Relationships will always have their challenges, and sometimes those challenges are enough for counselling to be necessary. Relationship counselling can help couples, or even those in non-romantic relationships, better communicate with each other and heighten their emotional connection (“The Top 8 Relationship Counselling Benefits”, 2017). Why is investing in and maintaining healthy relationships so important? According to the landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development, close and loving relationships are the single greatest predictor of happiness and health. The study determined that “Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives” (Mineo, 2017).
Although some couples may be hesitant to seek out counselling to help work on issues in their relationship or marriage, there are many potential benefits that it can offer. There are several ways in which a relationship counsellor can help clients overcome difficulties, and bring those couples closer to one another. Here is an examination of the immediate and long-term benefits of relationship counselling for couples.
The Five Principles a Relationship Counsellor Should Keep in Mind
Relationship counselling and its efficacy can be looked at by students in relationship counselling school through five basic principles (Benson, Mcginn, & Christensen, 2012). They are:
- Changing the couple’s view of their relationship and its issues.
- Reducing the couple’s dysfunctional behaviour.
- Reducing the couple’s avoidant behaviour.
- Improving communication and making it more constructive.
- Focusing on the relationship’s strengths (Benson, Mcginn, & Christensen, 2012).
The first principle can help the couple look at their relationship more objectively, as well as to view their relationship as a process involving both parties (Krauss Whitbourne, 2012). The second principle helps to ensure both partners not only better interact with one another, but avoid engaging in harmful behaviours. The third principle involves encouraging both parties to express feelings that they might otherwise fear disclosing to the other partner (Krauss Whitbourne, 2012).
The fourth principle can teach couples how to interact with each other in more empathetic, understanding, and supportive ways, while the final principle sees the therapist emphasize the strengths in the couple’s relationship in order to help both parties find more enjoyment within it (Krauss Whitbourne, 2012). Regardless of approach, a counsellor can help address specific aspects of a couple’s relationship while focusing on these five principles (Chow).
Why Relationship Counselling Has Both Short and Long-Term Benefits
While working with clients during relationship counselling, you will be taking the lessons you’ve learned from classes on family and couples counselling (“Rhodes Wellness College: Professional Counsellor Diploma”) and identifying and understanding the root of a couple’s problems (“Marriage counseling”). This can lead to a number of benefits in the short and long-term, including better communication, greater happiness, improved self-esteem and mental health, and an enhanced relationship (“The Top 8 Relationship Counselling Benefits”, 2017). It can also lead to couples re-establishing their commitments with regards to the relationship, such as emotional and financial support (“The Top 8 Relationship Counselling Benefits”, 2017).
Relationship counselling also allows couples to forgive each other, get themselves out of old patterns, discover their underlying fears about the relationship, heighten intimacy, and commit to growing and changing for the better going forward (McCance, 2014). It can also provide couples with a forum through which they can confidentially discuss topics that are causing friction and that risk creating an impasse between them, as well as improve each party’s personal growth (Lee, 2019). With a counsellor holding them accountable and giving them homework, couples can leave sessions with greater insight into their patterns and issues, and with a better understanding of how best to problem-solve, express their emotions, and communicate with each other (Colangelo, 2015).
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Benson, L. A., Mcginn, M. M., & Christensen, A. (2012). Common Principles of Couple Therapy. Behavior Therapy, 43(1), 25–35. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2010.12.009
Colangelo, I. (2015, February 13). Everything You Need to Know About Couples Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.talkspace.com/blog/everything-you-need-to-know-about-couples-therapy/
Chow, V. (n.d.). The Principles Behind Couple Therapy. Retrieved January 22, 2020, from https://www.psychologyresource.ca/the-principles-behind-couple-therapy/
Krauss Whitbourne, S. (2012, March 20). 5 Principles of Effective Couples Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201203/5-principles-effective-couples-therapy
Lee, J. (2019, July 23). Four Benefits of Couples Counseling. Retrieved from https://www.wellsanfrancisco.com/four-benefits-of-couples-counseling/
Marriage counseling. (2019, November 2). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/marriage-counseling/about/pac-20385249
McCance, N. (2014, September 13). 7 benefits of marriage counselling. Retrieved from https://blog.nicolemccance.com/2014/09/13/7-benefits-of-marriage-counselling/
Mineo, L. (2017, April 11). Over nearly 80 years, Harvard study has been showing how to live a healthy and happy life. Retrieved from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/
Rhodes Wellness College: Professional Counsellor Diploma. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2020, from: https://www.rhodescollege.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Professional-Counsellor-Diploma-Program-Outline-April-2019.pdf The Top 8 Relationship Counselling Benefits. (2017, June 19). Retrieved January 23, 2020, from https://dspsychology.com.au/the-top-8-relationship-counseling-benefits/