Marriage Counselling ~ Does it really help?
An almost alien concept till a few decades ago, today marriage counselling has gained widespread relevance and is a familiar tool for couples-to-be as well as couples-that-already-are. Times have changed tremendously, and so have the mind-set of people. If they feel their marriage has hit the rocks, they do not believe in passive resignation by resorting to adjustments and compromises, and would rather consult a marriage counsellor to help sort out their differences.
The concept originated in Germany in the 1920s, with USA being the first country where marriage counselling institutes were set up in the 1930s. Over the years, it has gained increasing popularity owing to the rising number of divorces. Even at the slightest hint of a trouble, couples are approaching marriage/relationship counsellors to resolve the issues. The counsellor may be a psychiatrist, clinical social worker, psychologist etc. However, the big question is whether it actually works and can save a marriage from falling apart. The question cannot be answered in terms of a definite ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Most relationships hit the rocks at some point of time, and it can be due to various factors such as ego hassles, insecurity, arrogance, jealousy, poor communication, extramarital affairs, changes in financial/physical state, influence of other family members etc.
The main form of therapy starts off with the basic duty of listening, understanding and facilitating. He/she usually initiates a dialogue between the two partners in order to enable the free flow of communication. Once they listen and also get listened to, the relationship’s problems come to the surface, and the counsellor with his/her able expertise, suggests the scope and direction of rectification. He/she also tries to identify the pattern of marital discord and the key emotional responses, and accordingly endeavours to reorganize the negative cycle, come up with new modes of interaction between the partners, create a rejuvenated emotional bonding between them that acts as a support during times of upheaval, as well as rebuild a sense of intimacy and encourage a secure attachment between the couple. The core principles that are involved, include respect, empathy, tact, confidentiality, accountability, certification, on-going training and supervision based on training etc.
However, recent researches have illustrated that marital counselling might end up doing more harm than good, as the very thought of consulting a counsellor generates a subconscious feeling that the relationship is over. Taking professional help means making their personal issues public (atleast to the counsellor concerned), and it is often associated with an inherent feeling of failure of a marriage. Couples might have unrealistic expectation from a counsellor while in reality, only the individuals involved can actually make it work. If they are not willing enough, no external help can repair their ties. They also need to handle the counselling sessions in the right manner, as that equally determines the success of these sessions.
While couples should definitely make sincere attempts within themselves and with the help of close family members, to settle the turmoil, if at all they feel the need to consult a counsellor they should have a broad perspective about it and not nurture misconception in their minds that such a step is simply the last nail to the coffin. The depth of the problem and the mental conditions of the partners are hugely responsible for determining how far the counselling will be beneficial to the couple.