Marriage Counseling : Definitions and Correlates of Success and Failure
Miller, Kenneth E.
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The problem. The author sought to analytically describe definitions of success and failure in marriage counseling held by those in the private practice of marriage counseling. Additionally, the author attempted to have practitioners identify client characteristics they believed to be associated with success and failure in marriage counseling. Procedure. Twenty-seven randomly selected private -practice marriage counselors were interviewed by the author. The data obtained from the interviews were supplemented with data obtained from journals and monographs. Findings. Two discrete definitions of success and failure were held by the marriage counselors who were interviewed. One definition focused on whether or not the presenting and/or subsequently delineated marital problems are ameliorated. The other definition focused on whether or not the clients are able to release or acquire certain interpersonal and intrapersonal attributes and skills, Among the correlates of success and failure in the counseling experience identified by the practitioners were clarity and individuation of self, empathy, acceptance of social and psychological differences between self and marital partner, education, intelligence, support systems, third-party involvement, psychopathologies, level of pain and motivation, narcissism, value systems, and degree of marital homogeneity. Conclusions. There is among professional marriage counselors significant agreement on definitions of success and failure in the marital counseling experience. Likewise, there is significant agreement concerning the correlates of success and failure. Recommendations. Research should be conducted among those who have experienced marital counseling to determine how clients define success and failure and to determine the degree to which client and practitioner definitions are congruent. Attempts should be made to determine what client characteristics are, in fact, correlated with client-perceived success and failure in the counseling experience.
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