There are a number of reputable, well-established national marriage education programs in addition to MST. We're sure that you'll have a valuable experience if you choose any of these programs. In fact, MST has considerable overlap in some areas of content with many other marriage prep programs.
You should keep in mind, though, that some of the marriage education programs that you may be considering may not be specifically for engaged couples. If not, they may not cover or emphasize all of the important premarital issues. Some programs, like some PAIRS and PREP workshops, sometimes mix in or are primarily intended for couples who've been married for a while and are encountering difficulties. We recommend classes or counseling that focus specifically on the needs of engaged couples and newlyweds, like MST. The positive, exciting atmosphere is an important element in MST's effectiveness.
Some of the older programs have been around for a while (e.g., Prepare-Enrich, PAIRS, Prep). This can be good in that such programs are 'tried and true.' But older programs aren't always updated with the latest marriage research results in mind. A lot has changed in recent years in our understanding of what makes marriages succeed (or not). Established programs tend to stick with their existing approach and structure. Even when they update, it sometimes takes a while for the newer approaches to 'trickle down' to all of their trained providers. We're not sure of the status of the specific providers and programs you are considering.
Here are some additional factors that we feel make Marriage Success Training a better choice than most other programs:
Our approach is comprehensive and eclectic. Along with our original content, we've reviewed the marriage research (e.g., Gottman) and most of the major premarital education programs (e.g., PREP, Prepare-Enrich, etc.) and incorporated what we regard as the most effective elements. Our seminars emphasize interaction with your partner and couples really enjoy and benefit from the seminar.
Unlike most programs, we don't advocate a pre-packaged system of techniques, although we will tell you about these systems. Instead, we present you with a range of options to promote marriage success and give you ways to select those that suit you best according to your relationship profile (e.g., best tools relative to your respective communication and conflict management styles, etc.) So, you choose the approaches that are most comfortable and compatible for you and your partner.
We lead all our MST seminars ourselves. Most of the national, established programs train leaders who vary in background and ability. We feel it is a real advantage having a married, professional couple like us lead the seminar.
Other programs vary in the proportion of active learning vs. lecture and presentation. MST is very active in using mostly couples exercises and structured, interesting group discussion with a very small proportion of presentation. You won't be falling asleep during any part of MST.
Not all programs include a relationship inventory. We feel that an inventory is an essential tool to help you identify your relationship style, choose relationship strategies congruent with your styles, and to help you clarify your expectations.
Another consideration is the size and setting of the seminar. We feel that a small seminar size and a comfortable setting is very important to the experience. We prefer the quality of a nice hotel or university club environment. Comfort can make a lot of difference in your level of enjoyment and benefit in the course of a long day.
Finally, some counseling and/or programs (e.g., PAIRS) place a great deal of emphasis on patterns and dynamics related to your family of origin. While we feel that these are important and you will look at family of origin issues in the MST seminar, we focus more on selecting and developing positive strategies for success that are a good fit for you as a couple than on emphasizing problems or pathology from the past.
However, if one or both of you come from troubled family backgrounds or have special concerns or deep issues related to your family of origin, you may be well served by an approach like the one used by PAIRS.
On the other hand, couples counseling can be a more effective way to work on acute or deep problems (especially if they are already manifest in your current relationship) than a seminar. We don't feel that any seminar (including MST) provides an adequate opportunity to work through these deep issues.
Many couples who are considering private counseling find that MST is a very helpful preliminary or adjunct approach. They can quickly cover all the general issues, develop skills and get an overview of their relationship profile in the seminar. Many couples discover that MST gives them what they need to advance their relationship and put them on the path to a successful marriage. Couples who still feel that they need more can then use this foundation to address more specific or problem issues in their counseling. MST starts their counseling on a fast track.
We encourage you to read our newsletters and review the information on the rest of the stayhitched.com web site to understand more about our approach and what makes MST so special. We aren't aware of any programs that are comparable to Marriage Success Training. When it comes to investing in the future of your marriage we think that you should strongly consider selecting the best marriage prep seminar for your needs.
You're smart to be looking carefully into all of the premartial education options available to you. Good luck selecting the best preparation program for your marriage. We hope you'll choose MST and look forward to meeting you at the seminar.
If you decide that MST is for you, please be sure to send us a registration or sign-up form from stayhitched.com when you've decided.