A friend of mine asked me to put together a brief one-page document to give to couples at a marriage retreat about finding a good marriage counselor. I thought it might be helpful to share here.
Whatever your reason is for seeking counseling, there are a few guidelines that will help you and your spouse select one that will be a good fit for you both.
- Give Yourself 2-3 Weeks to Research – Because the majority of people seek counseling out of a crisis or strong sense of urgency, taking time to find a counselor is usually not acceptable. The problem with this is that making a decision based on urgency can lead to less than desirable results. However, don’t take too much time, or you might risk more damage to your relationship.
- Ask a Pastor, Friend, or Healthcare Professional for a Referral – Finding a good fit with a counselor is going to be easier when you can get a trusted source to make a referral. Counseling is built on trust, and it’s helpful to know if a friend has had a good experience with someone.
- One Size Does Not Fit All – Counselors have different ideas and theories that sometimes don’t work with certain people. Because of this, ask the counselor questions, such as:
- How long have you been practicing?
- What do you specialize in?
- Are you married, and have you been in your own counseling before?
- What are your beliefs about Marriage, Separation, Divorce, Reconciliation?
- Have you worked with (insert issue here) before?
- Do you offer a free consultation?
- How do you approach Marriage Counseling (methodology, goals, etc)?
- What role does God/Religion/Spirituality play in your counseling?
- Make Sure Both Partners Agree with Selecting the Counselor – Both husband and wife need a voice in selecting a counselor. If one partner has an existing relationship with the counselor, it’s usually best to find a completely different counselor for the marriage. An equal playing field is really important.
Once you’ve begun counseling together, here are a couple of guidelines to help both you and the counselor in the process.
- No secrets. If you meet with you counselor one-on-one, which is a normal occurrence, divulge everything you believe to be hindering where you want to be with your spouse. Your counselor will need to challenge you to share these with your spouse, no matter how difficult or consequential they might be.
- Tell the truth. If you’re uncomfortable with the setting, therapists choice of words or actions, etc, speak up and tell the truth. This is a vital part of trusting the process.
- Trust the Process. Give the process at least 4 sessions before deciding about leaving/ending counseling. Don’t give up for good just because you had a poor experience with a counselor.
- Keep your head up. Your situation will probably get worse before it gets better. Don’t be discouraged. Your counselor does not have a magic pill, nor does any other counselor. Staying with the process is key in making significant life and relationship changes. Growth is hard and takes time.