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For many people who are in troubled marriages, marriage counseling before divorce may seem like a logical step before talking to attorneys. In some cases, entering into couples therapy can have significant benefits for both spouses as well as the marital relationship. On the other hand, seeking counseling can make matters worse, particularly if the chosen therapist is not skilled at relationship counseling or there is some type of abuse or exploitation going on within the marriage. The pros and cons of marriage counseling before divorce depend significantly on the couple, their circumstances, and their ability to obtain appropriate outside help.
Sadly, many people will delay seeking marriage or family counseling until they are very close to their breaking point in their marriage. This means that negative patterns have continued to develop within the relationship dynamic and that these patterns can be hard to break. Furthermore, ongoing incidents of disrespect may result in frustration and even depression in either or both spouses. If a couple seeks marriage counseling before divorce but after a significant amount of damage has been done to their relationship, the marriage counseling may prove to be ineffective and only prolongs an inevitable breakup.
On the other hand, if a couple is strongly committed to the idea of marriage, skilled marriage counseling may help them to avoid divorce and manage their differences in a constructive manner. If a couple pays attention to warning signs in their marriage and seeks out third-party help quickly, they may find that couples therapy actually strengthens their relationship and they can move on from a rough patch happier and more in tune with each other than ever before.
One key consideration in determining the value of marriage counseling before divorce is the fact that many people who offer couples counseling services may in fact have little actual training in the area of marital therapy. This means that they may be using inappropriate techniques or may be ignorant of certain dynamics in relationships. This could cause them to offer ineffective or even counterproductive therapy. On the other hand, there are several specialists in couples therapy who offer training and certification programs to professional counselors. These programs can help counselors improve their relationship therapy skills so as to ensure a more positive outcome for their clients.
Many experts in both therapy and domestic violence warn against seeking marriage counseling before divorce if a marriage partner is exploiting or abusing the other. The concern is that marriage counseling may actually confuse many of the issues involved in abusive relationships and may put the abused partner in unnecessary danger. In such situations, individual counseling may be more appropriate than couples therapy, particularly in addressing the perpetrator's behavior and the victim's difficulty in removing himself or herself from the situation.
Couples therapy usually includes sessions with each partner individually, as well as with both parties together. This will help the therapist get a good idea of the dynamics of the relationship. If abuse is involved, the abused person may feel freer to speak as an individual, where they may not say anything in front of their abuser. Then, the therapist has the opportunity to offer safety advice to the abuse victim.
Barring a less critical situation, if the couple is wiling to go to counseling, that's a start and can be a stepping stone to restoring their marriage, if it is reparable.
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