Do you have a premarital counseling question? Many couples are unsure of whether or not they need therapy or what the benefits might be of obtaining help during their engagement.
Steven M Cohn, PhD, LMFT
The Portland Couples Counseling Center
1940 NE Broadway
Portland, Oregon 97232
When you are in love and caught up in the excitement of planning your wedding ceremony, the furthest thing from your mind is that you might have any problems during a life-long relationship. However, obtaining answers to your premarital counseling question will help you identify issues that may arise in your marriage and help you develop strategies to make your relationship last.
It may be interesting for you to know that the couples most at risk of having relationship problems aren't necessarily the same couples seeking answers to relationship questions.(1) Counselors are looking for ways to attract more at-risk couples into therapy in hopes of improving the effectiveness of providing answers to your questions.(2) One of the problems with this is that, although premarital counseling programs have been around since the 1930's, they have no consensus as to their approach to intervention, design, or goals.
An interesting fact highlighted by a recent study is that even though the effectiveness of therapy prior to marriage has undoubtedly improved since the 1930's, couples do not seem to notice the changes. The study showed that the longer couples were together, the less likely they were to remember the answers to their counseling questions. The authors conclude that because marriage relationships have become more complex, counseling effectiveness is not perceived as improving.(3)
Nevertheless, the good news is that the length of time they had been married did not affect their perceptions of the effectiveness of the therapy sessions.
One recent article outlines a solution-focused approach to premarital counseling. Questions asked of the couples in counseling help the couple focus on their own resources to develop a shared vision for the marriage. This approach also uses a "Couple's Resource Map" to keep the intervention focused on solutions.(4)
Another recent study looked at premarital counseling questionnaires that are used for assessment.(5) When you meet with a counselor, you may want to ask him or her about the pros and cons of using any of these assessment tools, known as the Premarital Preparation and Relationship Enhancement(PREPARE) questionnaire, the Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding, and Study (FOCCUS)assessment, and the Relationship Evaluation (RELATE). One of these premarital counseling questionnaires may be just the thing you need to start getting answers to your premarital counseling questions.
No matter what your premarital counseling questions are, you owe it to yourself to get them answered before the wedding ceremony. You may be surprised at how hard marriage is, and a Relationship Specialist may be able to help you avoid some of the common pitfalls if you attend premarital counseling. Questions you have now will only intensify over time, and a counselor can help you resolve issues before they arise.
(1) Sullivan, Kieran T.; Bradbury, Thomas N. Are Premarital Prevention Programs Reaching Couples at Risk for Marital Dysfunction? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1997 Feb Vol 65 (1) 24 - 30.
(2) Sullivan, Kieran T.; Anderson, Carmen. Recruitment of Engaged Couples for Premarital Counseling: An Empirical Examination of the Importance of Program Characteristics and Topics to Potential Participants. The Family Journal, 2002. Vol. 10, No. 4, 388-397.
(3) Schumm, W.; Silliman, B. Changes in Premarital Counseling as Related to Older Cohorts of Married Couples. J Sex Marital Therapy 1997; 23:98 - 102.
(4) Murray, Christine E.; Murray, Thomas L. Jr. Solution-Focused Premarital Counseling: Helping Couples Build a Vision for Their Marriage. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 2004: 30 (3), 349 - 358.
(5) Larson, Jeffry H.; Newell, Kenneth; Topham, Glade; Nichols,
Sheldon. A Review of Three Comprehensive Premarital Assessment
Questionnaires. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 2002: 23 (2),
233 - 239.
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Steven M. Cohn, PhD is honored to have been featured on CNBC.com.
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