Marriage Counseling And Adaptive Coping Strategies
Marriage counseling can help teach couples adaptive coping strategies to manage stress both in their relationship and individually. Coping strategies are mechanisms we employ to deal with stress, and they can be either adaptive or maladaptive.
As we discussed in our previous blog, maladaptive coping mechanisms are those that, while they may make you feel better in the moment, ultimately only worsen your stress. Adaptive coping strategies, on the other hand, are those that confront problems directly, make realistic evaluations or problems, recognize and change unhealthy emotional responses, and work to prevent adverse physiological effects.
For example, when a discussion with your spouse gets heated, drinking a bottle of wine and refusing to speak to them would be a maladaptive coping strategy. An adaptive coping strategy would be to table the discussion until you feel more calm and agreeable or to address it in a marriage counseling session.
What Helps Us Cope In Healthy Ways
The most important factors in developing healthy coping strategies are social support, optimism, and perceived control.
We know from Polyvagal Theory that when people are allowed and encouraged to express their emotions in a healthy way with safe and understanding social support, they are better equipped to employ healthy coping strategies. Couples counseling provides healing social support both from your partner and your Counselor.
Optimism, or a general expectation that things will turn out positively, correlates with better health both physically and mentally. People who are optimistic are more likely to have adequate social support, evaluate situations as less threatening, engage in healthy self-care, and employ adaptive coping strategies focused on solving problems.
Perceived control is our perception or whether or not we have control over our circumstances. Better physical and mental health are associated with a perception that we are in control of our own circumstances rather than at the mercy of fate, luck, or other people.
It has been noted by some researchers that perceived control is different among people of different cultures. In Western society, we tend to emphasize the importance of primary control, or altering the situation to eliminate the problem. Many Asian cultures take a different approach, emphasizing secondary control. Secondary control is a focus on changing your perspective to accommodate the situation. Both types of perception of control can be helpful in different situations.
Learning Adaptive Coping Strategies In Marriage Counseling
The best way to learn adaptive coping strategies (and get rid of maladaptive ones) is through professional individual and/or couples counseling. A trained and certified Counselor can teach you strategies like mindfulness and interrupting or distracting from negative thought patterns.
In counseling, we learn that coping is not really about what is happening around us so much as how we interpret the situation. Our perception is the key, which is why adaptive coping strategies focus on reframing or managing how we perceive stressors.
A life entirely without stress is not only impossible but would also deny us the joy and growth of overcoming challenges. We must learn to approach stress as an opportunity for growth rather than something to avoid. Though we frequently have little or no control over our environment, we always have the ability to choose how we react and behave.
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