"Couples therapy" and "marriage counseling" is the last stage of divorce kabuki.
When I hear that a couple is "in therapy" I know that they are very close to splitting up. It's usually weeks away.
Counseling Kabuki is what gives couples the opportunity to talk about how they tried so hard, but nothing worked, we even went to COUNSELING etc..
Look-the bottom line is there are only two people in a marriage (well, at least for now, SCOTUS might soon be legalizing polygamy...). And marriage is very hard at the best of times.
That means that the only individuals who are in the marriage are the only two people that can "solve" or not solve, the problems. No outside intervention, no matter how well-intentioned, can help.
I was just reading a rather clever article about marriage and family, and the author said that she had a few moments of feeling like she really blew it with her husband and with one of her kids over the previous week. Everyone has those moments. She said that arguing, no matter how compelling the argument, no matter how right you think you are, will rarely change your spouse's mind.
She wisely suggested that sometimes you have to just quietly ask 'will you please do this for me', 'because it's important to me'.
Of course, it's important not to overuse that privilege, if you have a responsive spouse. Some things are done and tolerated solely because it's important to the other partner. And the other partner may feel like he or she has eaten a minor shit sandwich, or maybe a major one-which is why it's important not to abuse the 'because it's important to me' card.
A willingness to do it "just" for the other person because it's really important to them is part of the constant compromising of marriage, and spouses that do this for one another have their eye on the big picture, and not just short-term, quick fixes or even "arguing it out" or "counseling".
Still, the best line about "marriage counseling' goes to my old buddy "K".
After being dragged to "marriage counseling" by his (clinically diagnosed) mentally ill (now ex) wife, he finally got exasperated and accused of bad faith because of his alleged "lack of progress". He quit therapy and they finally broke up after he declared that he doesn't need a belligerent lesbian with a butch haircut in a bad sweater to explain to him that he's an asshole, he already knows he's an asshole!
(His words, not mine..but you get the point.)