Marriage therapy or marriage education?

marriage woes
Getting stuck in ongoing marital distress often leads to significant emotional and physical health consequences. Recent studies have shown marriage education and marriage therapy can have a positive, lasting impact. Consider the cost, time and benefits of each approach.

A recent UCLA study (“Therapy Can Help Even Very Distressed Married Couples, Largest Study Finds,”, 4/20/10), reveals that after 26 sessions of marriage therapy over the course of a year, half of the couples who began therapy in “consistent and serious distress” showed significant improvement five years later; 25% ended up separating or divorcing; 25% were unchanged.

“Given this population, that’s a good figure,” said Andrew Christensen, a UCLA professor of psychology and lead author of the study. Christensen has been working with couples in therapy for more than 30 years, as well as training and supervising others doing couple therapy.

A recent PAIRS Foundation study on distressed couples participating in marriage education found that 77% achieved significant improvements that were sustained six months after completing nine to 12 hours of a PAIRS Essentials relationship skills training course.

According to the National Directory of Marriage and Family Counseling, “Family and marriage counseling costs can vary widely. Rates vary from about $75 to $200 per hour, but many therapists offer sliding scale fees based on income, while some accept insurance and some do not.  The average cost for marriage and family counseling is about $100 per session. Since most marriage counselors see couples one session a week for the first three months, you can expect to pay about $1200 in that period of time if it’s at about $100/hr.” For couples with insurance that covers marriage therapy, the typical co-pay is approximately $30/hour.

With insurance coverage, the cost of 26 sessions will be approximately $780. For couples paying out-of-pocket, they can expect to spend $1,950 to $5,200 for a marriage therapist over six to 12 months.

Many PAIRS classes are available for free or reduced cost as a result of federal grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, as part of the national Healthy Marriage Initiative. The cost of a typical weekend or multi-week PAIRS class not subsidized by federal grant funding is between $400 and $1200/couple, depending on location and instructor. Online classes delivered over four weekly two-hour sessions typically cost less than $300/couple.

The average cost of divorce is estimated at $20,000 – $30,000. Nationally, American couples spend nearly $28 billion annually on divorce; billions more are spent by taxpayers through state and federal expenses associated with the impact of marital and family breakdown on children, schools, and communities.

For couples experiencing continued marital distress, both studies show meaningful potential for couples to save their marriages before heading down the road to separation or divorce. Considering the emotional, physical, social, and economic benefits of sustaining healthy, happy marriages, the studies offer strong incentive for couples to pursue marriage education or marriage therapy before actively considering divorce.

marriage therapy versus marriage education
PAIRS Foundation Chart based on statistics from UCLA Study, PAIRS Research, and the National Directory of Marriage and Family Counseling.

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What is PAIRS?

Intimacy is critical to the process of developing and sustaining close relationships, now a major concern in our culture. Modernization has shifted the primary function of marriage from providing security, stability, and raising children to developing a lifetime of love and intimacy. In previous generations successful marriages depended upon duty and role competence. Modern marriages require greater interpersonal competence as well as equality between partners. Relationships are sought that not only create stable families but also provide partners with a lifetime of love and companionship.

The PAIRS (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills) programs, developed by Lori H. Gordon, Ph.D., provide a comprehensive system to enhance self-knowledge and to develop the ability to sustain pleasurable intimate relationships. Gordon's approach integrates a wide range of theories and methods from psychology, education and psychotherapy and presents them in an educational format. PAIRS acts to bridge therapy, marital enrichment, and marriage and family development.

Programs: Courses and Workshops

PAIRS offers programs to the public led by PAIRS Trained Professionals (licensed health care professionals), and PAIRS Instructors (certified clergy and educators), trained under the auspices and supervision of Gordon and the PAIRS Foundation, the organization that officially oversees PAIRS programs, products and licensing worldwide. There are PTPs and facilitators around the world. Check “Finding an Educator” to find one near you or near one you love who may need PAIRS.

PAIRS is effective in all populations for which it has been adapted. PAIRS has relationship skills training programs for children and youth, PAIRS for PEERS, that are taught in schools, churches and agencies. PAIRS has programs for the Military, for use by chaplains and family service workers. PAIRS has faith-based programs for the Jewish, Catholic, and Christian church communities. PAIRS is currently developing programs and program delivery systems for disadvantaged youth, unmarried families, single parents, domestic violence, prison parolees, and related groups who can benefit from relationship skills training. PAIRS provides a vital ingredient to build stable marriages and healthy families with more hopeful futures for children. These programs for special groups will be taught by local agency workers and by specially trained community teachers and mentors. Research on PAIRS has demonstrated that PAIRS works for all groups under all circumstances evaluated. PAIRS is a modern technology adapted to our rapidly changing society in behalf of creating a saner, safer more loving world.

What you will learn in PAIRS

Sustaining a pleasurable intimate relationship does not work by magic. It depends upon a set of skills and understanding that can be learned. We learned most of what we know about intimate relationships through our early experiences in our families. Our personal history has a great deal of influence on what happens in our current relationships - on our behavior, our feelings, our expectations. We can change these influences if we become aware of them and wish to. It is well worthwhile to sort through what we inherited, keeping what fits for today and changing what does not.

PAIRS Competencies are specific skills that you will learn from PAIRS. These competencies focus in three areas: 1) emotional literacy; 2) conjoint partner skills for building and maintaining intimacy; and 3) practical knowledge, strategies and attitudes for sustaining positive marriage and family life. You may click on the above links to see a listing of the skills taught in PAIRS.

The Goal of PAIRS is a relationship that both partners can live with joyfully. For this to happen, each partner must become able to identify his or her own feelings and needs, and learn to communicate them in such a way that they can get met. This means communicating one's needs and desires without making the other partner feel resentful, smothered, burdened, manipulated, or inadequate. Easily and fully meeting each others' needs is the foundation of intimacy, fulfillment, and happiness.

PAIRS teaches specific easily learnable tools for successful communication such as confiding, complaining, and clarifying and for effective problems solving such as managing anger, expressing anger safely, fighting fairly for change and eliminating dirty fighting. PAIRS also guides the vast deepening of self-knowledge and develops emotional literacy. PAIRS addresses pleasure and satisfaction by teaching skills to enhance bonding, sensuality and sexuality in marriage. PAIRS teaches a profound but simple model, the Relationship Roadmap, to understand relationship success and to understand relationship mishaps and know what to do about them. PAIRS teaches over 60 skills that, after PAIRS, become the participants' PAIRS Tool Box for ongoing relationship maintenance.