Duration and Timing of Marriage Counseling

How long does a marriage counseling case take? This question is of immediate concern to the individual or couple who seeks guidance in this area. Many people are of the opinion that one or two visits to a marriage counselor will resolve their difficulties. Often they are surprised to find that it may require a series of interviews before the problems can be adequately brought to an acceptable solution.

The duration of a marriage counseling case obviously depends on a number of factors -- the nature of the situation, the frequency of the interviews, the willingness of the partners to continue. In some instances a single interview may suffice. The counselor may be able to give needed factual information, initiate new points of view, or effect a referral to another source of aid, at the first contact. Usually, however, a series of discussions with one or both partners, and sometimes joint sessions, may be necessary.

An analysis of this series of selected cases shows that the duration of counseling, not including follow-up contacts, varied from one month in four cases to over three years in two cases. Continuously or intermittently, seven cases had contact with the counselor for two months, twelve for from three to six months, six for from six to twelve months, and eight for from one to three years.

The total number of sessions per case varied from one interview with each partner, in one case, to six hundred with one individual client in another. In the large majority of cases each individual partner had between six and thirty interviews.

In twenty-three instances interviews were held weekly, in seven at more frequent intervals, and in eleven once every two weeks or even less frequently. As the case drew to a close, the interval between visits usually increased. As might be expected, the number of interviews per case was higher in the marital than in the premarital group. In the latter, the average was from two to ten interviews, and no case extended beyond eight months.

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