None of us live in a vacuum. So, in trying to get our needs met and create the life we most want, it is inevitable that we are going to butt heads with others doing the same.
There is nothing wrong with that. But it can cause stress, misunderstanding, and sometimes deep hurt or anger. Naturally, these feelings are strongest in relationships with loved ones.
While participating in couples/marriage or family counseling, each person is helped to clarify their thoughts and feelings and to express them in an appropriate way. Therapists structure sessions in a warm, objective manner, ensuring that each participant has an opportunity to be heard. There is no “bad guy” or “problem patient” because loved ones are asked to look at their own behavior and decide what they are willing to change. Though we can ask others to change, and hope that they do, we can’t make them, even when they clearly should. All we have the power to do is change our own actions or responses to the behavior of others.
It is not an easy thing to love deeply in a relationship and yet not try to control the situation, especially for parents whose job it is to set boundaries and enforce family rules. Therapists can help family members understand and embrace their places within the marriage or family unit. Each person has something unique to offer, something no one else can.
People often think a marriage/couples counselor’s job is to keep the couple together and preserve the marriage. This may happen. But if it does, it’s because both people come to understand it’s what they want. A therapist’s job is to help the couple recognize and arrive at a joint decision, beneficial to both. If a marriage can’t be saved and the decision is to part, a therapist can help that process to be gentler and more affirming.
Couples sessions generally last an hour and family sessions, an hour to an hour and a half. In family counseling sessions, it’s great if everyone can be there, but good work can be done with those who do come. There are no specified numbers of sessions in either family or couples counseling. The length of the program depends upon progress made.