By David Joel Miller.
How do you select a marriage counselor?
Picking the right counselor for you can be difficult when you are dealing with your issues, but in couples counseling, there are added factors to consider.
The heat of the conflict between two people can make the whole process of agreeing to see a marriage therapist difficult, selecting that helping person, can take some effort at negotiation also. Here are some suggestions.
Make the counselor choice when both of you are feeling calm.
The middle of a fight may be the time one of you says for the first time “We need to go for counseling.” This might be the time to agree that you will go but it is not the best of times to make that selection.
Plan a time to sit down and discuss the selection process when you both are feeling less angry.
If your partner feels forced or manipulated into seeing a counselor you have chosen they are likely to be resistant to the process.
Don’t keep putting the problem off because some days things go better.
If you are having relationship problems the sooner you begin to work on these problems the more likely you are to find solutions that will work for both of you. Too often couples wait until the wreckage of repeated fights leaves them both convinced that even if the situation changes they still would want out of this relationship.
Every relationship has its ups and downs. When you are having that rough patch one of you may be thinking the worst. The times that you are able to talk with each other rationally are the best time to make progress.
Relationship counseling does not always need to be a long drawn out process. If you both approach it with the desire to work out your problems things may improve more quickly than you expect. Sometimes it is a matter of learning new skills or getting another perspective.
Don’t go to counseling to prove who is right or wrong.
A good marriage counselor will not solve the problems for you. They should never take sides. You will waste lots of time and money trying to be right and the result will be that both parties will leave the relationship angry and bitter.
Figuring out who is right is the job of a judge when you go to end the marriage. If you are stuck on making your partner the cause of the problems then you can’t focus on the solution.
The goal of counseling should be to find common ground, things you can agree on.
Repairing the damage is far more important than beating your partner into submission. Couples who stay together learn to see things from their partner’s viewpoint rather than becoming good at making that partner wrong.
Pick a counselor you both think can help you.
The best predictor of success in therapy is the client’s belief that the counselor can help. Pick someone you both feel will be helpful. If you don’t know a marriage counselor research those in your area. Some people travel long distances to see a really good therapist.
It is perfectly acceptable to interview the counselor when you call. Make sure you also feel comfortable with the office staff; can you call and reschedule an appointment? Is the receptionist helpful? Do they return calls?
How does this therapist help couples?
Some professionals believe every couple who comes for therapy should stay married; they may call themselves divorce busters. Other professionals may recommend divorce to a high percentage of their clients.
There was a time when therapists mainly listened to you without comment. Is that what you want? Other practitioners are more directive, they do exercises or activities in session, have you rehearse skills and assign homework for you to do out of session. Which approach sounds most helpful to you?
Be honest with the therapist and yourself.
If you have decided you want a divorce but have been afraid to say so being in the room with a neutral mediator may help.
If your choice is to stay married? What are you willing to change about yourself to make this work? There are ways to influence your partner (see getting others to change post) but the fastest way to see things improve is often to change yourself. Changing you may require giving up that resentment you use over and over to beat your partner into submission.
Many couples come in unsure if they want to stay together. They know there are things about their partner that drew them together and things that are pushing them apart. One day they want to stay married and the next they think it is over. In couples like this, the “leaver” and the “stayer” may shift back and forth from day-to-day.
What do you think? If you have been for marriage counseling what was helpful and what was not?
For more on this topic also see:
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.