Couples Counseling Articles

Does Marriage Counseling Really Work? Exploring Success Rates and Statistics

couple sitting on a sofa in a therapist's office during a marriage counseling session

You’ve heard it before: Marriage is hard work.

It’s a journey that’s filled with highs and lows, joys and challenges. As with anything that we pour ourselves into, it’s bound to experience some roadblocks or problems along the way.

Often, these problems can be resolved easily, but sometimes, the issues can run so deep and cause so much pain that conflict resolution seems impossible.

Here’s where marriage counseling comes in.

With the guidance of an experienced and empathetic therapist, millions of couples have experienced positive outcomes from their sessions. However, there are still mixed opinions surrounding the efficacy of marriage counseling, and you may find yourself wondering, “Does marriage counseling really work?”

In this blog, we’ll explore couples counseling statistics, as well as methods and tips to enhance the counseling process. Let’s begin.

What Is the Success Rate of Marriage Counseling?

So, does marriage counseling actually work?

The short answer: Yes.

The deeper answer: It depends.

According to the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, the marriage counseling success rate is about 70%. Depending on the therapist, couples often find a higher sense of emotional well-being through marriage counseling, with the majority experiencing a positive outcome.

In fact, the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists states that almost 90% of couples see an improvement in their emotional health — with two-thirds reporting an improvement in their physical health — after receiving marriage and family therapy.

Couples who stay committed to improving their relationship by seeking marriage counseling are more likely to resolve any long-standing issues between them. But that works only when both people are dedicated.

If one person doesn’t see the value in attending marriage counseling sessions, they’re more likely to brush off the techniques and advice given, which affects the entirety of the counseling sessions.

EFT Couples Counseling Success Rate

At Wellness Counseling Center, we leverage Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) techniques, which are centered around helping individuals and couples understand and enhance their emotional connection with themselves and with one another.

Developed by Dr. Sue Johnson in the 1980s, EFT has impressive success rates compared to other forms of counseling. According to research by Dr. Johnson, nearly three-fourths (70% to 75%) of couples showing signs of distress in their relationship experience recovery, with 90% exhibiting significant improvement.

EFT Couples Counseling Success Rate

We believe in Emotionally Focused Therapy because we’ve seen it work. With an extremely significant statistical success rate, we recommend it to anyone looking to improve their connection and emotional bonding with their partner.

The Reality of Marriage Counseling Statistics

Measuring the success rate of marriage counseling is a complex matter. Much of it is subjective: What one couple may define as a success, another might view as only the beginning of a resolution.

Success can also vary greatly between couples. Some couples seek counseling to save their marriage, while others simply want to gain clarity on a communication issue or another problem area within their relationship.

Further, it can be challenging to distinguish short-term success from long-term outcomes. Some couples experience a level of success early on after their treatment but revert to habitual behaviors, which leads to problems in the future.

On the other hand, some couples may take a much longer time to see results, but because of their dedication to the process, experience a great enhancement in their marriage for years to come.

Ultimately, reaching a resolution through marriage counseling is not impossible. In fact, it’s very doable. The deciding factor lies in whether each individual is willing to put in the work. It’s much like a chronic health diagnosis. Often, issues could have been avoided had the individual sought help earlier.

Factors Influencing Couples Therapy Outcomes

A major factor in determining the success rate of marriage counseling is the personality and characteristics of each partner.

Things like emotional intelligence, coping mechanisms, and personal history all shape how a person engages with others — including how they show up in therapy.

For instance, people with high levels of openness to new experiences and a willingness to look at themselves honestly are often much more receptive to counseling. They show greater improvement in their relationships and provide a safe space for their loved ones to approach them with any issues.

On the flip side, if they’re defensive, resistant to change, or if they carry a heavy load of unresolved trauma, that can pose a greater challenge for a marriage counselor. The therapist will need to come up with ways to delicately address those issues to facilitate a process that benefits the couple as a whole.

Relationship dynamics and communication patterns also play a crucial role in determining the success rate of marriage counseling. The biggest precursors to marriage problems come from dysfunctional communication styles like criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.

Experienced marriage counselors work to identify these communication patterns and address them to help couples develop healthier communication methods.

A large part of effective communication isn’t just speaking but actively listening and showing empathy towards a partner. By building these communication skills, marriage counselors aim to empower couples to engage in conflicts in a healthy way, which, in turn, strengthens a couple’s emotional connection.

Another important factor to consider is whether the therapist can connect with the couple themselves. No matter how well-trained, educated, or experienced a marriage counselor is, they may not be effective in their methods and strategies if they don’t mesh well with the couple they’re assisting.

