Marital and couples therapy is a form of conjoint therapy offered to couples that have experienced distress in their relationship. Couples may seek therapy for different reasons and at different points in their lives. The common thread among couples who seek therapy is the sense that the relationship is not working as well as it could and/or that the distress in the relationship significantly affects their sense of well-being and quality of life.
Research has found that marital distress can lead to physical illness and exacerbate mental illness, such as depression and anxiety. Whereas distressed couples are different from one another in the issues they bring to therapy, their style, history etc., by the time they seek therapy all of them have developed a unique cycle. The cycle is a pattern of negative interactions that repeats itself, and may leave the partners feeling frustrated, hurt, angry and sometimes hopeless. With time, the negative cycle may create a sense of alienation and may lead the couple to contemplate or pursue separation and/or divorce.
The goal of couples therapy as I perceive it, is to uncover the cycle and the underlying issues that drive it, such as lack of trust, insecurity etc. Then, to change the cycle in order to resolve the underlying issues and to foster greater understanding, closeness and a sense of security and comfort in the relationship. Marital therapy is a powerful model of treatment that has been found to be highly effective in treating marital distress. Like any other treatment, it is not for everybody, but those couples who are willing to participate in the process of healing, in and outside the therapy room, may greatly benefit from it.