What is Marriage Friendly therapy and how does it differ from other couples therapy?


Marriage Friendly therapists share the values of supporting the marriage and the couple’s original commitment to marriage.The Marriage Friendly therapist views preserving the marriage as the ideal goal, differing from the approach of some therapists hold a “neutral” value orientation towards whether a marriage survives or whether the couple divorces.

This approach balances the marital commitment with the client’s personal autonomy, while respecting the safety and human dignity of both partners and their children. Couples often do not get the help they need and often blame themselves for their lack of success. Marriage Friendly therapists believe that many marriages can be restored to health even when the spouses are initially unhappy, conflicted, or demoralized.

S.called to schedule an appointment regarding her marriage. Her husband had moved out and she was desperately trying to get him to reconsider working on the marriage, especially since they had 3 kids under the age of 12. She had been trying to get her husband to go to marriage counseling for months. He finally agreed and they went to someone referred to them by a friend from his work. During their first meeting, her husband told the therapist that he was miserable and only staying in the marriage because of their kids. The counselor told him that kids were never a good reason to stay in a marriage. Her husband moved out the following week.

Unfortunately, there are many stories like this one. Without even addressing the problematic issues in the marriage, one party was waiting for “permission” to leave. So often a couple finally gets the courage to go to a professional and are told their marriage “shouldn’t” be or “can’t” be saved. No one has the right to tell a couple if their marriage is worth saving. But, often couples will ask the therapist to give an “expert” opinion. No one other than the couple is an expert on that unique marriage.

There are a lot of therapists who call themselves “marriage counselors” or “couples counselors” but have a very limited set of skills to deal with couples with complicated issues or a high level of conflict.Often couples see an individual therapist who does some couples work. A therapist with an individual orientation is likely to focus on the party who is in the most distress and will often sacrifice the relationship for personal growth and happiness of one spouse.  It may appear easier to suggest divorce than to attempt to fix the problems, especially if the therapist doesn’t have the experience. The result is that demoralized couples often do not receive the support they need to work on their problems.

A Marriage Friendly therapist acknowledges the clients’ ultimate responsibility and authority to make their own decisions about the outcome of the marriage, acknowledging that spouses sometimes have incompatible goals for their marriage.

Lind Butler, LPC is a member of the National Registry of Marriage Friendly Therapists with extensive experience in working with couples. Her expertise in the areas of family therapy, addictions, mood disorders, chronic illness, grief and bereavement augment her effectiveness with couples struggling with more complex situations.