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Does marriage therapy really work? How To Maximize Your Chances for Success

couple holding hands at therapy session

Marriage therapy definitely works. In general, most couples who attend find value in and feel the benefits of talking to a licensed marriage therapist.

That's not to say that it's a guarantee that it will work for every couple. Sometimes, couples don't believe in the therapist's insight or advice. Other times, a marriage may simply be coming to a natural end. But most couples can find value in attending therapy together.

In this article, we're going to walk through the marriage therapy process in general and find out what makes it so effective. We'll also explore the history and methodology of marriage counseling and give the single most powerful tip for improving your chances of success in marriage therapy.

Key Takeaways:

  • Marriage therapy, in general and particularly nowadays, is very effective.
  • There are thousands of reasons to go to marriage therapy, including communication issues, problems with sex, and life transitions.
  • The most common therapeutic techniques used in marriage therapy are cognitive-behavioral therapy, emotionally focused therapy, and the Gottman method.

Read about marriage therapy on this page:

What is marriage therapy?

What types of marriage therapy are there?

Should my partner and I seek marriage counseling?

How To Maximize Your Chances of Success at Marriage Counseling

Marriage Therapy in Austin: Williamsburg Therapy Group

What is marriage therapy?

Marriage therapy is a broad term for a wide range of services that are meant to help married people find long-term happiness and mental health in their relationship.

We're going to get into the nitty-gritty of what methodologies are used for which problems. But first, a quick history lesson.

The History of Marriage Therapy

The history of marriage therapy can be divided into two distinct eras: the pre-science era and the post-science era.

The Pre-Science Era: From Ancient Times to 1980

Three landmark psychological discoveries define marriage therapy's history: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), emotionally-focused therapy (EFT), and the Gottman Method.

These three methodologies are backed by academic and scientific research and are the primary drivers of how marriage therapy has changed over time.

Before 1980, which is around when CBT, EFT, and The Gottman Method began to spread amongst mental health professionals, marriage therapy was less than 50% effective.

Marriage therapy, and indeed most forms of therapy, back then were not based on scientific research, and generally used outdated psychological concepts to attempt to get results. This was not only very poor in terms of effectiveness, but it also served to reinforce harmful gender norms.

Marriage therapy in the 1950s, for example, was largely predicated on the incorrect belief that nurturing the marriage and creating a happy and harmonious home life was the woman's job. 

This is not only very blatantly sexist, but it also (unsurprisingly) completely ignores LGBTQ+ relationships and other non-cis- and heteronormative arrangements.

Fortunately, researchers in mental health and therapy began to make strides in the 1980s, using evidence and science to back up methodologies. As is the case with most things, adding knowledge and science to the field made it more inclusive as a whole. It's still not perfect, but it's a lot better than it was.

The Post-Science Era: 1981 to Present

Marriage therapy now has about a 75% success rate, with some sources reporting higher rates than that.

This significant and measurable increase in the number of couples that benefit from therapy is largely due to the methods and theories outlined above: CBT, EFT, and the Gottman Method.

These processes use science and evidence to offer more effective insights into the relationship and what steps can be taken to make progress.

What can you go to marriage therapy for?

Any couple can go to therapy for any reason. In fact, many couples go to marriage therapy simply to learn more about each other and make the relationship stronger.

Most couples, however, go to marriage therapy in order to solve a problem or navigate a change in the relationship. Let's outline a few of the reasons people go to marriage therapy and how therapy can help each one.

Communication Problems

The most common reason people go to marriage counseling is to improve communication within the marriage.

Communication is crucial for a happy, long-lasting, successful marriage, so doing it right is imperative.

Problems with communication skills can manifest in a lot of different ways, including:

  • Frequent fighting
  • Intense arguments
  • Feeling stuck; in a rut
  • Every conversation turning to the same problem
  • Great communication in most regards, but poor communication in one area
  • Excessive defensiveness
  • One partner refuses to acknowledge problems

Communication problems usually lead to other problems, which is why it can be very helpful to attend therapy as soon as possible. It's often easier to solve a communication problem than one of its byproducts.

Sexual Issues

Sex in marriage changes over time. Almost every couple goes through periods where sex just isn't a priority—bringing a new child home, for example.

For many couples, however, sexual problems can become chronic and severe. If you aren't happy with your current sexual life with your partner, therapy may be able to find out what the problem is and then work to solve it.

Life Transitions

Many couples seek marriage counseling in order to navigate a significant life transition.

This can be anything from moving to a new city to starting a dream job. Even though the transition itself may be exciting, it's totally normal to need some help fitting your relationship into the new normal.

Marriage counseling can offer insight on this and help bring you peace and stability amid all of the change.

How much does marriage therapy cost?

The average marriage counseling session costs between $150 and $250, depending on your therapist, their level of education, and your location.

What types of marriage therapy are there?

There are several evidence-based practices that can help married couples navigate their concerns. Below are a few of the most common ones.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy uses cognitive restructuring and dialogue with a licensed therapist to help change the way you think as well as the way your thoughts impact your behavior.

Applied to a married couple, CBT can help you understand why things are the way they are and then offer actionable advice on how to fix them.

Emotionally-Focused Therapy

Developed specifically for couples therapy but now used for individual therapy as well, emotionally focused therapy utilizes the assertion that the most powerful force in a relationship is the emotional health and ties of the members of that relationship.

This form of therapy seeks to restore and rejuvenate the emotional health of the marriage and then use it to make change.

The Gottman Method

The Gottman Method refers to a specific set of steps and practices that can help couples achieve distinct stages of growth, such as:

  • Neutralize conflicted and unproductive communication
  • Increase intimacy
  • Eliminate whatever barriers may be causing friction
  • Establish shared empathy, philosophy, and life goals

These three methods are backed by substantial amounts of research, so therapists can use repeatable tactics to produce results rather than just shooting in the dark or, as has been the historical norm, blaming the woman.

Should my partner and I seek marriage counseling?

If you're researching couples therapy, there's a good chance you could benefit from it. That's not to imply your relationship is unhealthy, but rather to assert that marriage therapy can really help most couples—even healthy ones.

Marriage counseling may also work better the sooner you seek it. There's no harm in reaching out to a therapist to discuss your options.

How To Maximize Your Chances of Success at Marriage Counseling

There is one single piece of advice that, if you follow it, will maximize your chances of success at marriage counseling: commit to it!

Your therapist is an expert in psychology, relationships, and the methods outlined above. Everything they do will be backed by science, and having a third set of eyes on a relationship's issues can provide a more accurate and objective view of what needs to change.

All of this goes away if you aren't willing to trust what your therapist tells you. This can be very difficult because many of us become defensive about our thoughts and behaviors; it's only human. But you must really try to commit to therapy in order to be successful.

To get the most benefit from marriage therapy, trust the professional.

Marriage Therapy in Austin: Williamsburg Therapy Group

Williamsburg Therapy Group is Austin's first therapy practice that exclusively staffs psychologists. That means our team has unrivaled levels of formal education and training in marriage counseling.

Get in touch with us or book an appointment today to begin the healing process. Feeling better may be closer than you think.

Book a Couples Therapy Session in Austin Today

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