Marriage counselling makes people think their relationship is over
Marriage counselling can do more harm than good as it makes couples feel like a failure and that their relationship is already over, a report suggests.
Most people would rather resolve relationship problems privately between themselves or with the help of close friends and family.
But if they do resort to professional help then it was "intrinsically linked with feelings of failure and defeat", a UK Department for Education report suggests
It also made individuals feel weak and that by the time a couple decided to attend relationship counselling it was often too late "to repair a relationship".
"Many of the participants felt that a couple should be able to deal with their relationship problems privately... without having to rely on external relationship support," the report said.
"Support from friends and family was more acceptable than formal support such as relationship counselling.
"A few of the participants suggested that if a couple required formal or professional relationship support to solve a relationship difficulty, then the relationship was not worth saving and unlikely to be successful.
"Most of the participants reported that they would not use a relationship counselling service."
The report, titled Relationship difficulties and help seeking behaviour, derived it results from interviews and focus groups with people in long term relationships over three years.
They found that most relationship difficulties centred around parenthood, family and friends, inlaws and infidelity.
This often led to unequal balance of power in a relationship and poor communication.
A strong relationship was one based on closeness, allowing independence, having children and provinding support.
Talking to each other and even arguments - if skillfully controlled - could be constructive in preventing problems arising.
The most welcomed source of relationship support was through informal and "unbiased" routes such as close social contacts.
Support from friends and family was more acceptable than formal support such as relationhsip counselling.
"Many of the participants reported that using formal relationship support was intrinsically linked with feelings of failure and defeat," the report concluded.
"The need for relationship counselling was associated with weaknesses or deficit in an individual. Being a strong and resilient person was viewed as incompatible with the use of counselling services.
"Some participants reported that by the time a couple decide to attend relationship counselling it was often too late to repair the relationship."
The report recommended that professional support should be made as "informal" as possible and that they should not be billed as a way of trying to resolve an already failed relationship.
They should also explore ways of using technology such as the internet to offer their services.
Health professionals and teachers should also be trained in helping couples and individuals with their relationships.
"Evidence from this research suggests that issues over availability, accessibility and acceptability prevent the uptake of more formal types of support," the report said.
"Innovative solutions such as internet technology may be a means of overcoming such barriers. Recent research into the preferences of an innovative relationships support website suggests that the main attractions are that it is immediate, confidential, not face-to-face, and informative."