Marriage therapy is also called couples therapy or family therapy. Counseling sessions typically begin with the therapist meeting the family. A marriage therapist then analyzes the relationships between family members. He or she studies how the people in a family relate to each other. Practitioners of marriage or couples therapy may be marriage and family therapists, social workers or psychologists.
Family or marriage therapy is a type of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is designed to help people cope with problems in their lives — especially in the area of relationships. The main philosophy of family or couples therapy holds that the family as a whole should participate in the therapy. The blame is not placed on one family member over another, but rather the situation is examined by the psychotherapist and the couple when the thoughts and feelings of each person are expressed. The therapist usually suggests which behaviors each person could change in order to make the marriage partnership more peaceful and beneficial to both parties.
Therapists try to look at the relationship problems of those in marriage therapy objectively. They ask questions of the couple in therapy to help each family member think about his or her behavior and how it may affect another family member. In this way, communication is an important part of the therapy. Sometimes, there is a serious issue to deal with in a marriage such as domestic abuse. The police or other law enforcement authorities may have to be involved in that case, but marriage therapy may be able to help prevent abuse in some cases as well as allow both parties to communicate with each other about the severity of the problem.
Ultimately, marriage therapy helps the couple discover whether the relationship is worth saving or if the parties would be better off apart. If other family members such as in-laws are identified by the couple as being part of the stress on their marriage relationship, the therapist may include these relatives in the therapy since marriage therapy is based on understanding family dynamics and relationships as a whole. Of course, feelings have a lot to do with whether a couple should or will remain together and a marriage therapist usually addresses this by delving into discussions about whether the couple is in love or feels neutral about each other. Stressors in a marriage such as infidelity, money problems, substance abuse and sex issues may be able to be worked through by a couple with the help of marriage therapy and a qualified therapist.