(Note: Couple Counseling aka Marriage Counseling aka Relationship Counseling)
The short answer is “Anyone who thinks he/she does.” (The person who “needs” counseling but doesn’t believe he/she does, is a trickier issue which I’ll post about another time.)
Now, if your companion is willing to go to counseling, the two of you can work on your stuff together. But if he/she isn’t, you can see a therapist for individual sessions and still work effectively on the relationship issues that are bothering you.
There’s another kind of “who” from the title: the couple that is experiencing a specific problem – as in, “What kinds of relationship problems need counseling?” Well, counseling for couples ranges from relationship enrichment to resolving serious issues. Some partners want to deepen their understanding of themselves in the context of the relationship, to foster more intimacy with their loved one. Others have problems managing expectations, differences, and the inevitable conflict that arise from sharing important parts of on’s life with another person. More complicated problems involve “outside” forces, such as people, substances, or behaviors.
Most people that take a cooking class already know how to cook. They are seeking new information and new techniques. They are basically hiring the cooking instructor as a consultant to:
- teach them new stuff
- give them a chance to practice and get feedback
- have their questions answered by an expert
A good relationship counselor will do the same: give you new ideas and skills to try out, and share their knowledge in support and pursuit of your goals.
In any case, though, the person or couple is looking for a way to fix a painful problem. So if you’ve got one of those, and are feeling stuck because nothing you’ve already tried has worked, then a therapist who works with couples might be able to bring a fresh perspective to help you out.
If you have tried relationship counseling, what worked and what didn’t? If you haven’t made use of therapy yet for help with relationship issues, what would you want? How bad would things have to get to motivate you to get some help?