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What Is the Success Rate of Marriage Counseling?

The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy conducted a study in which clients of marriage counsellors reported their experience with the sessions. Over 98 per cent of the clients studied proclaimed they received great services from the marriage counsellors and more than half saw an improvement in their relationship.

Expert Insight

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees that marriage counselling is successful. According to Dr. Willard Harley, a licensed marriage counsellor, marriage therapy has the lowest success rate of any form of therapy. There are several factors that contribute to counselling sessions that are unsuccessful. The most notable facts are counsellors who diagnose married couples as having multiple psychological problems that causes the couple to believe that the marriage is not salvageable. Another factor includes marriage counsellors who are biased and side with one spouse while undermining the other. The last factor are the counsellors who violate psychiatric ethics codes by insisting that couples separate. The separation often leads to divorce.


Marriage counsellors often need to treat external factors such as depression, psychological problems and parental problems. These external factors make it more difficult for the counselling to be successful but should not be a deterrent that keeps the counsellor from appropriately helping the couple.


Marriage counsellors who are not good at conflict resolution have low success rates with their clients. Improving communication and resolving conflicts are both core to the success or failure of marriage counselling. There is no evidence that suggests marriage counsellors who have been married have a more successful rate, but most people would agree that those who have had a problem are more inclined to better understand the problem than those who have simply studied it.


One new treatment used by marriage counsellors, called integrative couples therapy, is reporting to have a higher success rate than traditional marriage counselling. Two professors of psychology from UCLA and University of Washington, Andrew Christensen and Neil Jacobson reported that couples who used integrative couples therapy had an 89 per cent rate of success. The professors also found that only 64 per cent of those studied who received traditional therapy had an improvement in marriage.

Benefits of Marriage Counseling

Successful marriage counselling is focused on finding solutions and attaining goals that will help the couple on their journey. Good marriage therapy will spill over into the lives of the patients and can cause them to see improvement in other relationships such as with families, clients, coworkers, and the community. There are many people who are a little reluctant and apprehensive to seek the help of a marriage counsellor because they are not sure what to expect. An effective counsellor will understand how to make the individual or couple feel comfortable enough to share the problems that have been plaguing the relationship.