Couple seeks counseling for a variety of reasons, including finances, children, fidelity, communication and compatibility. The couple counselor should see both the members of the couple from the beginning.
Sociologically, one of the institutions that have undergone drastic changes is marriage. Selecting partner is the task in the premarital stage and now the main tasks are sustaining the marriage and if divorce is inevitable adjusting to the divorced condition. Marital problems are the most prevalent difficulties clients usually bring to the counselors. The crisis may range from sexual expression, unsatisfactory marriage, money to be earned
and spent, division of labour with regard to household chores, religious beliefs and practices, use of leisure time, child raising practices, obligation to the relatives, cohabitation without marriage, and homosexuality.
No matter how happy a couple is, marriage is not a perfect arrangement. Every marriage goes through times of stress, times of contention, and times where the couple is just imply distant from one another. Any of these can be reasons why a couple might choose to go to marriage counseling. Other things that might cause a couple to seek marriage counseling can include:
- Problems with alcohol or substance abuse
- Difficulty with children
- A situation where one or both spouses have been unfaithful
- Financial problems
- Major life changes, such as being unemployed or moving
- Sexual difficulties or other problems in the bedroom
- Problems with fertility
Functions of marriage
There are five main approaches used in couple counseling. They are:
a) Psychoanalytic: psychoanalytically based couple counselling focuses on object relations. Object relations is concerned with the way people form attachments to others and things outside of themselves. These preferences are developed in early childhood in parent child interactions. The counsellor helps to provide an emotional insight and restructures internally based perceptions.
b) Social Learning Approach: The behavior is learned through observing others and marriage partners either have a deficit or excess of needed behaviors. The focus of social learning couple counseling is on skill building in the present. Within the treatment process, counselors may use a wide variety of behavioral strategies to help couple change, such a self-reports, observations, communication enhancement training exercises, contracting and homework assignments.
c) Bowen family systems Approach: The focus of this approach is on interactive influences within marriage relationships. The friction within the marriage can be because of high degree of fusion, not separated from family of origin, or unhealthy self-concept. When the couples are stressed they tend to triangulate. The techniques used to achieve the goal include assessment of self through the use of genogram and a focus on cognitively evaluating events and interactions.
d) Structural strategic Approach: In this approach, the counselors help couples try new behaviours, because their old behavior is not working. In order to bring about change, counsellors are active, direct and goal oriented as well as problem focused, pragmatic and brief. Relabeling (giving a new perspective to a behaviour), paradoxing (insisting on just the opposite of what one wants), and prescribing the symptom (having the couple display voluntarily what they had previously manifested involuntarily) are the different techniques.
e) Rational Emotive Approach: The couples become disturbed because of what they
think rather than specific actions that occur in the relationship. To combat disturbances, couple needs to challenge and change their belief systems about activating events. This theory places emphasis on personal and family systems change.
Characteristics of Coupling
The couple relationship is unique and identified six variables as characteristics of couple
1. Voluntary nature of coupling: The people should voluntarily enter into couple
relationship and forced coupling can create more problems than the voluntary coupling.
2. Balance in the couple’s relationship: A couple in order to maintain a productive
balance in their couple relationship may, at times need to engage in some change and at other times hold on to access toned pattern. Too much stability may be a hindrance to growth and too much flexibility will be viewed as chaos.
3. Temporal aspects of coupling: The temporal component of coupling refers to the past, the present and the future. If in the past, the couple was successful in handling their problems amicably then one can look into stability and growth.
Similarly when couple is engaged in conceptualizing a future and planning for the future together, which would become an essential ingredient for binding the relationship during periods of change and stability.
4. Different background and value systems: In couple relationship two systems of different values, emotions, backgrounds and thinking come to merge. The husband and wife will have to negotiate for the third way called our way. The merging of two systems is a continuous process throughout the lifespan.
5. Giving and receiving of support as part of coupling: Couples in marriage chiefly want support especially in times of distress and crisis. One needs to be extremely sensitive to the needs of the other with regard to the kind of support the other is in need of.
6. Maintenance of separateness and individuality in coupling: as much as the couple is eager to be together they also have a need to be separate. The ability to stand apart to pursue one’s own individual needs of political affiliation, religious commitment, network of personal friends and colleagues of work will certainly foster the growth and health in couple relationship.
Different Stages of Couple Counseling
1. Social Stage: involves knowing the couple, their family, social constellation, understanding their problems from each other’s point of view
2. Problem stage: Each partner is asked to describe the problem as he / she sees it.
3. Interaction Stage: The focus is to gather information about the problem through
interacting with the couple.
4. Stage for defining desired change: The goals include
i) reducing some problem behaviour such as conflict, commitments outside the relationship, procrastination or forgetfulness,
ii) beginning or increasing a desired behaviour such as spending time together,
5. Ending of session: the ending should not be abrupt enough time should be given
Nine Procedures of Couple Counselling:
1) Circular questioning
5) Family choreography
6) Therapeutic reversals
7) Metaphorical stories
9) Describing observations