Is marriage counseling effective? This article answers that question, and compares online marriage counseling with the traditional face-to-face therapy.
When your marriage is almost on the brink of collapse, where do you go for help—your best friend, co-worker, or a family member? For most people, a marriage counselor or therapist is usually the first person they think of when seeking some guidance.
But does marriage counseling work? Are there are studies proving its effectiveness? And to be more specific, has online marriage counseling replaced the traditional, face-to-face marriage counseling as the more effective way of resolving issues within a relationship?
How It Works?
But first, how does marriage counseling or couples therapy work? In this type of therapy, you and your partner will be in one room with a therapist that acts as the mediator. The idea is that the therapist will help both parties make sense of what is going on in their relationship.
The therapist or counselor, in particular, can help you if you’re having troubles expressing yourself. The professional is also responsible for ensuring that both parties will get equal time, understanding, and attention. This is important to prevent the so-called “poor me” attitude that can happen in individual therapies, which can only put a rocky relationship on the brink of collapse.
Marriage counseling has its benefits. One, it can resolve issues that can cause seemingly irreparable damage on a relationship like finances, sex, and children.
The marriage counselor can guide the conversation, preventing you and your spouse from losing focus on the discussion that aims to arrive at a resolution on your marital concerns.
Marriage counseling can also facilitate clearing the air about resentments that both parties may have throughout their relationship. The marriage counselor can assist in resolving these issues, so these won’t cause massive damage on the marriage later on.
Finally, it can be useful in identifying potential sources of marital stress. The therapist acts as the source of outside perspective, giving inputs on which behaviors or habits that should be adjusted or eliminated for the betterment of the relationship.
Marriage Counseling Works– Studies
Numerous studies have shown that marriage counseling, a form of therapy that seeks to improve communication and resolve issues within a relationship, really works in repairing and rebuilding marriages.
One research conducted by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists showed that there is a high rate of satisfaction among patients of marriage counselors. In the survey, more than 98 percent of those who were asked about marriage counseling said they were able to get the help they needed.
After going through a marriage counseling session or program, 93 percent of the patients said they were better equipped in dealing with their marital problems.
Moreover, the participants said their physical health improved after going through a marriage counseling program, and they were able to function better at work.
There’s another study published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy which showed that seven out of 10 couples receiving marital therapy were able to benefit from the said program.
It added that the effectiveness rate of couple therapy can be compared to the effectiveness rates of individual counseling, and far more superior to the rates of the control groups that did not receive any form of treatment.
Now that we’ve established that marriage counseling does work, the next question is which form of marriage counseling is the most effective? Is the old, face-to-face therapy session still king? Or has online marriage counseling overtaken its more traditional counterpart?
Online Therapy Is Now More Effective—Studies
If we are to believe studies, then it seems that online therapy is more effective than the conventional therapy where the therapist sits on a chair, and patient on a comfortable sofa while revealing everything to the counselor.
While this is not exactly marriage counseling per se, it at least gives us an indication that online therapy is becoming more widely accepted worldwide.
One study done by researchers from the University of Zurich found out that therapy sessions online are as effective, if not better, than those conducted the traditional way.
In the study, researchers asked six therapists to help 62 patients who were suffering from moderate depression. The patients were randomly assigned into groups, with the first group treated online through instant messenger and email, while the others went through face-to-face therapy.
The results showed that 53% of those who were treated online said they felt better after their therapy compared to just 50% of those who went through the traditional route.
To date, there’s still no study or research that specifically target online marriage counseling. However, those who conduct this type of marriage therapy insist there are several factors that make it as effective, if not more effective, than the traditional face-to-face counseling.
Why is Online Marriage Counseling Deemed Effective?
One of the reasons why online marriage counselors believe that their method is as effective as the traditional face-to-face therapy is that there is a greater emotional intimacy between the counselor and the patient.
They argue that couples are more relaxed in their home environment than in a traditional office set-up. This, in turn, creates more openness and paves the way for more natural interactions in their meetings.
There’s also the issue of convenience. Couples facing issues in their marriage can seek professional help from a marriage counselor who is based anywhere in the world. They can look for a highly recommended or rated marriage therapist online, schedule a meeting, and get treated wherever they may be in the world.
Even the use of online programs or apps like Skype and Windows Messenger are being credited for the popularity of online marriage therapy. According to online marriage counselors, married couples who have difficulties in expressing themselves orally will find it easier to respond to questions or express their ideas through the said programs.
The idea is that Skype and Windows Messenger could be a refreshing alternative mode of communication for a person who is shy or struggles to share sensitive information to a stranger.
Plus, these apps can automatically record a transcript of the conversation which is advantageous to the counselor as the professional can refresh his memory of what was discussed after the session ended, and make it a reference for future treatment sessions. Studies have shown that documentation can make any marriage counseling session much more effective.
However, there are also critics of online marriage counseling who say that it is a poor alternative to traditional marriage counseling, and that it should be prohibited.
The main issue of these critics is that online marriage counseling strips the marriage counselor to observe the body language of the patients.
However, those who defend online marriage counseling point out that the inherent advantages of this mode of therapy are enough to offset the inability of the counselor to observe the body language of the troubled couple.
Whether online marriage counseling is indeed better than traditional marriage therapy is not much of an issue. The point is that marriage counseling does work, as proven by the numerous studies conducted about it.
And the continued rise in popularity of online marriage counseling is another proof that troubled couples find relief and enlightenment being with a marriage therapist.