There are many tools available to the Marriage and Family Therapist to help a couple prepare for marriage. Pre-Marital Counseling holds great potential as the perfect wedding gift that keeps on giving for years afterwards.
First is the simple intake interview. During this time the therapist interviews each partner one-on-one to learn about their family history, their own life experiences and the challenges they have faced. Counselors ask questions in order to understand more of the personality of each person: their preferences, their fears and their concerns.
Second is testing which can range from the standard personality inventories to detect any psychological or emotional challenges to assessments that highlight personal preferences and styles. Other inventories are specifically designed to help couples evaluate their compatibilities and points of potential conflict. As the therapist gets to know the couple better he or she is better able to determine which evaluations would be most helpful.
Third is the family genogram which is a time of discovery for the couple to explore their own family histories. Insights are gained by interviewing family members along their family tree to discover more about each other’s heritage and background. Some take it so far as to interview distant relatives that they may not have had a relationship with before. Others will actually visit old homesteads, cemeteries and family landmarks.
Other aspects often covered in the counseling process include religious, financial and occupational issues. Sometimes other professionals are consulted when potential challenges are detected from health issues to legal matters. Pre-marital counseling can focus on specific concerns that the therapist uncovers and need specialized attention such as communication training, parenting expectations, living arrangements and housekeeping assumptions.
Counseling is particularly helpful when families blend. With children of each partner involved in the merging process the ability to address both the marital and the family issues that will arise can be invaluable. With its emphasis upon the interactional and relational patterns within each family, Marriage and Family Therapy can be effective prevention for helping couples avoid many of the hazards that often cripple families early in their marriage and in step-parenting.
The key is that the Marriage and Family Therapist is focused upon the dynamics of the family system and helping the couple explore as many aspects of their relationship as possible before they tie the knot. With all of the time and energy that goes into a wedding and honeymoon that will last from a few hours to a few weeks, it just makes sense to take the time to look at those aspects of their marriage that will carry them through each day for the rest of their lives.