A friend of mine asked me to put together a brief one-page guide 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.
- 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 works because it is based on a trusting and caring relationship. It’s helpful to know if a friend has had a good experience with someone.
- One Size Does Not Fit All – The relationship between the therapist and client is one of the most important aspects of the counseling work. Therapists have different ideas and theories that sometimes don’t work with certain people. We also have different personalities that don’t always match well with everyone. Because of this, ask the counselor questions, such as:
- What do you specialize in?
- How long have you been practicing?
- 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?
- 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 (If seeking a marriage 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.
- Take Some Time – Because the majority of people seek counseling out of a crisis or strong sense of urgency, taking time to find a counselor is sometimes a luxury people can’t afford. The problem with this is that making a decision based on urgency can lead to less than desirable results. Ask the therapist for a 5-10 minute phone consultation to get a feel for how they might be able to help.
- A good Therapist will only share about themselves in order to assist or help you in your process of growth and change. If you walk away from the appointment feeling like the therapist was center of attention, it might be time to find a new therapist.
Once you’ve begun counseling together, here are a couple of guidelines to help both you and the Therapist in the process.
- 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 building trust. Most of us don’t want to offend others, and in doing so we will silence our own needs in the process.
- Trust the Process. Give the therapeutic process at least 4-6 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 might 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.