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 How to Choose a Good Marriage Counselor  

Last month I talked about what marriage counselor qualities contribute to marriage counseling not working, so I thought it only fair to write this month about how to choose a marriage or relationship counselor who is competent and will be helpful.

When selecting any counselor or therapist it is a good idea to spend some time interviewing them to make sure they have the expertise needed and they are a good fit with the person seeking counseling.  The same is true for marriage or couple counselor.  Here are a few questions you should ask.

One question that should be asked is how the counselor generally works with a couple.  Do they spend most of the time with the couple together or do they spend a lot of time alone with each member?  Most of the time in counseling with a relationship needs to involve both members of a relationship and a competent relationship therapist will tell you that is how they work.  It is especially telling if a counselor says they spend a lot of time working with each member on “their issues.”  That’s a good sign you are dealing with someone who has an individual problem focus rather than a relationship focus.

It is a good idea to ask what percentage of the counselor’s practice is with couples.  Couples counseling is specialized enough, and different enough, that a counselor needs to keep the work up to keep the skills up.  It is best to work with a counselor who has a good portion of their practice focused on couples.  You should also ask about their specific training and experience in working with couples.  While many counselors don’t get any specific training in how to work with couples, there are several good ways they can learn outside of school.  A competent counselor should be able to talk with you about the training they received.

Perhaps most importantly, you should ask the counselor what their attitude is toward helping troubled marriages versus helping a couple break up.  If they say they are neutral, which is common in this profession, be wary.  A counselor who is committed to helping couples maintain and improve relationships will be more likely to be helpful.  Of course, if they say they don’t believe in divorce, that is a problem also.  There are damaging relationships which should break up, but they are much less common than many counselors believe.

Finally, it is important to be comfortable with your counselor.  While there is usually some discomfort and anxiety with starting any kind of therapy, you should expect to have a general sense of being understood and cared about by your counselor and feel like the way they work will fit with you.