Mode of Therapy – Premarital Counseling
Premarital counseling is a specialized type of therapy that helps couples prepare for marriage. By participating in premarital counseling prior to their wedding, couples can begin to build a healthy, strong relationship that helps provide a healthier foundation for their union. Premarital counseling can help couples of any gender, race, or religion identify and address potential areas of conflict in their relationship. Additionally, counseling can prevent small issues from escalating into serious concerns at some point in the future.
Premarital therapy also helps couples identify their expectations for the marriage and address any significant differences they might have.
What Are the Goals and Objectives of Premarital Counseling?
- Change the view of the relationship – During the therapeutic process, the counselor helps each partner examine the relationship in a more objective manner and assists the couple in learning how to perceive their interactions in a positive light.
- Understand how cultural issues affect a relationship – Family-of-origin and cultural beliefs affect how the partners understand all the relationships in their lives. It also affects day-to-day behaviors, such as eating, working, and managing money. Differences in cultural expectations can cause difficulties in the relationship. The sooner the couple learns to identify and manage these differences, the better. A counselor can help reveal these problems and teach the couple how to use the art of compromise.
- Eliminate dysfunctional behavior – Premarital counseling helps couples identify and correct dysfunctional behaviors, such as issues with dominance and control and addiction.
- Improve communication – Effective communication is one of the most important factors in a healthy relationship. In fact, as reported in “Psychology Today,” psychologists believe that communication is “one of the ‘three Cs’ of intimacy.” A premarital therapist helps couples learn how to talk to each other openly and express their thoughts and feelings in a healthy, supportive manner.
- Identify strengths – A premarital counselor can help the couple identify strengths in the relationship as a whole or in each individual partner. A thorough understanding of the stronger aspects of the union helps build resilience and a solid foundation upon which to build the marriage.
- Decrease emotional isolation and avoidance – Many people have difficulty expressing their feelings, so some partners simply avoid doing so. This type of isolation almost always leads to serious problems in the relationship. A premarital therapist assists the couple in learning how to express their feelings in a way that draws them together rather than further apart.
Common Issues Addressed in Premarital Counseling
Premarital counseling addresses a broad range of topics, including these typical issues:
- Conflict resolution – How does each partner resolve conflicts? How do their perceptions of issues correspond? How can they improve their ability to come to terms on issues on which they disagree?
- Communication – How does the couple communicate? Do they currently have an adaptive or maladaptive method for discussing important issues? How can they enhance their ability to communicate?
- Define marital expectations and beliefs – What does each partner expect from the relationship? People sometimes enter relationships with different expectations as to what constitutes a successful marriage. They often are unaware that their expectations differ until they are already married, which can lead to serious issues. A premarital therapist encourages each partner to discuss their expectations, after which the couple can work toward finding ways to compromise.
- Personal values – Do the partners have similar personal values? Research demonstrates that shared values are more important than common interests, and couples with the same values have a better chance of staying together.
- Finances – Can the couple talk about financial issues? Many people are uncomfortable when discussing their personal finances, and issues with spending and budgeting often create conflicts in marriages. The counselor helps each partner determine his or her own financial style and then works with the couple in resolving these issues.
- Family – Do both partners want to have children? If so, how many children does each person want? For each partner, what is the optimal time to begin a family?
- Sex and intimacy – Are both partners equally comfortable — or uncomfortable — when discussing sex? What does each partner expect in terms of intimacy and a sexual relationship? Couples should speak honestly and openly about sex, even if they have chosen to remain celibate until marriage. An ability to discuss these issues without reservations helps lead to a successful marriage.
Benefits of Premarital Counseling
The many advantages of premarital therapy include:
- Helps build and strengthen conflict resolution skills – Conflict resolution skills are critical for a healthy marriage. Premarital therapy offers couples a way to identify potential conflicts and how to develop the skills necessary to get through tough battles.
- Identifies issues early – Different expectations have a disastrous effect on most marriages. Marriage therapy assists couples in determining and discussing their expectations early on. If the couple has different expectations, then the counselor can work with them to identify ways to cope with those differences.
- Helps couples avoid toxic resentment – When couples believe they are no longer in love, it’s usually simply that they have allowed resentment to build up in the relationship. Resentment is toxic to happiness, and during premarital therapy, couples learn ways to avoid this type of emotional poison.
- Reduces fears about the longevity of the marriage – Statistical evidence proves that marriages end every day, which is concerning to a couple contemplating the prospect. Premarital therapy helps the couple identify and confront fears about forming and maintaining a successful relationship.
Ethical and Legal Considerations in Premarital Counseling
For counselors, premarital therapy poses both ethical and legal considerations. Some issues to consider include:
Understanding the Scope of Practice & Responsibility
Premarital therapists must understand the scope of their responsibilities and conduct premarital therapy sessions accordingly. Therapists should not provide professional services that are beyond their field of expertise based on education, experience, or lack thereof. A counselor providing premarital therapy should have specific knowledge and expertise in this specific form of treatment.
Adherence to privacy is important in therapy: It allows couples and individuals an opportunity to confide in their therapist. Premarital therapists are bound by law to protect their clients’ privacy, which can be difficult in actual practice. However, the therapist should explain the couple’s right to confidentiality at the outset of treatment.
Therapists are obligated to protect their client’s information even when called upon to testify in legal proceedings. However, counselors must disclose some specific information, no matter how private, to the authorities, including when they believe that clients might harm themselves or others. The counselor should clearly explain the concept of patient privilege during the couple’s initial session.