The growing demand for marriage counselors in Shanghai has led to the creation of a special training school for people interested in saving marriages.
Those interested in improving their marriage counseling skills, or saving their own unions, may apply for a spot in the program to gain experience.
The program invites young newlyweds who need advice and the counselors practice their techniques on them. Some of the consultants have no prior experience but receive training.
The first marriage consulting practice and training center opened in Shanghai in July.
So far, 500 people have enrolled in the program to improve their consulting skills.
In recent years, Shanghai couples have reported more marital problems due to changes in living and working conditions. This has created a demand for more marriage consultants, Shanghai Youth Daily reported.
The 500 people who passed through the program belong to the "Ben Ben" group, a Chinese saying that refers to people who are certified but have little or no life experience. The program, which is carried out by Shanghai Xinqiao Educational Institution and Wedding Union, a local wedding agency, is designed to address this problem.
A man surnamed Zhu, took the marriage and family consulting training in order to help his own marriage. He said he took part in the program to improve his social and communication skills. He said he enjoyed a feeling of accomplishment when others took his advice. The program also attracted some experienced consultants. Tian, a former housewife in Shanghai now working as a marriage and family consultant, said the program helped her.
"Marriage and family consulting is really helpful," she said. "I used to be a strict mom and my daughter seldom talked about her true feelings with me, but now she often pours out her feelings to me since I've learned how to communicate with her."
Tian is also working at her daughter's school and with the local women's association as a volunteer consultant. She believes that taking part in the program helped her to put her theoretical knowledge into use.
Marriage consulting, according to the manager of the Wedding Union surnamed Gan, is a branch of psychological consulting. It covers love, marriage, children, education and other family problems.
According to statistics published by China International Marriage and Family Association, about 70 percent of married couples are faced with various marriage problems such as extramarital affairs, fighting or violence. The emergence of marriage and family consultants has served an important role in solving these problems.
The program, as Gan said, is designed to fulfill the urgent need for marriage and family consultants in Shanghai. Meanwhile, a 24-hour hotline was also set up to further assist with consulting.
Despite a dramatic increase in the number of consultants (about 40 percent) this year, marriage consulting is still an underdeveloped field in China. Specialists estimate there's a need for some 10,000 consultants in Shanghai.
(China Daily September 15, 2007)