In general, the newer generation is more likely to seek mental health therapy than previous ones, so the growing popularity of couple’s therapy is not so surprising. However, younger (20s and 30s) and unmarried couples present a newer group of demographic to the industry.
Another shift is the purpose of counseling. Instead of a tool used as a way to fix a relationship in crisis, therapy becomes a part of maintenance.
Why the Growth?
Although the growth in couple’s therapy seems to be worldwide, theories used in marriage therapy and the industry itself originated in the west. At their own pace, other parts of the world are slowly catching up.
There are a couple of reasons for the growth in the industry:
- The waning stigma against mental health.
- Convenient access to therapists.
- Possible insurance coverage.
- Social media has given people a way to read and share their stories and struggles.
- Our interconnectedness has provided an added layer of stress to more people.
The Mediator Culture
These emerging trend in couple’s therapy reminds me of a cultural study comparing preschools in three cultures. Educational anthropologist Joseph Tobin argues that preschool values mirror larger societal ones, since these institutions are the “transmitters of culture.” It’s where we informally learn culture per se.
He finds that conflict resolution among children in preschool differs considerably between American and Japanese schools. While the American teacher is at the center of resolving conflict, the Japanese teacher lets children solve issues on their own. For the Japanese, it’s a way to learn how to live harmoniously.
If indeed, preschool norms offer a glimpse of larger collective beliefs , it’s not surprising that the west dominates when it comes to using a neutral third-party or an authority, to help resolve our issues. The happy medium when it comes to resolving personal conflicts I guess, would be this: acknowledge the useful role of therapists, while at the same time making sure we are developing skills that help us analyze our own issues and how to handle disagreements. This can be a useful skill, not just in personal relationships, but professional ones, and just life in general.