Helping Couples Stay Together: The Task of a Premarital Counselor
The nuclear family has evolved. No longer does the American household or the modern relationship fit one shape, size, or style. Yet the family unit remains the cornerstone of our society, and our identity as a species— no matter how it may look.
Something that distinguishes the marriages and families of today is the high rate of divorce. In the United States, first-time married couples have about a 50/50 chance of divorcing. The divorce rates for second marriages are even higher.
Premarital counseling, however, has shown to improve marriage success rates, among offering a host of other benefits to the marriage.
If you are training or preparing for a career in marriage and family counseling, the following information will help you understand the why’s and how’s of offering premarital counseling.
What are the goals of premarital counselors?
The critical goal of premarital counseling is to help ready couples not just for their “I do’s” but also for the many challenges they will encounter—all in an effort to improve the success rate of the marriage.
Divorce clearly has physical, mental, emotional, and financial implications for the couple; implications that may carry over to their children. Due to the serious consequences associated with divorce, working with couples before marriage is vital.
That’s why your job as a premarital counselor matters. That’s why the work you put in toward helping couples prepare to share a life together with premarital counseling can have a real impact on not only couples’ lives but their kids’ lives, as well.
Premarital counseling addresses the following concerns:
- Helps couples avoid divorce.Although not fool-proof, premarital training and education is a great preventative strategy against divorce. One study revealed a 31 percent reduction in divorce in couples who completed premarital counseling.
- Builds a strong marital foundation.Premarital counseling allows couples the opportunity to voice their concerns and deal with relationship issues early on, before they become too entrenched. It also results in a stronger base for stability and satisfaction in the marital relationship.
- Teaches effective conflict resolution skills. The ability to successfully solve problems is integral in a marriage. Those who receive premarital counseling are equipped with useful techniques to improve communication and problem-solving skills so they can work through their issues as a team.
- Encourages couples to return to therapy later.Married couples will encounter many challenges along their journey. Those who participate in premarital counseling see the benefit of discussing their problems with a trained professional. As a result, they feel more comfortable returning to couples counseling later for help resolving issues.
Becoming a Premarital Counselor: What does it take?
Most premarital counseling is facilitated by marriage and family therapists—that is, therapists with specialized training in family relationships and dynamics. Marriage and family therapists may offer premarital education and training with individual couples, in groups, and through workshops. These professionals typically earn a master’s degree in MFT as well as practical experience providing counseling services to be eligible for licensure in their state.
No specific certifications are required beyond having a relevant degree. For instance, coursework offered in the Alliant International University’s Marriage and Family Therapy Master’s Program equips prospective counselors to work with couples.
In addition to the educational background and practical experience, effective premarital counselors will possess some core characteristics, including:
- Strong communication skills:Helps counselors connect, and build rapport with, couples.
- Listening skills.Necessary so that counselors can come to understand the unique problems and needs of their patients.
- Empathy: Counselors must be able to relate to their clients’ human experiences and understand their perspectives in order to successfully help them.
- Critical thinking skills:Counselors must be able to use the information provided by couples (even that which is not verbalized) to figure out effective solutions to their problems.
- Commitment:An effective premarital counselor must be dedicated to working with couples to overcome their problems and help them build a healthy and enduring marriage.
To learn more about becoming a premarital counselor, contact Alliant International University’s California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP).