In any healthy marriage, it is important to seek out help when things are not going the way you want them to. All couples encounter difficulties at some point in the marriage. Looking for a marriage counselor can be a daunting task. You are struggling and want someone to help but you might not know where to start. How do you know if someone is going to be able to help your marriage? If you go to a counselor that doesn’t have the right skills, it could end up doing more harm than good. Here are some questions to ask when interviewing potential marriage counselors.

Ask what their training is: make sure it’s not just in mental health counseling but that they have additional training in marriage and family therapy. The skill sets for individual and marriage counseling are very different and you want to make sure that your therapist has training specific to couples.

Ask what percentage of their practice is made up of couples. For example, my practice is made up of about 85 percent couples. You don’t want someone who sees less than 50 percent. A lot of counselors will say they do marriage counseling but don’t like to or hardly see couples. This person may not have adequate experience to deal with the difficulties in your marriage.
 
Ask how long they have been doing couples counseling. I would recommend seeing someone who has specifically worked with couples for at least 3 to 5 years or longer.

You also have to examine how you feel when you are talking to the person. Are they kind? Courteous? Receptive? Do they take the time to answer your questions? Counseling is also about the relationship so you have to feel comfortable with the person you choose. 

Here is an article from William J. Doherty, Author of Take Back Your Marriage on the do’s and don’ts of good marriage counseling.

Do’s of Good Marriage Counseling

  • The therapist is caring and compassionate to both of you.

  • The therapist actively tries to help your marriage and communicates hope that you solve your marital problems. This goes beyond just clarifying your problems.

  • The therapist is active in structuring the session.

  • The therapist offers reasonable and helpful perspectives to help you understand the sources of your problems.

  • The therapist challenges each of you about your contributions to the problems and about your capacity to make individual changes to resolve the problems.

  • The therapist offers specific strategies for changing your relationship, and coaches you on how to use them.

  • The therapist is alert to individual matters such as depression, alcoholism, and medical illness that might be influencing your marital problems.

  • The therapist is alert to the problem of physical abuse and assesses in individual meetings whether there is danger to one of the spouses.

Don’ts of Bad Marriage Counseling

  • The therapist does not take sides.

  • The therapist does not permit you and your spouse to interrupt each other, talk over each other, or speak for the other person.

  • The therapist does not let you and your spouse engage in repeated angry exchanges during the session.

  • Although the therapist may explore how your family-of-origin backgrounds influence your problems, the focus is on how to deal with your current marital problems rather than just on insight into how you developed these problems.

  • The therapist does not assume that there are certain ways that men and women should behave according to their gender in marriage.

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