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The concept of marriage boot camp has been growing in popularity since a reality show featuring married celebrities of the same title was first aired in May of 2013. Marriage boot camp is an intense training course for couples designed to bring all issued to the surface in a direct, confrontational manner, over a short period of time. This approach challenges couples to implement positive changes into their marriages much like a military or fitness boot camp trains individuals to push their physical limits and achieve total physical transformation over a short amount of time. Such an approach differs drastically from many popular forms of psychotherapy and counseling. While this approach is a bit more unorthodox compared with traditional forms of psychotherapy, there is a great deal of popularity and success surrounding such a method. This leads many to question whether marriage boot camp is right for their own marriages.
While one form of therapy may work well for one couple, it isn’t always the best approach for another. When it comes to treating couples, there isn’t one approach that works best for everyone, as we are all so unique. Marriage boot camp is no exception. While this approach works well for many of the couples who participated in it on the show, and there are alternative marriage boot camp courses being offered to the public across the country, it’s not recommended for everyone.
The Potential Danger of Marriage Boot Camp
Despite the visible positive results viewers can see in some of the celebrity couples who have participated in the Marriage Boot Camp reality television show, it isn’t something Dr. Will Meek, PhD, believes is beneficial for all couples seeking marital support. While many couples filmed for the show are still together, he believes that such an intense, confrontational approach can be dangerous for some individuals. Anyone who is emotionally unstable, or who has suffered emotional trauma in the past could have severely negative reactions toward such an approach to therapy. Sensitive individuals may also have an extra difficult struggle in engaging in such a form of therapy.
Those who have participated in marriage boot camp, and who are involved in the television show, report that this approach is what sets this form of marriage therapy apart from all other types of counseling, and that it is easier for couples when they are forewarned that it is going to be intense, difficult, and that there may be times that they truly dislike it.
While the concerns of Dr. Meek are valid, there isn’t any research concerning this form of therapy available to support these concerns, or to lay them to rest. This is still a very new form of therapy, and it will take time to examine the overall effectiveness of it over the years. The current evidence available only suggests this is an effective intervention for couples in the short-term. Regardless of the evidence surrounding the effectiveness of marriage boot camp, these concerns are worth taking into consideration when deciding whether marriage boot camp is the right decision for a couple.
When is it Time to Consider Marriage Boot Camp?
Not all couples know when it’s time to consider an intervention such as marriage boot camp for their relationship. Some may be unaware of the warning signs that a marriage is in trouble, and others may be questioning whether they need traditional counseling, or marriage boot camp. Marriage boot camp is intense, so if a couple is ready for a blunt, confrontational, and intense approach to marriage counseling over a short period of time, this may be a good solution. Marriage boot camp can be done in person or online, over the weekend, or over a longer segment of time. It is shorter in length than therapy, but it’s much more intense. While a couple may see a therapist for an hour per week, marriage boot camp will take an entire weekend and fill it with workshops, exercises, interventions, etc. If this is a style of therapy a couple thinks they are ready to handle, it may be a good idea to consider it as an option when a couple feels they are in need of some help or change.
In terms of knowing when it’s time for a couple to get some help or change, Dr. Kim Blackham, licensed marriage and family therapist, has highlighted 9 situations in which a couple should seek out external support for their marriage. While Dr. Blackham believes that all couples could benefit from couples’ retreats, workshops, guidance, and occasionally couples therapy, there are certain situations that require couples therapy to move past. These include:
- Feelings of sadness, loneliness, or inadequacy
- Feeling disenchanted concerning the idea of what marriage and romantic love looks and feels like
- Deep emotional wounds surrounding a partner’s infidelity, addiction, or absence during a time of intense emotional need, such as during the loss of a loved one or a miscarriage
- Getting stuck in interactions and being unable to get past the disconnection
- Sexual issues a couple cannot overcome
- Feelings that life would be better if the couple wasn’t together
- Trauma or abuse experienced by either spouse
- A desire to learn more about how to improve one’s relationship after searching for information independently
- Wanting to strengthen the bond and connection in an otherwise healthy relationship
While there are a variety of situations between couples that could benefit from therapy, these are some of the more common reasons couples find themselves in a place of seeking help. Once deciding that it’s time to seek help, it’s up to the couple to decide if marriage boot camp is the best solution for their unique situation. Those who have experienced trauma, or who have intense emotional wounds may not find marriage boot camp to be the most healing approach. It completely depends upon the person, and the nature of the issues at hand. Couples who simply want to strengthen their bond, or overcome issues that are directly related to their marriage may find the style of marriage boot camp appealing. The most important element in implementing change in a relationship is a couple’s willingness to participate in the work, and the relationship between the therapist and the couple. Marriage boot camp is certainly intense, and demands a considerable amount of work and effort from participants. The relationship between couples and their therapist is something that could be a challenge with such an approach, however if participants are warned ahead of time, they may be less likely to react to this method in a negative way.