now questioning marriage. We both find the therapy very helpful to have a safe place to explore fears and preconceptions and hopes and doubts.
So far, it has been positive, but even more important is that we each want to wokr on it and find the real root of the cause because we both cherish each other and our relationship.
So before we walk away from it, we really want to examine what the issue(s) might be and if they can be overcome. That is why counseling is important to us.
Top factors in selecting a therapist: #1 - What’s the therapist’s effectiveness? I track and report on mine (Time For Clarity), but so far that’s relatively unusual in this field. Without clear measures and accountability, people are taking a chance to pick a therapist at random, or just because they are in their insurance network.
By definition, half the therapists practicing are below average. Think about what would make someone the right therapist for you.
I think that couples counseling can be incredibly valuable for many reasons, however there are barriers to the decision to enagage in therapy that are often not discussed.
Most often, relational therapy (parent-child, couples, etc) is not covered by insurance unless one member is "diagnosed" which sets up the conversation as one (or both) members being dysfunctional somehow.
The alternative is paying out of pocket for services (assuming the couple can afford it). This is a further barrier when the couple is not experiencing "problems" but want to be preventative and enrich their relationship through therapy. Access to these kinds of either "interventions" or "enhancements" might end up being thwarted by the medical model of therapy.
My partner and I (we are unmarried) went to couple's counseling together in the Fall of 2010.
We went together and separately for two years. We dealt with his divorce (I have never been married), losing his business, raising his two children from his previous marriage and our daughter together and how to do it all without fighting and yelling at each other all the time.
Counseling changed our lives. We communicate so much more effectively. We recommend it to anyone who ever asks. When our friends mention they are having issues, we ALWAYS tell them to seek counseling TOGETHER - married or not. We still disagree - nothing is perfect 100% of the time - but we have found a way to productively reach out to each other for support.
Caveat: Good couples counseling can be very valuable and productive.
However, many insurance companies do not pay for such counseling, because payment is based on medical need/diagnosis.
Therapists are put in a bind with this. One or both members of couple need to have a diagnosis. Secondly, sometimes therapists get around this by billing for individual therapy while doing couples sessions. This can be considered an ethical violation however. Only consumer demand for couples counseling reimbursement will change this situation.
A couples counseling program recommended by Dr. Steve Harris from the #UMN: PREP from U Denver t.co
Brigham Young's Relate Institute. The third program recommended by Steve Harris for couple's therapy. t.co
I don't think people should be required to go to marriage counseling. It should be an option and it should be discussed, but to force it implies too much control by any particular state.
Couples should be able to decide whether this is something that is needed. I am not against it but I don't think it needs to apply to every couple. For instance in my case I knew my husband for 11 year before we got married. We continue to be best friends. Marriage counseling would really not have done much in our case. We had such an open relationship and continue to do so that we are able to talk about everything and anything. I think that the state can offer a discount instead of a penalty for getting marriage counseling.
On a similar, but off topic, I'd be interested in learning about the effectiveness of family counseling for adult siblings. Can simlar counseling benefit improving communication, etc. I think a lot of couples counseling is afterall individuals working through family of origin issues that are reprocessed as we enter adulthood.
Dr. David Olson's Prepare/Enrich program was recommended by Dr. Steve Harris as a good pre-marital therapy program. t.co
25 years ago I went into counseling with my girlfriend (now wife) because we felt poised on the brink of marriage, but having both come from very broken homes we wanted a kind of reality check - which we got.
Just the act of committing to counseling together solidified our relationship, and reinforced for us that the success of our relationship would always come down to taking a moment to remember that we are supposed to be on the same team - success was not a matter of having no problems, but rather having the tools to deal with them.