Posts

How to Find a Good Counselor for Your Child

You're the best person to find a good match for your child's needs.

Imagine being an 8-year-old and dealing with all the stuff they are dealing with today. As a parent, you can see something’s just off with your child. Maybe your kid’s teacher, guidance counselor, or some other adult in their life has noticed it. And now you’ve decided to take the brave step of finding a counselor for your child. Because you care so much, not just any counselor or therapist will do: you want to find a good one.

Here are some tips on finding a good counselor.

Don’t be shy to ask your network of people you know.

Ask your child’s pediatrician and talk to the school guidance counselor. Mention it to church youth workers. Definitely ask your friends. You may find out that more people have experience with child counselors than you thought. However, when you ask, be sure to ask what makes their recommended counselor good. I mean, just because they know the counselor doesn’t mean they are a good counselor. Or that he or she is the right one for your child.

Dr. Christina McCroskey says she and other pediatricians often hear from parents about which counselors are effective. Your child’s doctor may also have a better idea of what type of care your child may need.

Figure out all the letters.

MD, Ph.D., LMFT, LCSW, MSW, LPC. You’ve heard the terms psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, family counselors, therapists, etc. It can be overwhelming when you’re starting from scratch. Here’s a good list of different designations for mental health professionals. Like I said, your pediatrician can help you choose what your child needs. That’s a great place to start.

Gather your thoughts and be specific.

Whether someone recommended counseling or you’ve decided to go this route on your own, take some time to write down your concerns about your child and any potential triggers. It’s easy to get nervous on the spot and forget critical details. Writing it down can help you accurately communicate your concerns.

Research.

Ask around about counselors. Get on the internet and read their credentials, articles, or blogs they may have written. Check out their social media accounts. Find out how much experience they have. Learn what their areas of concentration are. You want someone who’s experienced working with children, not just counseling people in general.

Interview Potential Counselors One-On-One.

Good counselors should be used to being vetted to determine if they’re the best fit. You can do this in person or by phone, and maybe even through Zoom. If they are resistant and try to rush you to an appointment, move on to another counselor. 

When you talk to them, ask…

  • About their experience working with children.
  • What methods they have used with children in their practice.
  • How the parents are included in the process.
  • How they differentiate between medical conditions and behavior issues.
  • If they have a particular specialty.
  • What they do to stay current in their practice.

Questions to ask yourself afterward:

  • How did I feel after talking to them? Did I feel inspired, hopeful, and encouraged? You can speak to some counselors and feel like they are life-giving while others are so heavy and gloomy. 
  • Did I feel heard and understood? Were they genuinely listening to me or quick to diagnose and tell me what we needed? 
  • Were they empathetic?
  • How would my child receive them? You know your child well. There’s a good chance that if you didn’t feel like they connected well, they might not connect well with your child.
  • Is this person truly an advocate for the family?

Listen to your gut.

It’s ok for you to talk to multiple counselors until you find one that just feels right. I wouldn’t introduce the child to the counselor until you’ve chosen one.

Schedule a consultation.

Many counselors will schedule a one-hour consultation with new clients before asking you to commit your hard-earned dollars to their practice. If so, use this opportunity to learn more before you make a choice.

“As adults, it’s important not to assume that our youth can handle emotions. If we as adults struggle (with a fully developed brain), imagine the difficulty our youth are having with a developing brain and body,” says psychiatrist Dr. Cassandra Simms:  

By taking your time, practicing patience, and showing due diligence, you are the best person to identify who can best help your child. Demonstrating your strong love by getting your child the help they need will be something that will pay off for years to come.

Other helpful blogs:

How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them

Is Your Child Depressed?

How to Prevent Depression from Affecting Your Child

How to Help My Child Handle Anxiety

How To Find a Counselor for Your Teen

Here's what you need to know to make a great choice for your teen.

If your teen is struggling, you want to fix whatever’s wrong and try to help. And maybe they need help, but chances are, they’re going to talk to someone else before they talk to you. Right? Well, if they need to talk and they won’t talk to you, you’ll want to do everything in your power to find someone who will lead them in the right direction and encourage them to make good choices. That’s why finding a counselor for your teen just may be the answer you’re looking for. 

A counselor can be a great resource to help your teen manage any number of issues they may be dealing with. But the process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. 

Think about this: finding a counselor is a lot like interviewing folks to fill a job position. When hiring someone, you want to find the right fit. 

