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Mark Merrill

Mark Merrill is the founder and president of Family First, a widely respected national non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the family. read bio

4 Steps to Choosing a Good Marriage Counselor

I’m excited to have my friend Dr. Matthew Turvey share with us on the topic of marriage counseling. Marriage can be tough at times, so here are a few tips for finding the right marriage counselor. I hope this information is helpful for you.

So, it’s time to give marriage counseling a try. Not all counselors are created equal, and just going to a counselor doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the results you want.  Follow these four guidelines to tip the odds in your favor and get your money’s worth out of the counseling experience.

 1.    Ask around.

Check with your family doctor, your pastor, your friends, or even your Facebook network.  You’ll want to hear from people that share your basic set of values and know you well.  I suggest making a list and narrowing it down to your top three choices.  Then, make an appointment with one of your three choices and get the ball rolling.  Don’t forget to ask about more non-traditional forms of counseling.  Many people now prefer online consultations, telecoaching, web-based therapy, etc.  This might work better for your schedule or personality.

2.    Think of your first few sessions as “dating” your counselor.

You’re learning how they operate, if their personality is a fit for your situation, and if you share the same values.  Recognizing after a few sessions that you’re not clicking with a certain counselor isn’t a sign that counseling won’t work; it’s a sign you haven’t found the right one yet.  Counselors are like food styles.  You may love BBQ but not Thai food. Somebody else is just the opposite.  Different strokes for different folks.

3.    Ask some of these key questions of your counselor as you get to know them.

  • Do you want us to stay married?  Believe it or not, many people who call themselves marriage counselors don’t care if you’re married or get divorced at the end.  You want to know this going into the process.
  • Do we share core values?  It’s true that counselors are trained to keep their emotions, values, and biases under wraps.  But let’s face it – they’re people, too.  If you find a counselor that doesn’t understand your faith expression, this may be a deal-breaker for you.  Work to figure out what non-negotiables you have in a counselor.  It’ll save you time and wasted effort in the long run.
  • What’s your theoretical orientation, and what does that mean the counseling process will look like?  Some counselors are passive.  This is great if you’re exploring your childhood.  If you’re in marital crisis, you may want somebody who’s more active in getting you involved through homework, reading, or seminars.  A few Google searches on your new counselor’s theoretical orientation will help you determine whether or not the counselor fits with your ideas of what you want out of the process.
  • How long do you expect counseling to last?  There’s really no way of nailing this down, but I think a good counselor should be able to give you a range of sessions that would be ideal for your situation.  Nobody wants an open bar tab with a counselor.  It helps to have realistic goals set up early in the counseling process that are time limited.  You’ll be motivated to accomplish your goals, and your therapist will be motivated to help you achieve positive change within this timeframe.

4.    Commit to the process and keep hope alive.

Once you’re relatively certain you’ve found a good (not perfect) fit, dive into the process and get busy.  This is your marriage we’re talking about.  Work on it, and keep working on it.  Too many people quit just at the point where they’re about to turn the corner.  Know there will be hiccups and roadblocks; that’s life.  Stick with the process and give it 100%.  I’ve been blessed to watch small miracles in counseling over and over again.  People who came in with no hope for a happy marriage found that hope all over again.  And then they found their marriage could be happy again.  You can, too.

 

Related Resource: 4 ways to know if you will benefit from marriage counseling

 

 

© 2012 Mark Merrill. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.markmerrill.com.

 

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