There are many factors that can determine whether or not marriage counseling is successful. It leads to many people asking, why does counseling seem to help some people and not others?
Counseling is certainly not an exact science. It also isn’t meant to be a miracle ccure for all bad relationships. However, most people do benefit from counseling.
But there are couples who just don’t seem to benefit from marriage counseling. Despite attending counseling, their marriage just doesn’t seem to improve. It may end in divorce.
So what’s the difference between a couple who experiences success in counseling a couple who leaves counseling determining there is no hope? There are some factors that seem to interfere with the success of counseling.
Looking for Permission to Get Divorced
Sadly, many people enter into counseling looking for permission to get divorced. I’ve had couples come into my office that say, “I just want to be able to tell my kids we tried everything before we divorce.” It’s as if they just want to be able to put a checkmark on a checklist of “things to do before you divorce” so they can say “see nothing worked.”
Other couples come in saying something to the effect of “see we can’t get along so we should just divorce, right?” They share about their problems and discuss how nothing seems to work. In essence, they are looking for a counselor to say “You’ve left no stone unturned. You might as well divorce now.”
If you enter into counseling with an open mind about your marriage, it can help. However, if you are looking for permission to get divorced, you likely won’t leave satisfied. Counselors don’t grant you permission to divorce. Instead, they try to help you meet your goals.
Trying to Prove Your Spouse is Wrong
Entering into counseling with a goal of getting your spouse to change won’t be helpful. Unfortunately, many people seem to convince their spouse to get counseling under the premise that the counselor will convince their spouse to change. They come to their first session ready to share all the things their spouse does “wrong.”
Pointing out all of your spouse’s faults won’t be effective in improving your marriage. If you think the only thing that will improve your marriage is for your spouse to change, counseling can’t do that. Instead, counseling helps when you are ready and willing to make change for yourself.
Unwillingness to Change
Counseling requires an open mind. In order to benefit you need to be open to hearing suggestions, feedback and ideas. If you aren’t willing or don’t want to change, it won’t help.
A counselor can certainly assist you in determining if you want to make a change. Creating change requires hard work and takes commitment. It also requires extra energy and effort. There are benefits of making change but also, there are often consequences. If you aren’t ready to make change, counseling can’t miraculously fix things.
Change is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it requires careful consideration, preparation, and action. Whether you want to learn new ways to communicate, manage your anger, or improve your relationship, lasting change doesn’t come from a snap decision.
Refusal to Do Homework
What happens during your counseling appointment won’t change your life. Instead, what you do after your appointment is when change can take place. A counselor will most likely give you homework assignments. Your willingness to complete your homework will make a big difference in whether or not you will make progress in counseling.
Homework assignments vary depending on your treatment goals and the type of treatment you are receiving. Homework assignments may include written work that requires some self-reflection or it may include trying some behavioral changes to improve your communication. Sometimes homework is assigned to help you develop new skills and other times it assists you in gaining insight. Homework assignments are usually discussed at the following counseling session to determine what is helpful and what isn’t.
Making Counseling a Low Priority
Counseling won’t work if it isn’t a high priority in your life. Just like with anything, if you won’t gain much if you don’t put in much effort. If you want to get the most from counseling, you will need to make it a high priority in your life.
Unfortunately, people sometimes are having a lot of things going on in life and counseling is on the bottom of their priority list. If you can’t put effort and time into counseling and completing your homework assignments, you won’t get the most out of treatment.