New research shows 25-30% of couples who attend relationship counselling fail.
A new study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, has shown relationship counselling fails for 25-30% of couples. The research also showed that those couples experiencing the most difficulty showed the least amount of improvement after attending a couple counselling.
There’s no doubt this is a concerning statistic for anyone considering relationship counselling, but it doesn’t mean that relationship counselling is not effective. I think are a number of factors for this poor result for some couples who attend relationship counselling.
These factors include:
- Couples wait too long before seeking help. Couple researcher Dr John Gottman found in his comprehensive research that the average couple waits six years from the start of problems before seeking help. As you can imagine with so much water under the bridge, often couples come into therapy full of anger, resentment and feelings of hopelessness. This can make it hard for couples to feel hopeful they can turn their relationship around.
- Many counsellors are not trained in couple work. Most people don’t realise that not all counsellors and therapists are created equal. Many counsellors are working with couples but don’t have specific training in relationship counselling. Working with couples requires a very different approach than working with individuals. As a result, some couples in distress are seeing counsellors who don’t have specific training in effective couple therapy, which can affect counselling outcomes.
- Relationship counselling has a stigma in Australia. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma in Australia around seeking professional support for relationship issues. Many people believe that going to counselling for your relationship is a sign that the relationship is broken and can’t be fixed. The research showed that only one in five couples seek professional help even when there are significant relationship issues.
One of the most surprising statistics I found from this research was that 40% of couples who divorce never seek relationship counselling. This is quite amazing – almost half of couples who are on the brink of ending their marriage don’t consider relationship counselling as a viable alternative to divorce.
More evidence that many Australians don’t value relationship counselling was confirmed when the Federal Government cancelled the relationship counselling vouchers as part of the Stronger Relationships trial in February 2015, due to a lack of interest. Only 4,200 couples applied for the assistance out of the 100,000 vouchers that were available.
So what can we make of all this?
I think the stigma of attending counselling is slowly changing, but we have a long way to go. I hope that in time more people in Australia will understand and appreciate the benefits of relationship counselling. Attending couples counselling doesn’t mean you’re weak or your relationship is a lost cause. It’s a sign of strength, intelligence and health that you want to create the best relationship possible with your partner.
I think with ongoing education and the promotion of counselling as an effective and viable alternative to divorce we can help people build stronger, more resilient relationships, families and communities.