Troubled couples struggling through seemingly broken marriages are finding hope in intensive couples therapy.
Couples meet with a trained marriage therapist for a weekend dedicated to working through issues, and learning skills to deal with conflict constructively.
“It’s like espresso versus coffee...intensives are not just more couples therapy. It gives people a chance to go deeper,” said Dr. Kathy McMahon, of Couples Therapy, Inc.
Sometimes issues have deep roots in a person’s past.
"We start off by talking about their early history. You can think about it as a waterfall...right as the relationship has become problematic, they’re up here...and as it gets worse, and worse, before they hit the rocks," McMahon added.
Therapists gauge whether each partner still has admiration for their spouse.
“When couples say about their wedding day, that was the best day of my life. Because that to me means that there’s still a lot of hope,” McMahon said.
The second day, couples discuss an area of conflict.
“The words that people are using are usually the least important part of the interaction. What we’re really looking for is the indications of contempt, sarcasm, criticism,” McMahon said.
Through this exercise, couples can learn how to address issues productively.
McMahon says fighting is not necessarily a negative thing for a marriage. “Couples who fight a lot can have a really happy marriage. Couple who fight not at all can have a pretty miserable marriage," she explained.
On average, most couples who seek treatment put off getting professional help for about five and half years.
“They think that they just have to live with it. That they just kind of have to suck it up, and just deal with the distance and isolation,” McMahon noted.
McMahon says some couples put off marriage intensives because insurance companies will not cover it. “Couples are choosing between paying for couples therapy, or paying for a divorce attorney’s retainer," she said.
While marriages don’t come down to dollars and cents, it may just be cheaper to fall back in love with a spouse. The average cost of a wedding is $27,500. Adding on the cost of a honeymoon brings the total up to about $32,000. Tacking on the cost of a divorce would cost an additional $15,000.
The percentage of people who remarry within 12 months of a divorce is about 30 percent. About 40 percent of marriages are remarriages.
McMahon said couples are able to accomplish about five months of work in a single weekend. She added that there are benefits of addressing issues in a compressed time frame.
“After an hour and a half, it’s easier to say I’m going to go back into my own position. My own attitude about my marriage. And then until next week I don’t have to think about it,” McMahon explained.
About 90 percent of couples reported a significant improvement following this science-based couples therapy.
“The problem with using an all-purpose therapist, like I said, is they have no particular training in doing couples therapy. They can do a lot more harm than good,” McMahon claimed. She says that 80 percent of psychotherapists practice couples therapy. Of that pool of therapists, she said that 88 percent have never taken a single course in it.
“It’s just going to kick up all the dust and conflict between the two of you,” McMahon said.
Copyright 2016 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.