Health & Well-Being

Does Marriage Counseling Work?

While we’re on this subject, psychological counseling in general, marriage and otherwise, suffers from perceptions that it’s not worth the effort, that it takes too long to realize any benefits. One reason has to do with rationalizations. To understand what I mean, here’s a conversation that therapists have with more than a few patients   — it sets up like a Henny Youngman joke:

Patient:”I believe this.”
Therapist: “Well, don’t believe that.”
Patient: “Yeah. You’re absolutely right. But here’s why I believe this…”


That’s where things bog down — they grab onto a justification, and so give themselves permission to continue doing the thing that gets them into trouble. Most have heard other people say, or maybe have said themselves, things like, “I know it’s crazy, but I can’t help myself, that’s just what  believe.” As if that makes it all acceptable.


We all have rationalizations for what we do, think, or believe, or we wouldn’t do, think, or believe such things. If you’re going to benefit from therapy, you first have to acknowledge that the way you’re thinking or believing or acting isn’t working, and so you have to look for alternatives. That is the hardest part for therapists — getting their patients to let go of their justifications so they can change their patterns and make improvements. To drill this point home, it might be a good idea for therapists to post the following warning in their waiting rooms:

“Be prepared to change how you think, ye who enter here. If you’re not, don’t waste my time or yours.”

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