It’s the same with choosing a counselor for your teen. You wouldn’t want to hire the first person to walk into a job interview. It’s the same with choosing a counselor; it’s wise to “shop around” and find the best fit for your teen. 

But how do you go about doing that?

Here are some helpful tips for finding a counselor for your teen: 

Do a search.

Finding a counselor in your area can be as easy as an internet search. But be sure to look at reviews. Check over their website, and ask around about counselors you may be interested in. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a good recommendation. Ask people you know who have used counselors. Therapists often specialize in adults and adolescents, so don’t discount the ones adult friends have seen. 

Pay attention to the credentials. 

You wouldn’t want to hire a person without the right qualifications, and it’s the same with choosing a counselor. Except this is your teen who needs help. Here’s a simple breakdown of what counselor credentials look like:

  • Counselors are either licensed or unlicensed by the state where they practice. Licensed counselors have initials after their names, like LPC, LPCC, LCPC, or LMHC. They hold a master’s degree or higher, have completed a certain number of supervised training hours, and have passed a licensure exam. Ideally, you should seek out a licensed counselor.
  • Some unlicensed counselors are working toward either their advanced counseling degree or licensure. They usually offer cheaper rates and must disclose the status of their services. Because they work under the direct supervision of experienced therapists, these counselors can also be very helpful. 
  • Some counselors are psychiatrists (PsyD or MD). This means they hold a medical doctorate, can diagnose mental illnesses, and can prescribe medication.
  • Some people advertise themselves as counselors but are not licensed. These professionals may or may not hold advanced degrees in areas of counseling or psychology. When seeking the services of unlicensed counselors, it’s wise to use caution. 

Ask a potential counselor questions before the first session. 

Consider questions such as: 

  • Do you specialize in child and adolescent therapy? 
  • How long have you been in practice? Are you licensed by the state? Is your license current? 
  • What issues do you specialize in? (Counselors will typically specialize in depression, LGBQT+ issues, addiction, or other issues that may pertain to your teen’s situation. These are usually spelled out on their website if they have one. Be sure to ask if you don’t see an issue that pertains to your teen.) 
  • What kind of approach do you use with your teen clients? (Most counselors have theoretic approaches they use, but don’t let the psycho-babble throw you off. Get a sense of how the counselor relates to their clients in a way that’s understandable to you.)

Consider the financial aspect.

Check to see whether a counselor accepts insurance and, if so, whether they are in-network. Some counselors base client fees on household incomes (called a sliding scale). Fee payment schedules can also vary from counselor to counselor. Some require payment at the time of each session, while others allow a certain number of sessions to go by. Be sure to ask about how the counselor handles their client fees. I understand that many parents don’t plan for the expense of counseling, but it’s well worth the investment. Mental health is that important.

Ask what to expect with confidentiality. 

If a counselor chooses to conduct sessions privately with your teen, ask how they handle confidentiality. Don’t assume the counselor will share everything your teen says in the counseling room. Counselors work under the state laws and codes of ethics that direct them as to how to handle client confidentiality. Ask the counselor about this before the first session so you will know what to expect. 

As a parent, your teen’s mental health is a top priority. And you want their counselor to be effective. Good counselors are out there; it takes a little digging to figure out who can best be helpful. If you feel there’s no connection between the counselor and your teen after a few sessions, keep looking for a counselor who will be a better fit. Your teen will be more open and make better progress if they feel comfortable with their counselor.  It’s worth it! 

Other resources:

How You Can Help Prevent Suicide

How to Prevent Depression in Teens

Five Strategies to Help Your Teen Deal with Post-Pandemic Anxiety

*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

How to Find a Counselor Who Will Fight for Your Marriage

These questions can help you find the right counselor.

The hero saves the princess. He rescues her from the evil stepmother, eternal sleep, or whatever danger she faces. With one kiss, they live happily ever after. That was the childhood goal, right? Happily ever after?

What the stories failed to tell us is that happily ever after doesn’t just happen. My wife and I are approaching 17 years of marriage. I’d be lying if I told you it’s all been rainbows and sunshine. Don’t get me wrong; married life is great. Our relationship is stronger today because of the hurdles we’ve overcome. 

But a great marriage takes work. It’s two people committed to seeing the best in each other and working daily to make their relationship the best it can possibly be. It means seeking out resources to learn and grow. It means surrounding yourself with people who want to see your marriage succeed. 

And sometimes, it means seeking help from a professional. A counselor who will fight for your marriage can do wonders for your relationship. Counseling isn’t just for marriages in distress, either. 

