In my practice, I regularly witness how anxiety provoking and unsettling it can be when couples decide to attend marriage counseling. Typically, by the time one partner decides to take the plunge and reach out to a marriage counselor, both parties fear their relationship may be nearly unrepairable. To add to your list of worries, not knowing the demeanor, personality or method of treatment of the marriage counselor adds an additional level of concern.
Over the years many couples have told me the fears they have of attending their first marriage counseling appointment, and that it begins with how to decide which marriage counselor they can trust. Couples have told me they are worried the marriage counselor may take sides and interject their personal opinions; that one partner will be ‘brow beaten’ during the session, or the marriage counselor may not be able to understand what the issues are. Let’s be honest-the internet is swimming with marriage counselors, so how do you REALLY know which one you can trust with your relationships most intimate details at its most fragile time?
These concerns are valid, and if I were to give advice to a family member or friend in the process of choosing a marriage counselor this is what I would tell them to look for during their screening process:
- Does the marriage counselor have the credentials and experience you feel comfortable with? Take your time to research the types of credentials, degrees and licenses that are out there, and what they mean in terms of level of education and experience. You will want to ensure that they have qualifications that communicate to you they have been adequately trained and experienced in treating relationship and marital problems.
- Did the marriage counselor return your call or email the same day you reached out to them? You want a counselor who is responsive to your phone calls and emails and who takes their practice and your needs seriously. A counselor who makes their practice a priority makes their clients a priority.
- Does the marriage counselor offer a 10-15-minute consultation prior to scheduling your first appointment? This is very important, as it gives you the opportunity to feel them out prior to committing to an appointment with them. This also provides the marriage counselor with an opportunity to hear your concerns and respond to them. Maybe you will like their response- maybe you won’t.
- Is the marriage counselor willing to answer questions about their education, experience, background, and their approach to counseling? A competent counselor will be happy to answer these questions, and will give you direct answers. These answers should come easy to them.
- Does the marriage counselor have their own website that is up to date and informational about them and their practice? A counselor who invests in their practice, presentation to the public and reputation will have the reciprocal effect in their relationship with you. If they write original articles or blogs on their website (especially about marriage counseling or relationships), that’s a plus.
After you have chosen a marriage counselor, it is important that both you and your partner feel comfortable with them. Trusting the marriage counselor promotes the foundation for success in marriage counseling.
The above list is not inclusive of all the things you should consider when looking for a marriage counselor. Every individual varies, and someone else’s suggestions may be entirely different, and are not more or less valid.