Marriage Therapy Q&A Interview
Do you have unresolved issues in your relationship? Do you feel distress or animosity towards your partner? Do you communicate as effectively as you’d like with your partner? Animosity, poor communication, lack of emotional or physical connection, betrayal or trust issues, can all undermine your relationship. If left unaddressed, can lead to irreconcilable differences or distressed relationships. Marriage therapy is a forum for addressing marital concerns, processing, healing and learning new skills and strategies to communicate in healthier ways. Dr. Angela Bisignano is one of the leading marriage therapists in Southern California. Well respected in her profession by her peers, Dr. Bisignano has helped hundreds of couples strengthen their marriages. Below Dr. Bisignano answers some common questions related to marriage therapy.
Q: Is there a difference between a marriage counselor or therapist?
A significant difference exists between types of therapists or counselors. In the state of California, the two main types of therapists are marriage family therapists and psychologists. Both use psychotherapy as a means for treatment. Licensed marriage and family therapists have a master’s degree and have about two years of education. They are trained to counsel married couples, individuals, and families. A licensed psychologist holds a doctorate and on average has about five to seven years of education and training. Psychologists have experience with individuals, couples, and families. They have expertise working in the areas of mental health assessment and testing, diagnosis and treatment, behavior change and research. Psychologists utilize scientifically validated procedures to assist people in changing their emotions, thoughts and behavior.
Q: What occurs during your first marriage therapy session?
In the first session of therapy you can expect your therapist will familiarize you with the therapeutic process and what to expect. A good therapist will help you and your spouse to feel safe and comfortable with them. A seasoned therapist will do a thorough assessment. They will not only learn about what issues bring you to therapy but will also ask questions about your relationship background. Some of the key areas they may inquire about include: how you met your spouse, your engagement and wedding, raising children and family dynamics, significant highs and lows in your marriage. Additionally, they will ask about your communication, interaction, emotional connection, or how you manage conflict.
Q: What is the success rate of couples counseling?
The success rate is dependent on a number of key variables. One of the most important considerations is the level of expertise and training of the couple’s therapist. Many therapists claim to do couples therapy; however, they may have had very little actual couples training. The type of couple’s therapy can also play a major role in a couple’s success. For instance, The Gottman Method and Emotionally Focused Therapy are both research-based approaches that have proven to be successful with couples. Other things that contribute to the success rate of couples counseling include: rapport between the therapist and couple; comfort level between couple and therapist; motivation and willingness of the couple to get help and to participate in the therapeutic process.
Q: How do I know when it’s time for marriage counseling?
Research tells us that couples with relationship distress wait on average of six or seven years before seeking marital therapy. Many wait until their issues are so bad that they are contemplating divorce before making a call to a therapist. The time for therapy is when you believe you and your partner are having difficulty communicating, managing conflict, stuck in negative patterns of interacting, becoming emotionally or physically disconnected. If you feel your problems are getting worse and cannot be handled between the two of you, then now is the time for counseling.
Q: Does marriage counseling reduce divorce rates?
According to the American Psychological Association couples marrying for the first time have about a 50% chance of divorcing. Key researcher, John Gottman, PhD going back four decades, has found that the interaction between wives and their husbands is highly predictive of marital distress and divorce. Negative interactions and unhealthy communication between spouses can be changed with therapeutic intervention. Research shows us that those couples going to therapy, choosing to work on healthy communication, interactions and emotional connectivity can improve their marriage and reduce divorce rates.
Q: How do I find a marriage therapist?
To find a therapist, you can ask your general physician or other health professional for a referral for a licensed psychologist or MFT. You can also call a local or state psychological association, such as the American Psychological Association. Calling a local university, church, or synagogue for a referral is also recommended. Asking friends and family can also be a good referral source.
Q: What questions should I ask?
Several important questions should be asked. First, ask if they are licensed. Ask how long they have been practicing in the field of psychology or counseling. Ask about their areas of expertise. Many therapists are generalists. Meaning they do a lot of everything. If you are looking for an expert in couples’ therapy, you will want to ask them if this is their specialty. If so, what percentage of their clientele is made up of couples. Other questions might include, their approach to couples’ therapy. What informs their treatment approach. For example, what informs Dr. Bisignano’s approach includes the Gottman Method, attachment theory, and interpersonal biology.