How to find a good marriage counselor

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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Warning: Facebook can be hazardous to your relationship

There are more than 400 million active users on Facebook. It has grown into a huge social networking site. While it is useful in that it gives you access to all your networks of friends and family and helps you stay in touch, there are some dangers to be aware of.

In my practice, I have had a steadily increasing number of couples with complaints that Facebook has become an issue in their relationship. It doesn’t have to be, but if you are not careful, it can certainly wreak havoc.

Infidelity happens at the place where vulnerability meets opportunity and a choice is made. Anyone can be vulnerable to an affair. It is a dangerous thing to think your relationship is affair-proof. Vulnerability can result from issues in the relationship: poor communication, disconnection, or lack of intimacy. Vulnerability can result from external circumstances such as grieving the death of a loved one, loss of a job, birth of a child, anything that causes undue stress. Vulnerability can result from personal issues such as lack of self-worth, fear of intimacy, or substance abuse.  

Opportunity for an affair can come in different forms. It can come in the form of a friend, a co-worker, or friendly neighbor. In recent times, the Internet has broadened the depth of opportunity that is out there for an affair to occur.

Here is where Facebook becomes a threat. This is where people connect with ex-lovers, ex-flames, an ex-crush, or even with an old friend, and it might feel nostalgic to reminisce. This nostalgia can be mistaken for love interest. This may be innocent on the surface, but to the couple who is struggling, it becomes a great threat.

Here are some boundaries that may reduce the threat of Facebook on your relationship:

Be each other’s Friend so that nothing is hidden.

Do not connect with an old flame on Facebook unless you talk about it openly with your spouse and your spouse is comfortable with you doing so. But if you are having any difficulties in your relationship, avoid this at all costs.

Do not discuss any marital problems with people on Facebook. This is where the potential to share and relate opens the door to a deeper connection that threatens your relationship.

Make clear on your profile page that you are married or in a relationship.

If members of the opposite sex begin inappropriate sexual or flirtatious banter, put an end to it immediately and share it with your spouse.

Talk openly with one another with how you feel about certain types of friends on Facebook, and what each of your own personal boundaries are around its use. Be respectful of each other’s freedom of choice and privacy, but also respect each other’s boundaries on what is okay and not okay.

Be protective of your time as a couple. The other way that Facebook threatens a relationship is the amount of time spent chatting with friends, playing Farmville or Mafia Wars, or other addicting games that rob you and your partner of quality time. So put some limits around its use.

Facebook itself is not necessarily the issue, but it presents opportunities for connection that was not there before and something that may have started out as harmless fun can turn into something that breaks down trust in your relationship.

Facebook is not going anywhere any time soon. Online opportunities will continue to pose threats to the fidelity of your relationship. It is up to you to not let these outside influences inject themselves into the safety of your relationship.

True healing

Our negative emotions (pain, fear, frustration) serve a purpose. They let us know that something is going on within us that needs attention.

When we experience physical pain, it is the body’s way of alerting us that something is not quite right and needs attention. If we were to just medicate that pain without looking at what’s causing it, we can inadvertently cause more damage. 

Such is the same with negative emotions. Our culture wants immediate gratification and happiness and has lost sight of the valuable growth that comes from delayed gratification and understanding and “feeling” emotions. Many are in the habit of numbing or avoiding their negative emotions. Whether it’s through prescribed medications, or self-medication techniques like drugs, alcohol, porn, sex without love, etc. Emotional pain is an indicator that something is not right. And if you allow yourself to feel it, examine it, understand the thought process and behaviors behind it, then you can do the necessary work to grow, to move through it and create healing. The problem with this method is that it’s time consuming, it’s not a quick fix. However, it’s a longer term fix and allows for a deeper connection with yourself and the important people in your life.

Individual Counseling

Finding your way

If you are an individual struggling with an issue or are feeling unsatisfied with your life and/or relationships, counseling can help.

Whether you are experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, difficulties in mood, trouble with decision making, dealing with or trying to recover from a past or present trauma, individual counseling can help you identify the negative thought patterns that are getting in the way of creating a happy and satisfied life.

Individual counseling can help deal with postpartum depression, cope with grief from experienced loss, or heal from pain of past trauma. Whatever issue you might be dealing with, having a compassionate safe place to talk can help along with a skilled professional that can help create change.

We are here and ready to help. Contact us today.