THIS IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT. But, there are some things you
should know about marriage counseling.
Family and marriage counselors have no magic. The partners
themselves must work to understand the conflicts (with the therapist's
help), devise possible solutions, try out the solutions, see what works,
etc. Relationship problems are hard to resolve, partly because most
people seeking professional help have waited much too long. Do not
expect the counselor to take sides, tell you what to do, or to make
your decisions for you. The clients who expect to patch up their
troubles in a session or two, say for $60 to $200, are expecting magic
and will be disappointed. It will, at least, take several sessions (plus
reading and practicing on your own) and probably months.
In counseling, the problems must be described (from both
viewpoints), goals set, treatment plan developed, some understanding
acquired, new communication skills learned, new attitudes utilized,
compromises negotiated, and love rekindled. It is not possible to know
in advance what a "successful" outcome will be, it isn't always a happy
marriage forever; divorce may be the wise or only choice; staying
together merely to be close to the children may be the best outcome
possible; a trial separation may be wise. Most marriage therapists
believe that both people must be genuinely committed to improving
the marriage via talking therapy in order to benefit from it. So a
couple, still hoping to save the marriage, should see a therapist
together (unless it is the opinion of a qualified therapist that only one
partner has serious psychiatric or personality problems).
The qualifications of marital counselors vary greatly. Almost
anyone can legally call him/herself a marriage counselor, so don't just
look up a counselor in the Yellow Pages (although a qualified counselor
is likely to be listed there if he/she is primarily in private practice).
McCary (1975) says half the marriage counselors may be incompetent.
Many MA-level counselors, especially those from one-year graduate
programs, have little or no specific training in couple's therapy. I
recommend you check to see if your health insurance covers private
therapy for marital problems (usually it won't) and/or some associated
anxiety-depression diagnosis (it always will). If your insurance will pay
50% or more of the expense or if you have the money, search out the
most experienced and most highly recommended (by several people)
marriage therapist in your area. Most insurance will not pay for a MA-
level counselor. The therapy available in Community Mental Health
Centers is usually adequate, if you ask for and get an experienced MA-
level or doctoral level therapist. State supported Mental Health Centers
are low cost if you are poor and charge less than half the price of
private practitioners even if you have a good income.
The discipline of your therapist is important. Most Ph. D.
psychologists can handle marital problems, but, if at all possible,
search for one who is a marriage specialist. Many MD's and
psychiatrists have little or no training with marital problems (if they
are drug-oriented, they can't do you much good). Some psychiatrists,