How To Know When To Stop Marriage Counseling (For Better Or For Worse)

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couple embracing and looking at camera sitting on sofa.

When a couple finally comes to my practice (or anywhere else where they can see a marriage counselor) they are often acting from a last hope to save the relationship.

They may be experiencing a lot of conflict with their partner, one or both of them might have cheated, there might be tense silence between them, and they may have discussed separation or divorce.

There are many reasons why couples seek help, yet they all know there is hope for them individually and as a couple.

Marriage or couples' counseling can help a people transform their relationship. However, doing so does not have to mean couples counseling will become a permanent appointment in their weekly calendar.

When to Stop Going to Marriage Counseling

1. When you have nothing specific to work on.

Couples counseling can help address the issues you might find unsolvable, as well as lay a foundation to help you better deal with relationship issues in the future.

Once this is done, if there are no other things to work on, the need for couples counseling is generally over. When this is the case, neither I nor my staff want to keep the couple coming in and we won't.

No qualified marriage counselor would continue to work with a couple who doesn’t have goals they are still working on.

2. When it has become a habit.

For some couples, there may be a time period when they come to counseling less frequently. These couples want to make sure they are still practicing what they have learned and to brush up on what is still unclear. Even so, there usually comes a time when the couple should stop coming to see a marriage counselor.

If the couple does not come to this conclusion, then ethically I need to raise this issue with them as their couples counselor. This conversation can go different ways. An example would be a married couple I saw who have achieved their goals and are not actively working on any relationship issues.

When I asked them why they were still coming to therapy, they stated their marriage had been so much better since coming to counseling. They expressed they thought it was because they were seeing a marriage therapist, especially one who addressed the issues of their faith. My response was to tell them there was nothing magical about coming to counseling.

We reviewed what they had learned in therapy and were now applying in their lives and in their marriage. I told them they did not need to come anymore and to take the money they had been paying me as a marriage counselor every other week and to go on a nice date. I also assured them that if an issue came back up or a new problem developed in their relationship, then they would be welcome to come back into therapy.

About six months later, I got an email from them saying how well things were going and how much they were enjoying the biweekly date night prescription.

This pattern repeats itself over and over in my experience with the couples I see.

3. When you feel you have wholeness and peace in your relationship.

The real success for me as a marriage counselor (or even as a couples therapist if the couple is not married) is when they are able to experience wholeness and peace in their relationship and are able to sustain this without me being involved.

If you have something going on in your relationship, know you too can find a safe place to talk and address what is going on, and doing so does not mean permanently making a marriage counselor an additional part of your relationship.

Rev. Christopher L. Smith, LCAC, LMHC, LMFT, is the President and Clinical Director of Seeking Shalom. He and his staff work with individuals, families and various other groups of people from all lifestyles and religious beliefs to intentionally integrate spirituality into a therapeutic process that helps them find the peace and wholeness.