I have done marriage counseling throughout my career as a doctoral level psychologist first, with veterans and their spouses, and then also with couples in my private practice, starting in 1970. Of all the approaches that I have used, I found the most useful and helpful to be Relationship Enhancement Counseling developed by Dr. Bernard Guerney in the over 30 years he served on the faculty of Pennsylvania State University. When I retired from my position with the VA in 1993, I used the time freed up for me to take training from Dr. Guerney, who had also retired and moved to Bethesda, MD where he started the National Institute for Relationship Enhancement.
Dr. Guerney is a skilled practitioner and teacher and has taught several of us in the Pittsburgh area to use his methods. These involve learning skills in communicating that can facilitate resolving the inevitable problems that arise in most marriages. Dr. Guerney and his colleagues developed and manualized these skills so that a couple can, with proper coaching, learn to use them and resolve problems instead of perpetuating and magnifying them. That is my aim in marital or couple counseling.
Dr. Guerney’s methods require full involvement by both parties so that must be facilitated. Even then, the treatment can take a good deal of work by me and the couple to overcome old, negative views, distrust, fear, and all the other problems that have accumulated in a troubled marriage. With commitment and work a couple can turn conflict and pulling apart to “win-win” experiences which is gratifying to all concerned and especially beneficial when there are children affected by the marital conflict.
Some married people have become so angry and alienated that change for the better is extremely difficult to accomplish. It is then especially that I feel like encouraging couples who are contemplating marriage, and/or their parents, to encourage them to learn Relationship Enhancement skills. Couples contemplating marriage would do well to realize that prevention is much to be preferred than attempting to fix a damaged relationship.
I can think of no better gift that parents could give a young couple than the encouragement to learn Dr. Guerney’s skills and apply them in their daily lives. Seeing their children implement them will return dividends to the parents in peace of mind as well as the good it does for the young couple.