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What to Expect in Marriage Counseling

by Paul Bright

Marriage counseling can be an intimidating concept. Going to marriage counseling means that you might share your deepest personal secrets with a virtual stranger. However, counselors are not there to judge you; they are trying to help you and your spouse achieve goals for your marriage. The help that counselors can offer varies from couple to couple, but there are a few elements you can expect at marriage counseling.

Confidentiality

There are few confidentiality exceptions in marriage counseling.

What is said in a marriage counseling session is confidential, according to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy's Code of Ethics. Counselors are generally not allowed to share the information they hear in a session with anyone unless you have provided a release of information or the sessions are part of supervised training. The only exceptions by law are if one of you expresses intent to harm yourself or another or if current abuse is being discussed. In those cases, the counselor is mandated to report that information to authorities.

Collaborative Effort

The counselor and the couple work together to improve the marriage.

You can expect a collaborative effort during marriage counseling. The marriage counselor's goal is to help you achieve what you and your partner want in your marriage. Counselors can offer a new perspective on your marriage that may help you as a couple see things differently, but you have to be willing to contribute to the conversation as well as make a genuine effort to implement the counselor's suggestions. The more you are willing to share, the easier it will be for the counselor to help you.

Intervention and Refereeing

Marriage counselors may referee an argument as an intervention technique.

Interventions are changes that you will try to make during marriage counseling. An intervention is designed to help you break out of a routine in your marriage that may be negatively affecting it. The marriage counselor will likely ask you or your spouse to change something to see how the change affects the marriage. In addition, marriage counselors act as referees: if an argument occurs during a session, the counselor may intervene to make sure the fight is fair.

Homework

A homework assignment might be to keep a journal.

Not everything you need to do improve or save your marriage can be done within the confines of the counselor's office. You will likely be given homework by your counselor. It's similar to school homework: if you don't do it, you will have a hard time reaching your goals. Your counselor will give you and your spouse different assignments, and you'll be expected to discuss the results in subsequent sessions.

About the Author

Paul Bright has been writing online since 2006, specializing in topics related to military employment and mental health. He works for a mental health non-profit in Northern California. Bright holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke and a Master of Arts in psychology-marriage and family therapy from Brandman University.

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