Many couples resonate better with therapists who share their cultural background, values, or communication styles and can find it difficult to build trust if those things aren’t in place.

Additionally, the way a therapist chooses to approach the treatment plan — whether it’s EFT like we utilize here at Wellness Counseling Center or another systematic approach — needs to align with the couple’s specific needs.

Addressing Common Concerns and Misconceptions About Marriage Counseling

Couples counseling, and therapy in general, have garnered much debate over the last few decades as to their efficacy.

With more in-depth and long-term research now at hand, it’s evident that all types of therapy increase emotional well-being significantly. However, when it comes to marriage counseling, many people are still on the fence about its effectiveness.

The most common couples therapy misconceptions include:

  • Myth: Marriage counseling only works if the relationship is on the brink of divorce.
  • Reality: While some couples seek counseling as a last resort, therapy can be beneficial at any stage of a relationship, married or not. Whether you’re experiencing disagreements, communication issues, or any other challenges that affect the health of your relationship, marriage or couples counseling offers a supportive environment where you can address your concerns and strengthen your connection.
  • Myth: Marriage counseling is a sign of weakness or failure.
  • Reality: If anything, couples therapy is a sign of strength. It shows that the couple’s respect and love for one another goes beyond appearances. It demonstrates they’re deeply committed to making things work and resolving their issues. Seeking help is a courageous step, one that is to be applauded.
  • Myth: Marriage counseling always leads to a full reconciliation.
  • Reality: While many couples experience positive outcomes in therapy, the goal isn’t always to salvage the marriage or relationship. Therapy provides a safe space for couples to explore their feelings and gain clarity. This can include reconciliation, but it can also involve separation if that’s what’s best for each individual. Success in couples therapy is more about opening a two-way communication, finding a healthy way to talk about any issues, and treating one another with respect and empathy, regardless of the relationship’s outcome.
  • Myth: Marriage counseling is a quick fix for relationship problems.
  • Reality: Couples therapy is not a one-size-fits-all solution, nor is it a quick fix for deep-seated relationship issues. It requires active participation and implementing the new skills that have been learned in the sessions. While progress may not happen overnight, couples who are dedicated to the process often see significant improvements in their relationship over time.

For couples considering therapy, approach the process with an open mind. Remember that seeking help is a proactive step toward building a stronger, more fulfilling relationship, and professional support from a marriage counselor can provide you with the necessary tools and skills to overcome challenges with your partner together.

You’re not alone, and with the right guidance and commitment, positive change — in any capacity — is not only possible but probable.

Strategies for Enhancing Marriage Counseling Success

Strategies for Enhancing Marriage Counseling Success

Entering into the marriage counseling process requires that the couple comes with an open mind. They need to be willing to look at themselves objectively and make changes under the guidance of their therapist.

To gain the most out of a couples therapy session, keep three main things in mind:

Establish Clear Goals

Couples should identify specific goals they want to achieve through therapy. This could include things like improving their communication style, rebuilding their trust, or reviving their intimacy. Setting clear goals provides a direction for therapy sessions and gives a measurable element to help track the success of each session.

Actively Participate

Couples who come into the process with a dedicated mindset are much more likely to achieve their goals.

A relationship counselor will provide guidance and give “homework,” or things to reflect on or talk about. It’s up to each individual to put in the work and invest the time with each of these tasks. Active participation allows the therapist to better guide the couple and achieve much more positive results.

Commit to the Process

Counseling sessions may end within an hour or two, but the work continues at home — even for couples who attend intensive retreats. Partners need to realize that growth and development are ongoing processes in any relationship.

Staying committed to the growth of the relationship means practicing the skills learned in therapy sessions in everyday life. This is the element that’s most likely going to contribute to the long-term success of your relationship.

Building a healthy relationship takes time, effort, and commitment. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if a couple persists in their efforts, positive results are within reach.

Lead With Love, Not With Ego

The question of “How successful is marriage counseling?” is a valid one. Ultimately, couples who experience positive outcomes from their marriage counseling sessions all have one main thing in common: They go all in with a determination to lead with love rather than ego.

Their biggest desire is to work through their issues — together.

It’s not one against the other; it’s the couple against the issue. With that mindset, partners are better able to tackle whatever obstacles stand in the way of a healthy and happy relationship.

“The work brought a higher level of respect to our relationship. Instead of arguing over who is right or wrong, we see the others’ perspective and work things out without hurting each other.”

– Wellness Counseling Center Client

If you’re ready to explore whether couples therapy might be right for you, contact the team at the Wellness Counseling Center to take the first step.