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How Effective Is Your Marriage Therapy?

Unlike asprin, all couples counseling is not alike.

This post is in response to
From Thin-Skin to Win-Win: How Couples Counseling Helps

Couples counseling is often confusing to evaluate. How do couples know if their marriage therapy is genuinely helping? Many folks in marriage therapy are uncertain what to use as a measuring stick.

Whether or not the therapist is "a nice person" is not sufficient. Would you take your car to a garage mechanic just because he is a "nice person?"

Are you fighting less? Connecting more? These are certainly good starter questions.

Do you feel more loving toward your spouse? That would surely be a good sign.

Here's a set of questions to help you figure out if your therapist is giving you what you need to end up with a truly strong and loving partnership.

Quiz Instructions

Answer each question Yes or No.

1. In your sessions do you talk with each other, with the therapist's help, as opposed to talking to or via your therapist?

2. At each session are you learning at least one communication skill that could help the two of you to talk more openly and cooperatively at home?

3. Are you gaining understanding of how your family histories have impacted your marital difficulties, including your communication glitches?

4. Do you feel that your therapist is helping the two of you to find win-win resolutions to your conflicts?

5. Are you addressing what will keep your sexual relationship positive if there have been problems in that area?

6. Are you learning to heal more effectively after you had arguments or upsets?

7. Are you developing exit routines to prevent hurtful anger outbursts at home?

8. Are you learning to give forth express more positivity (agreement, affection, appreciation, physical affection, etc) and less negativity (complaints, criticism, blame, attacks, defensiveness) with each other?

9. Are you feeling less anxious, angry, and/or depressed, and is your home feeling like a more consistently comfortable environment?

10. If you have children, are they getting happier since you've been in therapy?

Scoring your quiz results.

Tally up the yes answers and the no's.

Scoring: Most of the answers should be yes. If not, and especially if fewer than 8 of the 10 are yes replies, consider moving on.

What is moving on?

Moving on is doing something different.

That could be a move to a different therapist.

That could be movement toward your therapist. For example, you might show the therapist your quiz and ask for more focus on the areas where you answered No.

Or if you like your therapist and yet area concerned that you have too many no's in your therapist assessment quiz, augment your therapy with an online marriage-skills program, or with books and videos (see Resources below).

A successful marriage sets you up to enjoy life's blessings. Research statistics show that happily married folks generally live longer, have better physical health, are emotionally in better health, enjoy better sex lives, earn more money, are happier, raise more successful kids....Wow. That's a lot of benefits. The bottom line is that successful marriage clears the pathways to many of life's most potent blessings.

When it comes to marriage, love is a great starting point. From there forward, you also need skills. Get them!


Susan Heitler, PhD, a Denver Clinical psychologist, is author of multiple publications including From Conflict to Resolution and The Power of Two. A graduate of Harvard and NYU, Dr. Heitler's most recent project is a marriage skills website,

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