What does a Marriage Counselor do?

Cassie L. Damewood

A marriage counselor advises couples experiencing emotional difficulties in their relationships. She may dispense advice only to heterosexual, legally married couples or accept clients who are just cohabiting or fall into the gay, lesbian, transgender or transsexual categories. Her job may be affiliated with a group of therapists or she may have a private, independent practice.

Marriage counselors help couples who have reached an impasse in their ability to communicate.
Marriage counselors help couples who have reached an impasse in their ability to communicate.

A considerable number of counselors help people through social services agencies and mental health centers or provide advice to clients at hospitals and clinics. A fairly recent trend is for a marriage counselor to provide therapy at the homes of her clients. This approach is often believed to be beneficial as the couples may be more candid when speaking in the familiar surroundings of a home environment.

A marriage counselor may help couples pinpoint problems within a relationship.
A marriage counselor may help couples pinpoint problems within a relationship.

People who seek the help of a marriage counselor have typically hit an impasse in their interpersonal communications. The counselor normally assesses the relationship with the couple by identifying their specific areas of need through speaking with them individually and together. Once the problem has been isolated to the satisfaction of the couple, the counseling program is generally begun.

Emotional issues are one area a marriage counselor may focus on.
Emotional issues are one area a marriage counselor may focus on.

In some cases, the counselor dispenses advice to couples in group therapy sessions. This setting is customarily considered a good option for couples who may benefit from realizing the universality of some of their difficulties. Group therapy sometimes results in couples seeking more private therapy sessions with the counselor.

A marriage counselor might suggest new activities a couple can try together.
A marriage counselor might suggest new activities a couple can try together.

Marital problems can stem from a wide range of problems. A marriage counselor is normally expected to be proficient in addressing these difficulties and offering a variety of applicable solutions. She is typically required to remain objective in her recommendations to each party.

Couples might seek out a counselor to rekindle the romance in their relationship.
Couples might seek out a counselor to rekindle the romance in their relationship.

The therapy provided by a marriage counselor customarily centers on her clients’ insights into each other’s behavior. One of the first areas typically studied by a counselor is the couple’s communication skills. If she discovers the couple is merely speaking to one another without actually listening or communicating their true feelings, she normally advises them on ways to improve these skills.

Another counseling method commonly utilized by a marriage counselor includes initiating conversations on general topics and common areas of contention with the couple. This frequently encourages them to discreetly disclose their innermost feelings. The exercise frequently brings deep-seeded needs, fears and secrets to the surface, issues often previously unexplored by the couple.

A master’s degree in counseling is typically required to be a marriage counselor. Two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical field experience is also a common requirement to be hired for this job. Many regions also require a license or certification to practice as this type of counselor. Empathy and discretion are customarily expected for those with the position of marriage counselor.

A marriage counselor may go to a couples home to provide counseling services.
A marriage counselor may go to a couples home to provide counseling services.

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Discussion Comments

Sporkasia

I would have a hard time opening up to a person I don't know about the most personal parts of my life. Then again, I'm not sure I would want to share all of that stuff with a friend either. I know a couple of couples who have used Christian marriage counselors and they said the religious aspect made them more comfortable.

Feryll

@Animandel - The problem is that many people are on the verge of divorce before they go to a marriage counselor. I guess the best time to visit a counselor would be when the relationship is still good, but you just want to tweak a few little aspects of the relationship. Once you have gone through all of the name calling and all that other negative stuff, counseling is too late.

Animandel

When I hear someone say marriage counselor I automatically think divorce. I'm sure there are many instances where counselors help couples get back on track and make their relationships work, but I still think divorce.

I once worked with a girl, and she and her boyfriend were seeing a pre-marriage counselor because they were planning to marry, but they were fighting all the time and wondering how to make the relationship work.

At the time, all I could think was just call it quits. If you are having trouble making the relationship work, don't marry. End the relationship or at least take a break, but don't get married because that will not make matters better. I think they did marry. I wonder how that turned out.

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