Interesting news out today that the Federal Government is offering a 12-month trial to 100,000 couples of a $200 voucher so they can attend marriage counselling.
It’s not clear if this is only for people who are just starting a relationship or about to get married, but I applaud that the government for also including same-sex couples and de facto couples in this trial.
I have a few thoughts on this topic and was interviewed on 2GB radio by Ben Fordham about the issue.
Premarital counselling is often not counselling or therapy
The reality for many attending premarriage counselling is they often don’t have pressing issues or problems.
Those couples in the early stage of their relationship are in the ‘honeymoon’ stage, where differences are dismissed, sameness is encouraged and celebrated, and disagreements are few and far between.
So for this reason, premarital counselling is often more psycho-education- teaching, coaching and training couples in what healthy and secure adult relationships look like. There is often a focus on communication skills and general conflict resolution skills to help the couple have more tools at their disposal.
Many churches throughout the country offer some form of premarital education classes for this reason, and I also offer a Premarital Counselling Workbook for Couples where couples can learn more about each other.
Marriage counselling is effective when there are problems
It’s only when a couple runs into problems or issues they can’t resolve on their own, that marriage counselling or relationship therapy is considered.
I believe this is when therapy is most effective because the couple is often motivated to change because they are unhappy with their current situation and want to find a different outcome.
This in itself can be a powerful motivator for change and doing things differently.
When a couple is ‘problem-free’ in the early part of their relationship, they can’t make up issues, but they can still cognitively learn about how to be a better partner and create a healthy and secure relationship.
Make the voucher available for any couple, anytime
I think what would be helpful is to make the voucher that the government is suggesting available at any time throughout the life of a couple’s relationship.
This would benefit many more couples, who can seek marriage counselling when they really need it and can benefit from it.
Do you need relationship help?
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.