Styles and Approaches to Pre-Marriage Counselling
Relationships are necessarily complex. It will be helpful to a counsellor to align and govern their approach with a particular style. There are three usual styles of approach to pre-marital counselling:
Pre marriage counselling has previously been very much the province of churches and religious groups. In this traditional approach there was a tendency to ‘instruct’ people and to act as a moral and spiritual advisor to the ‘right’ way of going about a marriage.
Obviously a counsellor is not going to be instructive in the sense of trying to be a moral or spiritual guide for clients. Neither are they going to tell clients how to think or behave. They may however find themselves sharing knowledge they have acquired, using it as a basis for discussion. In this sense couples might be asked to consider books, articles, DVDs and so on and see what opinions and viewpoints are stimulated by this. This can promote a productive exchange of ideas and viewpoints.
Prediction in relationships is normally the province of psychologists and sociologists. They consult societal trends while administering questionnaires to clients, gather and analyse the information and then provide feedback as to what these clients can expect in their lives and relationships.
Counsellors will not act in this role, but can draw some useful information from the social scientists. Because relationships are so complex, can gain a measure of preparedness from the research that has been done. And one can consider the research in light of two main questions: What seems to help to bring about a happy marriage? What seems to cause a marriage to break down?
Approaching pre marital counselling with a certain program of actions in mind will give the counselling a degree of coherence. However, a key to all counselling lies in recognition of the unique nature of clients. In pre marital counselling two unique people have presented themselves who have walked their own path in life, have a distinct personal identity and their own set of hopes, problems and fears as individuals.
A person centred therapeutic approach will therefore be best, by stimulating discussion and asking about the concerns of the couple, by observing their reactions and interactions and by guiding them to form constructive conclusions and resolutions about their future together.
As always with counselling, there will be as many potential situations as there are people, so flexibility and a willingness to attune to individual needs is vital. One is not expected to be an ‘expert’ in relationships, one needs only to be a good listener and something of a guide.
Counsellors will find themselves involved in stimulating conversations about some very precious hopes and some deep seated fears. As with all person centred therapy, there is no need to ‘solve’ anything, but simply to be there with enough compassion and interest to ensure that the conversations are as fruitful and helpful as possible.