There is great value in viewing couples counseling as an opportunity to prevent major relationship issues. More often couples choose to seek counseling in a time of crisis. “Counseling in Crisis” is difficult because the emotional wounds run deep, and the therapy must first focus on stabilizing the couple, before deep emotional work can be done. In many cases, if one partner has already made up their mind to leave, restoring stability becomes the primary task and may overshadow other areas of necessary relationship work. When couples reach this point, counseling is usually viewed as a “last ditch effort,” a way to ensure that every avenue has been exhausted before splitting up.
Counseling is vastly different, when a couple seeks help at an earlier point in their relationship. When a couple seeks help, prior to being in crisis, the couple generally enters treatment in an emotionally stable place. It is more likely that both partners are fully invested in making the relationship work. When couples elect to commit to counseling as a preventative intervention, there is oftentimes more communication and more positive regard, which is the foundation for relationship work. Preventative therapy promotes substantial growth in the relationship, through deepening intimacy and connection and effective communication. Because walls of resentment have not been built up, and because each partner generally feels positive about the relationship, the chances of success are exponentially higher. Unfortunately, couples counseling still carries the negative stigma that a relationship is troubled or doomed. If we can change this stigma to see couples counseling as a preventative measure, it is more likely we can ensure long-term relationship satisfaction.
By Carolyn Yates, LMFT