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Marriage CounselingCouples counseling or marriage counseling can be a scary proposition, especially if you are a spouse being called into a foreign office to have your relationship analyzed by a stranger. There is no one reason a couple comes in for counseling.  I have worked with clients with a range of presenting issues including, but not limited to:

  • Constant bickering
  • Recovery from an emotional or physical affair
  • Relationship boredom
  • Sexual issues or dysfunctions
  • Creating boundaries around shared time
  • Difficult in-laws
  • Navigating an open relationship
  • Financial issues

What should we expect

Marriage Counseling in Philadelphia


During the first session, the counselor will ask you both the same questions about what brings you in that day.  A good counselor will do his or her best to keep every question balanced in a way that both partners feel heard.  A counselor should not make you feel like you are the problem in the relationship, even if that is the theory of your partner. Many clients feel uncomfortable when put on the spot to answer difficult questions about the relationship. The counselor will want to know your side of the story but is likely just considering it as another piece of the puzzle.

Many counselors will use session two and three to meet with each partner individually and take a family and relationship history. Relationships are complicated. Each system is comprised of two unique individuals that have their own psychological make-ups, individual biology and temperament, a unique way of interacting with others, a diverse history of family experiences and bonds, and specific culture/religion/politics/values. As a result, a counselor must assess all these domains to understand how a couple cooperates and communicates. If the couple is on the same page regarding the presenting issue, the counselor should be ready to help them create change in their relationship within a few sessions of assessment.

How Long Will Counseling Last


Couples Counseling in Philadelphia


The length of couples counseling or marriage counseling is hard to quantify from the beginning.  Some couples may have had difficulty having an important conversation and a session or two could be enough. Most couples require 3-6 months of regular work to see progress in their relationship. Because a counselor may be quick to diagnose a faulty method of communication, clients might expect faster results.  However, if you watched a guitar lesson, you wouldn’t automatically be able to play guitar. Like any new skill, it will take some time to master and you will most likely screw up (a few times) along the way.  This does not mean you aren’t making valuable progress. Still, the couple should reassess their goals and progress with the counselor every few months.


What Should I Look For in a Counselor

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Couples and family counseling are a different skill set than counseling individuals or coaching. While some individual counselors may be good at couples counseling, you should be cautious.  Make sure your counselor has at least 500 clinical hours of experience in this area. While you may attend a session or two with your partner’s individual therapist, the three of you should not embark on couples counseling or marriage counseling. This will result in an unbalanced alliance and will put you at a disadvantage in the therapy. The therapist has likely already heard about you and it will be difficult for them to cast aside their early impressions. Ensure your counselor does not allow you to use your time together to litigate old arguments. The counselor should give both parties equal time and respect and should not allow tensions to escalate above reason.

Ensure your counselor does not allow you to use your time together to litigate old arguments. The counselor should give both parties equal time and respect and should not allow tensions to escalate above reason.

If your presenting issue is a very specific sexual dysfunction, you ensure your counselor has training in Sex Therapy.


If We Breakup, Did Couples Counseling Fail?

Couples Counseling

There is a big misconception that breaking up or divorcing means counseling was a failure. Some couples have been unhappy for several years before they begin counseling. Although divorce or separation has been stigmatized in this country, sometimes it can be the right decision for certain couples. It should not be a decision made lightly, however. Both partners should feel confident that they have processed the relationship fully. They should be sure they are coming to a reasoned decision when they decide to break up.