While the present legal system is the principal cause of divorce in Canada, incompetent counsellors are a close second.
Routinely I hear of married, separated or divorced people who have gone to counsellors and it is clear in minutes that the counsellors have not been formally trained in the difference in technique, approach and interaction that separates individual counselling from marriage counselling. These individual counsellors due to their arrogance and ignorance are better termed 'divorce therapists'. It would be better to go to a lawyer trained in mediation than to see a counsellor who is primarily an individual therapist.
In individual therapy a person comes into the therapist who asks 'what is wrong?" The individual then goes on to tell the therapist of litany of complaints and the therapist helps the individual deal with these complaints. The individual doesn't have a solution and is seeking help with their problem.
In marriages, the conclusion of one or both of the individuals when they see a counsellor is that the 'marriage" is the problem, or "the partner is the problem". The visit to the therapist is more often than not seeking confirmation that divorce or homicide is a good idea. By asking what is the problem the therapist often in one session consolidates the insurmountable nature of the problem and confirms the a priori solution. The couples commonly don't return but one person does and here is the conflict of interest. Individual therapists then see one of the couple for commonly one to two lucrative years having literally created an intellectual emotional adultery or agreed with the irate one that this one is the problem and needs a whole lot of fixing.
Consequently one of the leading schools of marriage therapy suggests at the very start to ask not what's wrong with the marriage but rather 'why did you get married and what was good about the marriage?"
Individual therapy is usually best done by individuals . The best in marriage therapy usually work as a mixed couple.
Indiviudal therapists don't have to be married.
Despite the orthodoxy surrounding the industry of counselling it has been my rule of thumb to discourage people seriously from seeing unmarried marriage therapists and further not to see anyone with more marriage 'experience' than the therapist. This requires a certain humility on the part of counselloers. However the fact remains that marriage is a journey and the issues that exist in the first couple of years of marriage may appear to arrise again at a latter stage. However just as the treatment for a food throwing 3 year old is different than for a food throwing 13 year old so are the different approaches to understanding marital problems at differennt stages. A young person with a few years of marriage will 'think' they know what's going on with a 20 year marriage but they will be as wrong as a kid who can fix his bicycle would be if he thought he could fix the space shuttle.
Given that the legal system refused to uphold the state marriage contracts or the religious marriage contracts which had the statement 'in sickness and in health' among other lines, there really is no state or religious marriage contract in extant any more. The courts simply don't 'respect' the state or church by their behaviour towards those married in these institutions. That's opinion but it's come from seeing 25 years of divorces here where the 'contract' wasn't worth the paper it was written on and the courts did all manner of things that would never have been accepted by any business man in contractual aggreements or any criminal state court in regards to contractual aggreements.
Hence it's a fact today that the only 'contract' that the courts actually call a 'marriage contract' and respect is their own 'brand'. This they call a 'prenuptial agreement'. Clearly all those married with any other aggreement than a 'prenuptial aggreement' would be wise to get one as the 'marriage contract' and ring they have does not mean to the court what they probalbly thought it meant when they signed the original agreement before the minister or state official.
One of the approaches to marriage therapy is to ask the individual to get out the 'contract' they agreed to and review whatever problems they are having in regards to the supposed contractual arrangement they entered into. Marriage therapists trained this way will then help the couple write a new contract and the marriage is renegotiated in light of new developments and desires as any business aggreement would be done. If a new contract isn't written at least the new interpretation of the old contract is added to the papers.
Most marriage therapists well trained and experienced don't 'get mired in the past' but offer a couple homework to observe how the couple completes this. The whole experience of recriminations upon recriminations with the couple arguing in the office is highly lucrative for the counsellor but serves to confirm that the couples problems are insurmountable.
Any therapist who takes 'sides' is 'colluding' and acting out their own marital problems or those of their parents in the session. Marriage therapy requirest the objectivity of a judge whereas individual therapy requires that one be supportive on one individual. The "patient" in marriage therapy is the marriage.
In obstetrics no obstetrician considers it a success if the baby dies and only the mother lives. Similiarly the best marriage therapists consider success the couple and their marriage surviving. Too many smart counsellors cover their bets and claim they 'facilitate' divorce. Divorces don't need facilitation and the lawyers are already to a very brisk business of facilitating divorce. They don't need counsellors to compete. If the marriage therapy isn't working it is wise to recommend that the couple see a lawyer, much as a surgeon would call in a coroner rather than continue to operate on a dead body or one of its parts.
For these reasons and more it is extremely wise if one is going to a marriage therapist to be sure they are not a divorce therapist. Too often couples take their baby marriage to what they think is an obstetrician only too find to late they've been to an abortionist.