Predicting the success of marital therapy, is not an easy thing to do. In fact, I've had some cases, that I thought should be successful, that ended up imploding. Then I've seen cases that I honestly thought it would take a miracle, and sure enough, I got to see the miracle. With that in mind, I must say I have seen some characteristics, of couples that suggest a higher chance of success in therapy.
Let us start with a description of a more difficult case. A difficult case is one where the couple says, “We decided to stop by your office on the way to the lawyer.” I’ve not had that statement made literally, but the effective message was the same. By the way, a colleague has had clients say, “We have an appointment with the lawyer this afternoon.” The problem is when clients, whatever the issue, come in after the problem has really beat them down, they may feel too tired to do the work or are desperately looking for quick relief. While I am quite happy to take up the challenge, the process is seriously handicapped by the fatigue and desperation these clients feel.
The more successful clients, tend to have different timing and attitudes. First, they come in much earlier in the process. They have a problem, they’ve tried to solve it, and are finding the solutions to be more difficult to identify than they thought. The problem is significant, but it hasn’t overwhelmed them. Then they consider getting some professional help. They choose to seek help, before the problem has begun to poison their view of their partner. These clients also comes in with a different attitude. They realize that there is some work to do. Change takes effort. It won’t always be pleasant, but usually the results are. They are willing to be honest with themselves and those around them. These are the clients who are most likely to get something out of therapy.
Even if a couple, currently fits more of the difficult pattern, I think they can choose an attitude, more akin to the more hopeful couple. Coming into relationship counseling, with the goal of healing, a humble perspective and a hopeful view of the future, goes a long way towards success. These are perspectives that can be rationally chosen, even if the current feelings don't match up.