But where do you start? How do you find a counselor who will be beneficial to your marriage?

If you’re considering counseling, ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s the main thing I think we need help with? Look at what’s going on in your marriage. Identify areas where you could use some help to grow.
  • What is your goal? Identify a goal for your marriage. Maybe you need to address some issues. Perhaps you are looking to enhance a specific area of your relationship.
  • What do I hope happens as a result of going to counseling?

How to Find a Counselor Who Will Fight for Your Marriage

Michele Weiner-Davis, marriage therapist and director of The Divorce Busting Center, offers this advice for selecting a counselor:

First and foremost, ask friends and family for references.

Find out if people you know and trust have had positive experiences with counseling. Ask who they worked with.

Find a therapist with specific training and experience in marital therapy.

Marital therapy isn’t the same as individual therapy, and it requires different skills. Seek out someone who has the training to help you achieve your goals.

Ensure that the therapist desires to help you find solutions to your marital problems rather than helping you leave your marriage.

Some counselors may be more concerned about the individual as opposed to the relationship. Ask them when they see divorce as a reasonable alternative. The answer to that question can reveal a lot about their desire to see a relationship succeed.

Make sure you feel comfortable with your therapist.

They should not side with either you or your spouse. Instead, their role is to help you achieve a goal you both set for your relationship. You should both have the freedom to speak up if you feel uncomfortable in any way.  

Ask what their relationship values are.

Knowing their values will help gauge their willingness to help your marriage succeed. Successful marriages don’t look the same for every couple. Make sure your therapist is open to helping you explore different avenues to a successful marriage.

Set goals together.

This process involves you, your spouse, and your therapist. The only way to gauge progress is to have set goals.

Most marital problems are solvable.

Find a therapist who wants to help you solve them. Everyone is capable of change. With set, agreed-upon goals, you can both work to achieve what you desire.

Trust your instincts.

You know when someone is helping or willing to help. If you question whether a therapist has your marriage’s best interests at heart, don’t stay with them.

Your marriage is your most important relationship. Invest the time, energy, and money to have the best relationship possible. No two marriages are the same, and someone else’s success isn’t your success. If you feel like counseling will help your relationship, find a counselor who will fight for your marriage to be the best it possibly can.

Other helpful blogs:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

We had been married for about a year and I was really frustrated. My husband owned his own business and to me, it felt like it was the mistress in our marriage. He worked long hours which meant I spent a lot of time by myself. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends I could spend time with. I did plenty of that, but I really wanted time with him.

I knew Jay wasn’t intentionally trying not to be with me. In reality, he had a demanding job and it revolved around other people’s schedules. In the midst of feeling lonely and frustrated, I knew I needed help. The question I had was, “What do you do when you know your marriage needs help?” At that particular moment, I reached out to a friend who had been married forever. I knew I could count on her to listen and give me sound words of wisdom.

Thirty years of marriage and a career focused on marriage have taught me a lot about what to do when my marriage is in trouble.

Truth be told, it would be unusual to be married for any length of time and not have troubled times. It’s the reality of two people coming together, trying to do life together. It’s often complicated. Unexpected challenges can throw you for a loop. The good news? Although perfectly good marriages get derailed, the right help can often get the marriage back on track and moving on down the rails.

Here are 4 things you can do if you find yourself in a marriage that feels like it is in trouble.

1. Surround yourself with people who are in healthy marriages. 

Too often, when things are hard it’s super tempting to hang around people who will “take your side” and offer lots of advice that they sincerely believe is helpful. In reality, their advice isn’t always beneficial. It would be like taking your car to someone who is not a mechanic and asking them what they think is wrong with your car. Then you let them tinker with it when they really have no clue how to fix the problem. What’s most helpful is to have people who are willing to listen, hold you accountable for your part, and help you keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Before we talk about anything else, I think it‘s important to say that if you find yourself in a marriage where someone is or might be emotionally or physically abusing you, you should seek help immediately. Call the Domestic Violence Hotline. They can help you create a plan to get to a safe place. The number is 1−800−799−7233. Thehotline.org also has lots of helpful information.

2. Counseling is for sure an option. 

Just like you would not put your children in the hands of just anyone, you don’t want to put your marriage into someone’s hands just because they have the title of counselor or marriage and family therapist after their name. Check out reviews online. Also, ask trusted friends if they know of counselors that have been helpful to their marriage or friends’ marriages. 

