Marriage Counseling After an Affair

by Alizah Scherr

Infidelity within a marriage may include either a physical relationship or a strong emotional connection with someone other than your partner, but either way the vow of commitment made between two individuals is being shattered. When an affair happens, trust is broken. Couples may feel as if they are unable to repair the marriage. Often, they may not even know whether or not they want the relationship to continue. A trained professional can help. Through marriage counseling, a couple can work together with a therapist to either mend the relationship or come to a final decision to end it.

What is Marriage Counseling?

Marriage counseling, or couples counseling, is a kind of psychotherapy that helps couples to identify and resolve conflicts, communicate better, and solve problems within the relationship. Through this kind of counseling, couples can either improve their marriage or they can make a more informed decision about ending the relationship completely. Marriage counseling is generally a short term process ranging anywhere from a few sessions to a few months. Sessions will typically consist of both spouses meeting with the therapist at the same time, and may include some individual sessions, depending on the style of the therapist.

Who Provides It?

Marriage counseling is typically conducted by licensed experts known as marriage and family therapists. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), in order to become licensed an individual must have an advanced degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field, as well as extensive coursework in specific areas including theoretical and clinical knowledge, individual and family development, ethics and research. In order to graduate, individuals must also complete internship hours specific to couples and families. Although other types of certified mental health professionals are also qualified therapists, the benefit of marriage and family therapists is that they have specific expertise in family systems and have a larger contextual focus.

The Intent

Although many couples enter into counseling in order to improve their relationship, according to an article published in the "Journal of Family Psychology" in 2012, about 46 percent of couples seeking therapy are doing so in order to clarify whether the relationship should continue. Therefore, the couple's initial intent may dictate the direction that treatment takes.

The Process

Sessions will involve both spouses together, and may involve separate sessions with each individual. The therapist will help the couple to communicate openly about issues, discuss conflicting opinions, as well as come up with a joint solution. Couples may be asked to identify negative and positive aspects of their relationship and work on ways to come to a common understanding or agreement. The couple may also be asked to engage in trust building activities and to do daily homework meant to strengthen their relationship. The therapist will act as a mediator who makes sure that the environment remains physically and emotionally safe throughout the process.

The Result

Through the process of counseling, the couple will either find a way to work on the issues caused by the affair and continue on with an even stronger and more communicative relationship or they will make a more informed decision that the relationship needs to end. Either way, the couple should feel more secure in knowing that the decision they have made is the right one for them.

About the Author

Alizah Scherr has worked as a professional school counselor in a public school system for more than five years. She has a master's degree in education and is certified as a counselor.

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