What Is Family and Marriage Counseling? (with pictures)

Gregory Hanson
Gregory Hanson
Marriage counselors may help keep couples together.
Marriage counselors may help keep couples together.

Family and marriage counseling services are provided by trained mental health workers and are designed to address several types of problems related to marriage and family life. Such counseling often begins before a couple chooses to marry, with premarital counseling designed to prepare a couple for the potential challenges of married life. In other cases, this type of counseling is designed to resolve specific issues that emerge from the relationships between couples or family members. In most cases, family and marriage counseling is designed to address and resolve specific issues, rather than to serve as an ongoing and open-ended process.

Family counselors may specialize in sibling rivalry problems.
Family counselors may specialize in sibling rivalry problems.

Pre-marriage counseling services are designed to allow couples to think about and address potential issues before they actually crop up in married life. This type of family and marriage counseling helps couples to work out tactics for managing money together, living together, and handling conflict in a responsible and constructive fashion. Such counseling often also includes preparation for having children, as the birth of children can place a great deal of stress on a marriage.

Some couples opt for marriage counseling before their wedding to start their life together off on the right track.
Some couples opt for marriage counseling before their wedding to start their life together off on the right track.

Other sorts of family and marriage counseling programs generally work to resolve specific issues that have emerged between spouses. Many different issues can cause difficulties in a marriage, ranging from loss of a job to fear of aging to infidelity or addiction. Couples therapy typically attempts to repair trust and reestablish effective lines of communication in order to allow couples to work through their difficulties in a healthy and respectful manner, but the specific therapeutic approaches employed vary depending on the types of issues confronting a particular couple.

Counselors may be able to help with communication problems.
Counselors may be able to help with communication problems.

In some other cases, family and marriage counseling focuses primarily on problems stemming from relations between parents and children, among siblings, or between parents because of the experience of parenthood. The specific issues addressed by this sort of therapy vary but may include behavioral problems, sibling rivalry, or even empty nest syndrome. Therapists employ a variety of different analytical and therapeutic techniques to address these problems.

Couples having relationship trouble before they are married may seek pre-marriage counseling for help.
Couples having relationship trouble before they are married may seek pre-marriage counseling for help.

As a general rule, family and marriage counseling services focus on the relationships between spouses or family members. This type of counseling tends to focus on producing specific solutions to specific problems in the structure of relationships rather than on issues internal to the individual family members, although some individual problems, such as substance abuse, can cause problems in larger relationship structures. The goal-oriented nature of this type of therapy means that most counseling programs take only a dozen sessions to resolve.

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    • Marriage counselors may help keep couples together.
      Marriage counselors may help keep couples together.
    • Family counselors may specialize in sibling rivalry problems.
      Family counselors may specialize in sibling rivalry problems.
    • Some couples opt for marriage counseling before their wedding to start their life together off on the right track.
      Some couples opt for marriage counseling before their wedding to start their life together off on the right track.
    • Counselors may be able to help with communication problems.
      Counselors may be able to help with communication problems.
    • Couples having relationship trouble before they are married may seek pre-marriage counseling for help.
      Couples having relationship trouble before they are married may seek pre-marriage counseling for help.
    • Birth order and other factors often help counselors assess why some siblings have a harmonious relationship, while others experience rivalries.
      Birth order and other factors often help counselors assess why some siblings have a harmonious relationship, while others experience rivalries.
    • Therapists at community counseling centers often help people cope with family and marital issues.
      Therapists at community counseling centers often help people cope with family and marital issues.
    • Couples therapy attempts to repair trust and establish effective communication between partners.
      Couples therapy attempts to repair trust and establish effective communication between partners.
    • Family counseling may help if siblings have difficulties getting along.
      Family counseling may help if siblings have difficulties getting along.