Relationships are hard work. At some point, most couples will inevitably face challenges that threaten their partnership. In a study involving 1000 couples, 49% said they had attended some form of counseling with their spouse.1 If you’re considering attending couples therapy or marriage counseling, there are important things to know about success rates, types of therapy, and more.
General Couples Therapy Stats
Nearly 50% of 1000 couples say that they have attended some form of counseling with their spouse.1 Couples go to therapy for a variety of reasons, from communication issues to healing after infidelity.
Here are general statistics concerning couples counseling:
- The highest percentage of couples in marriage counseling (57%) had been married 3-5 years.1
- From the same study, 52% of those who had not tried some form of marital counseling were open to trying it.1
- According to Dr. John Gottman, a relationship and marriage expert, couples wait up to six years after problems start to see a counselor.2
- 55% of couples are in therapy for six months or fewer.1
Is the 7-Year Itch Real?
The 7-year itch is a popular idea that suggests all couples reach some kind of crisis seven years into the relationship, and how they respond to that problem determines the fate of the marriage; however, the research doesn’t back this idea up.
In general, research shows:
- According to research done in the 1980s, divorce rates usually peaked around 4 years, not 7.8
- Recent research shows that divorce rates rise around 5 years, then steadily increase the longer the couple has been together.
3 Types of Couples Therapy
Most therapists and counselors use a specific type of therapy for couples. What to expect in couples counesling may change based on the modality used by the therapist, including emotionally focused therapy (EFT), the Gottman Method, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Here are three types of couples therapy:
- EFT: this is the most common form of therapy for couples. It’s been tested on couples in high-stress situations, like those in the military, parents of chronically ill children, and veterans with PTSD.3
- Gottman Method: this popular method was created by husband and wife psychologist duo John and Julie Gottman. It focuses on the ”four horsemen” of marriage-ending behavior, and how to move past those issues.5
- CBT: this common form of therapy is effective for couples dealing with communication and problem-solving issues.6
Age of Couples in Therapy
Couples of all ages can benefit from therapy, though stats show the older a couple is, the less likely they are to go into therapy, mostly citing that they know each other well and feel like they “can figure most things out.”1
Here are additional statistics about the age of couples in therapy:
- In a 2017 study, millennials have attended couples therapy the most (51%), followed by baby boomers (48%), then Gen Xers (46%).1
- Couples aged 25-30 years made up the largest portion of those in therapy (31%), followed by those aged 30-35 years (21%).1
Does Marriage Counseling Work?
When both parties are receptive to change, couples therapy can be beneficial to the relationship. In the 1980s, therapy for couples had a 50% chance of success.3 Couples in therapy now have closer to a 75% success rate when using EFT. Effectiveness is measured with the Dyadic Adjustment Scale questionnaire, which measures couples’ emotional distress compared with when they began therapy.
Therapy vs. Divorce
Couples therapy usually ends in divorce when one partner or both have already decided to separate (consciously or subconsciously) and are using counseling to break the news. Discernment counseling is useful for when both parties are genuinely unsure of what they want to do moving forward.
According to some psychologists, name-calling, lack of trust, and an unwillingness to address the issues or change are some of the biggest indicators that therapy will fail.7 Other concerns include feelings of hopelessness, continuing an affair, and not being emotionally vulnerable.
Additionally, divorce may be the right choice if the couple is in an abusive relationship.3 In abusive situations, it is often recommended for each partner to attend separate therapy sessions to address violent or unsafe behavior.
When Should Couples Start Marriage Counseling?
It’s never too early or too late to start going to marriage counseling. Starting soon can help prevent issues from beginning, and starting later can help keep problems from escalating out of control. If you’ve noticed communication issues, resentment, unresolved distress, or other changes affecting the relationship, it could be time to start marriage counseling.
Marriage counseling can even be helpful as couples negotiate the changes of divorce and separation.
How Long Does Marriage Counseling Take?
Marriage counseling can last for just a few sessions or continue for many years. The duration usually depends upon the couple’s needs, compatibility, and goals for the relationship. Ideally, the therapist provides the couple the skills they need over a handful of sessions and allow them to practice the techniques independently.
Does Marriage Counseling Work For Infidelity?
It’s common for couples to seek counseling after infidelity. Marriage counseling can be an effective way to heal the relationship while finding ways to move forward in a marriage after the cheating. During these sessions, it will be important to establish realistic goals and expectations with each partner. The therapist will also work to ensure that no one is being exploited or manipulated in the relationship following the infidelity.
Does Marriage Counseling Work if Only One Person Goes?
Marriage counseling where only one person attends is really just a modified version of individual therapy. Individual therapy can still benefit the relationship indirectly by helping the individual, but it is not marriage counseling.
Marriage counseling thrives when both partners attend so that the therapist can access each perspective and treat their attitudes and any communication issues the couple is facing. In the session, the therapist can work to establish better habits and track changes over time.
Of course, no one can force their partner to attend to marriage counseling. Individual treatment may be the best choice under the circumstances.
What Can You Do to Make Marriage Counseling More Successful?
Successful marriage counseling starts with a licensed therapist. From there, each person should consider the importance of being honest, respectful, and committed to the process. People in the relationship should focus less on “winning” the session and more on clearly expressing their experience and listening to their partner. Willingness and flexibility are vital characteristics as well.