Planning for your wedding is an exciting (albeit stressful!) event, but even more important is planning for your marriage. Premarital counselling is a great way to get your relationship started off on the right foot as you look forward to your life together. We find it very rewarding to work with couples who are enthusiastic and full of hope for their future.
Premarital counselling typically involves a series of weekly sessions designed to help a couple gain and develop the tools, skills and attitudes that form the foundation for a strong marriage.
When two people join their lives together, they create a unique set of strengths and potential challenges that will have an impact on their relationship and that will potentially follow them throughout their lives.
The purpose of premarital counselling is to help couples gain greater awareness of these issues so that they can prepare for and plan helpful ways of dealing with them and to build a foundation for a strong marriage together.
Absolutely. You don't have to be experiencing significant problems in your relationship in order to benefit from premarital counselling. This is a valuable service for any couple considering marriage.
Premarital counselling has been seen as a potential way to reduce the divorce rate. Many states in the United States have adopted marriage laws that require premarital counselling before issuing a wedding license.
Research on the long-term impact of premarital counselling, however, has generally shown mixed results. One round of premarital counselling is probably not enough to prevent a couple from having significant problems later on or even from getting divorced.
However, couples who do participate in premarital counselling often report enhanced relationship satisfaction afterward and improvement in their ability to resolve problems together.
One often-overlooked benefit of premarital counselling is that it helps reduce the stigma that people sometimes associate with talking to a marriage professional. Sooner or later, every couple encounters problems and goes through ups and downs in their marriage. If at some point in the future your relationship hits a difficult patch, and you have already had a positive experience working with a relationship specialist in the past, then you may feel more inclined to seek help or guidance early on before the challenges become more difficult to resolve.
The first session is an assessment session where we review your goals, your relationship history and the story of how you met. Many couples enjoy the opportunity to talk about their strengths and what they find attractive about each other. We also ask about challenges and how you have dealt with these challenges as a couple.
We usually recommend to couples in the first session that they complete a relationship inventory such as PREPARE (see below) to help pinpoint areas of strength and challenges in their relationship. This questionnaire can be completed on your own between the first and second sessions.
The remaining 6-8 sessions are tailored to your particular situation and goals, with attention paid to any areas of concern that emerge in the first interview and in the PREPARE results. Each session typically covers a different topic. Topic areas include:
Your counsellor`s role is to facilitate in-depth discussions between you and your partner within these areas, help you learn tools for creating a strong marriage with each other, and plan ways to deal with potential relationship challenges.
One helpful tool that I use in premarital counselling is a relationship evaluation questionnaire called PREPARE/ENRICH.
You can learn more about PREPARE/ENRICH here.
PREPARE is an inventory for premarital couples and premarital education. ENRICH is an inventory to be used in marriage counselling and marriage education. I am trained in the administration and use of both programs.
Over 2 million couples have completed the PREPARE/ENRICH program since it began in the 1980's. The national norms for the PREPARE inventory are based on the responses of 500,000 premarital couples. PREPARE has been shown to discriminate between couples who get divorced and couples who remain happily married with an accuracy rate in the range of 80-85%.
Having said this, however, PREPARE/ENRICH is not intended to be used as a test of a couple's compatibility, but as a tool to enhance awareness of strengths and challenges and to facilitate discussion between a couple during the premarital counselling process.
There are several relationship areas assessed by the PREPARE/ENRICH inventories. These include:
One benefit of PREPARE/ENRICH is that it can be completed online from the comfort of your home. After our initial session, if you decide to utilize the PREPARE questionnaire, I will send you an email with your login name and password that enables you to complete the inventory online. The cost for the PREPARE/ENRICH is $30 USD per couple.
Here you can get more information about the PREPARE/ENRICH inventories.
The RELATE Questionnaire
Home of the RELATionship Evaluation or RELATE questionnaire, a premarital inventory similar in scope and purpose to PREPARE. Some of the advantages of the RELATE are its cost (30% less than the cost of PREPARE) and the fact that a couple can access the the report on their own without having to go through a counsellor. My preference is to use the PREPARE inventory, however. I find that the information in the PREPARE report is easier to interpret and apply than the present version of the RELATE.
UPDATE: June 2008: I received notice recently that the RELATE is now undergoing some significant revisions in its report format. This is good news!
Absolutely. The process described above is ideal for couples who are seeking a comprehensive overview in preparation for their marriage. You may, however, have specific issues that you would like to address with a couples counsellor in-depth, in which case a more flexible and customizable approach would be more appropriate.
If you have any questions or would like to contact us by email, you can complete a brief confidential contact form here. Once you submit the contact form, a Cobb & Associates intake staff member will respond as soon as possible.
Cobb & Associates Inc. is located in southwest Calgary (near Macleod Trail and Heritage Dr. SE). Please click here for our full address and a map to our location. We are currently accepting new clients and warmly welcome self-referrals and referrals from physicians and other professionals.
We appreciate your interest in our services and hope this information has been helpful to you. Please do not hesitate to call if you have any questions.