For my pre-dissertation research (not a thesis but a research project to somehow prove that the dissertation process isn’t going to be a disaster), I am conducting an outcome study on a psychoeducational group for couples, based on the book “Hold Me Tight.” Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, which the book is based on, has been included in many studies, with results suggesting that it can move roughly 7/10 couples from significant distress to “recovery” (on this statistical measure), and help 9/10 couples improve their relationship. Of course, the skill of the specific therapist is crucial.

Many effective couple therapists are available in many parts of the country. I have been to couple therapy with my wife, despite the fact that we were not significantly “distressed” or nearing a divorce. We wanted to improve our relationship. It helped in ways we could not have imagined. One “let’s just see how this is” session turned into 16 relationship-changing appointments.

Despite the apparent fact that good couple therapy can change both good and bad relationships for the better, many couples don’t go. Often times there is one partner who is more adamant about not going. Why is this? For some it’s an insurance problem, and they just can’t afford it out of pocket. I have talked to many friends and acquaintances, however, who just won’t consider it, even though they have the time and the money.

For my study, I am going to recruit couples who normally would not consider marriage counseling as a means to improve their relationship. I have come to realize that while some reluctant spouses may change their minds or go just to appease their spouse (and many of them engage in the process once they attend a few sessions), there are so many couples who will never utilize this resource. There are probably many “marriage retreats” or weekend communication classes, or just a lot of books to read, but does all this stuff really help? Can it ever be as effective as therapy? Will couples who attend the group then be more likely to try therapy?

My question for you, if you have not been to a marriage counselor before: What is holding you back? At what point would you change your mind (if ever)? If you have a desire to go, what is holding your spouse back? Would you or they be more likely to try something if it was an 8-week 2 hour class rather than “marriage counseling?” Don’t hold anything back – tell me what you think about marriage counseling/couple therapy, why you haven’t gone, or why you think it’s a waste of time or money.