When you do call a marriage counselor or therapist to make an appointment, ask to have a  10-15 minute conversation with them to find out more about their experience with your particular issue. Tell them what your expectations are and what your end goals are. Do you want them to be directive in their approach or do you want more of an opportunity to process what is going on? All of this will be helpful information to them as they talk with you. 

If you don’t feel like they are relatable or have enough experience with your issue, say “Thanks for your time” and move on. Even if your spouse does not want to go to counseling, it doesn’t mean you can’t work on making your marriage better. It only takes one person to decide to do things differently to change the marriage dance. 

3. Online coaching and experiences.

These can also be helpful for you as an individual or as a couple. One word of caution: many people who have experienced and reached the other side of a crisis together become experts about their own situation, but present themselves as experts who can help others survive similar crises. Be careful to avoid putting your marriage into the hands of well-meaning people who may not have the experience necessary to be helpful to you. 

4. There are many resources (including some outstanding books) you might find helpful.  

In case you are wondering what my friend said, she asked if I had shared my frustrations with Jay. I told her I had not. She encouraged me to talk with him, but to really think about my words carefully. She also reminded me that we’re on the same team and that the goal was to figure out together the best way forward. I took her advice. Although she has left this earth, I can still hear her voice in my head on the hard days reminding me that my marriage is worth fighting for, and asking for help is courageous and wise. 

If you were to ask me now (almost 31 years into marriage) if it’s been worth it, I would say without a doubt. BUT, that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our share of hard times. There have been plenty, but it feels like the hard times were like good seasoning on food. It permeates through and just makes it better. Our marriage is better because of the hard times and being willing to ask for help.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.com

How to Find a Good Marriage Counselor

Finding the right one can help you save your marriage.

Every couple has a story behind their decision to divorce. I’ve listened to lots of them after more than 30 years of working with couples. Some of their reasons for divorce are things you’d expect to hear. Things like cheating, lack of commitment, money issues, or too much conflict are common. Sometimes it’s the stress of caring for special-needs children, losing a child, and addiction or physical abuse.* 

But some reasons might catch you off-guard. 

Sometimes one partner’s health issues become too overwhelming. Or a couple is still in love, but the medical bills are draining their life savings. Divorce allows them to manage the financial burden. 

Many couples say they just can’t do it anymore. They say they have done all they know to do. 

Many couples cite disconnectedness even though they love but are not “in love” with their spouse anymore.

And don’t forget the in-laws without boundaries. That’s a whole other reason. 

If you’re considering divorce, it’s essential that you think about a few things. 

Maybe you’ve tried everything you know to change your relationship, but nothing has worked. That doesn’t mean you have tried everything

Marriage intensives, one-day experiences for couples experiencing distress, and phone coaching have excellent success rates.

One couple tried everything they knew to try, then told their pastor they were calling it quits. He asked them if they would be willing to try one more thing: a class for couples in distress. They reluctantly agreed. But as a result, they tore up their divorce papers and never looked back. 

They know now that they needed information, tools, and a different perspective on how to get out of the ditch they were in. They’re now empty-nesters, and their marriage is thriving. They have no regrets.

Let’s talk about counseling. 

Just because someone is a “marriage and family therapist” or “counselor,” it doesn’t mean they are for your marriage. In fact, most marital therapists are trained to remain nondirective or neutral.

If you’re going to look for a counselor, you’ll want to find one whose goal is to help you save your marriage, if possible. 

These tips can help you do that.

  • Before setting up a session, ask questions. Make sure the counselor wants to help you make the marriage mutually fulfilling.
  • Ask to schedule a 10-15 minute phone interview. If the counselor is unwilling to have a phone conversation, take them off your list.
  • During the interview, ask:
    1. What’s your goal for our marriage? (Answer: To help you both achieve marital fulfillment and save your marriage).
    2. What are your credentials? How many years of marriage counseling experience do you have? (A graduate degree in mental health is what you’re after. (Master’s or Doctorate in Psychology or Social Work, with clinical supervision in marriage counseling)
    3. Briefly explain your issue. Then ask about the counselor’s experience helping couples overcome that problem. Ask for their success rate in dealing with your particular issue. (Look for a more than 75% success rate.)
    4. After you both speak to potential counselors, choose the one you feel most comfortable with as a couple. Then set up your first appointment.

Every marriage goes through challenging seasons.

