With so much focus given to marriage counseling, unmarried couples may find themselves wondering how they fit in when it comes to therapy. While many counselors label themselves as "marriage counselors," they are often willing to work with unmarried couples to help them resolve relationship problems and learn skills to build better, more fulfilling relationships.
Therapy for unmarried couples can take several forms. Many counselors and therapists work with couples together in the same session to help them address problems and communicate effectively. Other counselors encourage couples to take part in one-on-one sessions in addition to joint sessions. Premarital counseling focuses on helping couples identify challenges they may face in their marriage and helping them overcome or deal with the weaknesses in their relationships. Spiritual and religious leaders often offer couples and premarital counseling.
Every couple goes through difficult times in their relationship. Many couples seek counseling after a major fight or event that has caused them to drift apart or has damaged trust. Infidelity is a common reason couples seek counseling. Unfaithfulness can be extremely difficult to deal with for both married and unmarried couples, and many people are unable to deal with their feelings and issues without help. Financial and family-related conflicts may spur couples to seek counseling. Drug or alcohol abuse, medical problems and sexual problems are other common reasons.
Couples who come together in therapy sessions may find it easier to communicate and express their feelings in front of a neutral third party. Most couples' counselors are highly trained individuals who can help partners identify the problems in their relationships and practice skills and communication techniques that may allow them to overcome their problems and prevent major future issues. Couples can bond and heal in therapy sessions after major problems or stressful events.
Some couples may feel that simply attending therapy sessions will fix their relationships. In order for couples counseling to provide the maximum benefits to the relationship, both partners must be committed to resolving their issues and be willing to change their actions and behavior patterns. Other couples may feel that their problems are not "big" enough for counseling and that they should simply learn to deal with their issues on their own. The truth is, people attend counseling for all kinds of reasons. Couples struggling in their relationships, no matter the reason, should never feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek help that could improve their relationships.
Couples counseling cannot fix every issue. While therapy is extremely helpful for many people, a counselor cannot guarantee that she can "save" a couple's relationship. Partners who are facing infidelity, drug abuse or domestic violence issues often have a particularly difficult time addressing and resolving their problems. Working through therapy sessions can help each partner learn about his needs, expectations and desires and help empower him to make difficult decisions. Even in cases where couples are not able to resolve their problems, they often learn valuable skills that they can put to use when dealing with other relationships in their lives.