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Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.
Essays and Blogs Concerning Mental and Emotional Health

Attending pre-marital counseling classes really does pay off

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. Updated: Jun 16th 2006

A nice article in the Journal of Family Psychology (March 2006, Vol. 20, No. 1, 117-126) by research psychologist Scott Stanley, titled "Premarital Education, Marital Quality, and Marital Stability: Findings From a Large, Random Household Survey" presents evidence from a four state survey of over 3000 homes (representing a wide range of economic, ethic and cultural groupings in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Kansas) that pre-marital counseling helps to make marriages healthy and strong. If this finding was ever in doubt, it should no longer be.

Pre-marital counseling is typically offered as a sort of educational class that engaged couples can attend (or must attend) prior to getting married. It is most always delivered in a religious setting (e.g., the counseling is a pre-condition that priests or other clergy set upon being married within the church). There are secular versions of this counseling however. Classes cover topics like how to handle conflicts, how to come to agreement on marital decisions, and how to communicate well. They range from 1 to 40 hours duration.

Couples in the survey that participated in pre-marital counseling were, on average, 31% less likely to divorce in any given year of their marriage than couples who did not benefit from this counseling. They were also more likely than un-counseled couples to report higher marital satisfaction, lower marital conflict and greater levels of commitment. When results were broken out among groups differing in educational status, it was found that moderately to very educated couples benefited from the pre-marital counseling more than less educated couples in one major aspect only – they were less likely to divorce. The gains in commitment and satisfaction were stable across all educational groups.

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. was Director of Mental Help Net from 1999 to 2011. Presently, he is an Oakland Psychologist (Lic#PSY25695) in private practice offering evidence-based acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and addressing a range of life problems. Contact Dr. Dombeck by calling 510-900-5123, send Dr. Dombeck email or visit Dr. Dombeck's practice website for more information.

Reader Comments
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Georgia Professional Counseling Center, Inc. - Founder - John H. Pruett, Jr., MS, EdS, NCC, LPC - Mar 3rd 2007

I really agree with this. Before my wife and I married we did a all day pre-marital workshop in Atlanta. Kind of a crash course. We loved it. Some of the stuff I learned that day I still use with my marriage counseling clients today. And the course served as inspiration for my own pre-marital workshop that I now offer in Alpharetta, Georgia. Basically, good pre-marital training helps couples bring expectations and feelings out in the open early on which prevents problems from festering over time. Great article and thanks for letting me blog here! People can also check out our main home page at

Many thanks! Sincerely, John

premarital how it is enevitable - miriam Mcleod - Sep 26th 2006
today marriage is being done for fun, or just for an esperience. to for lasting. In the church and in the world in the rate of divioce. why meny time these have counciling. what is the problem, and why did hed they and why

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