How Long Does Marriage Counseling Take To Have An Effect?

As long as marriage has existed, couples have fought, disagreed, and struggled through monogamy. There are always good times, but it is part of human nature to disagree with others at times. No one was built to get along with their spouse 100% of the time, and living with someone, as well as sharing everything, can create strains.

Marriage counseling is as steeped in American history as the Great Depression, which was when the need for it became strongest. In fact, according to PBS, it was because of this period of the '30s that the idea for couple's therapy came along. During this tumultuous period, husbands were out of work and many were leaving their families, while birth rates dropped exponentially. The first marriage counseling center was finally opened in 1930 in Los Angeles, and by 1932 there were three offices in the United States. The number of centers jumped to 1,800 in California alone by 1968 because there was such a need for the service.

Today, Choosing Therapy notes that a survey of 1,000 couples found that half of them have used counseling to help their marriage. No matter what kind of therapy people use, results and timelines will always vary, but how long do professionals think this particular type of help needs to take effect?

Results depend on the type of therapy

Marriage counseling has evolved over time, and now addresses a variety of issues that spouses struggle with within their relationship. Infidelity, communication, stress, and even sexual connections are just a few reasons people seek out someone who is trained to help marriages. It can be difficult to see what is going wrong or what needs fixing when you're too close to the situation, which is why counselors are ideal. As an unbiased, non-associated party, they can listen to all sides of the story, then offer advice, practices, or suggestions to help make things better. Therapy shouldn't be a quick fix, but those who are willing to make the effort usually notice results or get a clearer picture of what the next steps are.

There are several different types of marriage counseling, and each one has a different timeline when it comes to outcomes. 

Stick it out to make it count

Emotion Focused Therapy, or EFT, uses emotions to bond (or re-bond) couples who are struggling to connect (via ICEEFT). This type of therapy was brought to the forefront in the '80s and focuses on rebuilding attachment over eight to 20 sessions. Most couples who try this method find it efficient and helpful, according to Select Counseling. There is no standard number of sessions to start seeing results; some couples may notice changes by the eighth meeting, while others won't until the twentieth.

Imago therapy looks at each spouse's internal trauma and past, according to Imago Relationship. By rooting out insecurities, childhood problems, or past interactions that may be causing a blockage in the marriage, counselors can help couples move forward by cultivating trust and validation. From there, couples receive tools to know how to communicate or interact on a more empathetic path. Sessions usually last one hour, and Verywell Mind notes that results come down to how well couples open up. This type of counseling is relatively new and harder to track, so the set time varies.

The Gottman Method was created by Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, who discovered that emotions like contempt, hatred, and a refusal to communicate were the biggest reasons behind unsuccessful or struggling marriages (via The Gottman Institute). Their method focuses on giving positive affirmations, as well as taking stock of one another's emotions. This method is usually spread out between six to 12 sessions.