If you’re unhappy in your marriage, who you spend time with matters because the people you allow to speak into your marriage can help or hurt. People can be sincere in what they say but totally wrong in the advice they give. If you hang out with recently divorced people, those who are dissatisfied in their marriage, or unhappy people, it can increase your risk for dissatisfaction. This can lead you to believe divorce is your only/best option, even if it isn’t.

Not every love story has a happy ending, but it’s way more likely if you can find someone to help you work through your issues and guide you along the way.

*If abuse is an issue in your marriage, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.com

Are you considering counseling? The Counseling Problem:

I don’t want people to know that I’m getting counseling! We can work this out ourselves! Counseling might do some good for other people, but I don’t need it.

Counseling is one of those things that sadly often gets stigmatized or viewed as good for other people. If you are brave enough to bring it up, you’ll see it is helping many of your friends work through issues in their relationships and their lives. Don’t write off counseling as a tool.

Have you ever had a friend who shared a problem with you and you were able to see the solution so clearly, you passed on some awesome advice? Problem solved!

But, when it comes to your life and your problems, that clarity is all out the window and you have no clue what to do.

Why is it sometimes so easy to see other people’s problems clearly, but our own problems feel so much more complicated? The difference between your friend’s problem and yours is that it’s difficult to see our own situations objectively (or from a third person perspective). We have all kinds of blind spots, biases, and really only have one perspective – ours.

The Counseling Solution

Our own inability to see our problems clearly is why counseling can be so helpful. There are several BIG benefits to seeking counseling or therapy, either individually or as a couple.

Benefits of Meeting with a Counselor:

  1. They help us see those things that are in our blind spots. This is often the biggest hurdle – admitting that we don’t see it all and know it all about ourselves.
  2. The counselor can help us talk about things that are difficult to talk about. They can be a safe person to talk to. They can function as a mediator and ensure that a conversation doesn’t become a confrontation.
  3. Some problems we wrestle with are flat-out complicated – they might involve chemicals in our brains or generations of our family history. We might not have the tools to tackle those issues.

Hopefully, you have some good friends that can help you can talk through problems, but don’t forget, sometimes you need to consider counseling. And, that’s totally ok.

Looking for relationship resources? Click here!

Image from Unsplash.com

Eric was married with two children. Life at home was good, and he considered his relationship with his wife to be healthy. They frequently spent time together and intimacy between the two of them was good. He never considered having an affair or needing to affair-proof his marriage until he faced a potentially compromising situation with a co-worker.

“Contrary to popular belief, most people do not set out to have an affair,” says Dr. Shirley Glass, infidelity expert and author of Not “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity. “Eric’s situation is all too common. It is faulty thinking to believe that being attracted to someone else means something is wrong at home. It is possible to be attracted to somebody else, even if you have a good marriage.”

Appropriate Boundaries Are Important for Affair-Proofing Your Marriage

“The single most important protector against an affair is appropriate boundaries,” Glass says. “In a culture where men and women are working so closely, you must make sure you are not creating opportunities for an affair to occur. Especially at a time when you might be vulnerable—like right after a fight with your spouse. One of the most common doorways into an affair is where a man and woman who are ‘just friends’ innocently begin to discuss problems in their primary relationship. They are doing their marriage work with someone who might not be a friend to the marriage.”

According to research, 25 percent of women and 40 percent of men will have an extramarital affair at some point.

Glass says that openness, honesty and self-disclosure defines intimacy in marriage. Anything that interferes with that creates walls of secrecy and should be a signal of looming danger. For example, meeting the same person every morning for breakfast in a public place without telling your spouse creates a wall of secrecy in your marriage. If you’re uncomfortable talking with your spouse about it, that’s a warning sign.

Interestingly, only 10 percent of people who leave a marriage for their affair partner actually end up with them. Many say they wish the affair had never happened and that they had worked on their marriage instead. 

So, how can you guard against an affair?

  • Establish clear boundaries.
  • Stay connected to each other and keep the lines of communication open.
  • Instead of creating walls of secrecy, talk with your spouse. Eric came home to his wife and told her about what happened with his co-worker. They were able to talk openly about strategies for clearer boundaries. This strengthened their relationship.
  • If you feel attracted to someone else, never let them know.
  • Watch out for outside influences that encourage infidelity. For example, avoid an environment where other people are fooling around. Be on guard at business socials where drinking and dancing happen and spouses aren’t present.
  • If you have experienced infidelity in your marriage, it’s possible to survive it and be stronger than before. Unfortunately, it takes time for the wounds of betrayal to heal, and both parties must be willing to work together to move the marriage forward.

