When a husband and wife work on their differences in therapy, their own marriage may not be the only one that benefits. According to a new study, the average marriage therapist becomes gradually more optimistic about marriage over the course of their career.
"This was a very pleasant surprise," said the study's lead author, Benjamin Caldwell, PsyD. Caldwell is an Assistant Professor with the Marital and Family Therapy graduate programs at Alliant International University in Los Angeles. "We knew that as people in general get older, they tend to think less positively about marriage. We presumed that would be true of marriage therapists, just like everybody else."
While aging did have a negative impact on therapists' attitudes toward marriage, experience doing couples therapy had the opposite effect. It strengthened therapists' attitudes toward marriage, more than offsetting the effect of age.
Caldwell speculated that for therapists, seeing couples struggle to save their relationships in therapy can be powerful. "Couples are not the only ones who come away from a successful therapy process feeling good about marriage," he said. "It is rewarding for the therapist as well."
Other factors also appeared to influence therapists' opinions of marriage. Male therapists expressed more positive views about marriage than female therapists. Married therapists were more positive about marriage. Therapists who were divorced were more negative about marriage, while those who had remarried multiple times grew more negative about marriage each time. Finally, therapists who described themselves as Christian were more positive about marriage than others.