If you are working through infidelity, Glass recommends the following:

  • Stop the affair. The betrayed person cannot begin to heal until the affair is over.
  • Replace deception with honesty. The person who had the affair must agree to be accountable and create a safe and open environment by letting their partner know where they are.  
  • Because someone has violated trust, you must tell the story of the affair. The only way to tear down the wall of deception is to have an open window – no secrets. Usually, partners want all of the details. They need to put all of the missing pieces together and ask questions. The partner who had the affair must be patient, understanding and willing to share information. This is one way to rebuild intimacy.
  • Identify vulnerabilities in your relationship and begin to work on them.
  • Discuss what faithfulness and commitment mean to you. Just because a relationship is not sexual does not mean you are not having an emotional affair.
  • Understand that this is a very difficult process and you may need professional help to work through your issues.

Eric was able to take a potentially harmful situation and turn it into one that fostered more open communication and trust in his marriage. The window of openness and the sharing of uncomfortable situations actually builds a marriage up instead of tearing it down.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Want to take date night up a notch?

DISCOVER A DEEPER LEVEL OF INTIMACY IN THE MIDST OF UNCERTAINTY WITH HOT LOVE.

This premium on demand virtual date night guides you and your spouse to learn the secrets to growing deep intimacy. You’ll work together to learn…

  • Tools to reframe your mindset
  • Ways to discover and remove roadblocks to intimacy
  • Strategies for turning up the temperature

It was an all-too-familiar conversation. Jody went to see a marriage counselor hoping to receive guidance for getting her marriage back on track.

“After seeing the counselor twice, he told us, ‘You have three choices. You can separate for a period of time, file for divorce or keep on working,’” says Jody. “We were looking for someone to work with us on a specific plan for our marriage. Instead, we got a totally neutral counselor who didn’t seem to care whether or not our marriage survived. We weren’t neutral about wanting to save our marriage. He was.”

According to Dr. Willard Harley, psychologist and author of numerous books including the internationally best-selling book, His Needs, Her Needs, this is not unusual.

During one woman’s first visit with a therapist, she specifically said that divorce was not an option. However, at the end of the 50 minute-session, the therapist told her he thought she really should consider divorce. There was no violence in the marriage – simply love gone cold.

“People who seek help from marriage counselors usually assume that the goal of therapy is saving the marriage,” says Harley. “Unfortunately, most marital therapists are specifically trained to be nondirective or neutral. They see themselves as someone couples can talk to, but not someone who will coach them into changes that will ultimately save their marriage.

“How can a plan possibly achieve its goal when there is no goal?” Harley asks. “It’s no wonder that most marriage counseling is so ineffective.”

This does not mean that couples should not seek help. In fact, Harley encourages troubled couples to find a marriage counselor to help save their marriage.

“Couples need to understand that there are times when even the strongest of marriages needs additional support and motivation. Frequently, only a professional marriage counselor or marriage educator can provide that,” Harley says. “An effective marriage counselor or educator will help you avoid or overcome intense emotional trauma associated with a failing marriage, create a plan that will help your marriage, and motivate you to complete that plan.”

Whether your marriage is in significant distress or just in a tough spot, Harley’s tips can help you pick an effective marriage counselor.

  • Before setting up the first appointment, ask certain questions to make sure the counselor will help you accomplish your goals of making the marriage mutually fulfilling.
  • Ask to schedule a 10-15 minute phone interview. If the counselor is not willing to have an initial phone conversation, eliminate that counselor from consideration.
  • During the interview, ask about the following:
    • What is your goal for our marriage? (Answer: To help you both achieve marital fulfillment, and save your marriage).
    • What are your credentials and years of experience in marriage counseling? (Answer: a graduate degree in mental health (Master’s or Doctorate in Psychology or Social Work, with clinical supervision in marriage counseling).
    • This is our problem (briefly explain). Do you have experience helping couples overcome that problem, and what is your success rate? (Answer: Experience helping couples overcome that particular problem with more than 75% success).
  • After both spouses have a chance to speak to a few potential counselors, Harley suggests choosing the one that answers those questions appropriately. Then set up your first appointment.

Jody and her husband ultimately decided to divorce.

Looking back at the whole scenario, they question if divorce should have even been an option. At the time, they both felt hopeless about their marriage. Without a recovery plan, divorce seemed to be the only answer for them.

If the counselor had given them a plan to save their marriage, they might be happily married today. They will always wonder if a more encouraging counselor would have helped change the course of their family’s life.

 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***