What happens in marriage counseling?
We meet once a week, and sessions are 50 minutes in length. In our first session together, I will learn as much as possible about your marriage or relationship, including how you met, how you got to where you are now, and anything else you think is important for me to know. I sometimes use the next two sessions to meet individually with each partner, although this is not always necessary.
I try to improve a couple’s communication so that they can move from “gridlock” to healthy dialogue about their key issues. In later sessions we talk about handling conflict, rebuilding the friendship (if necessary), bringing romance back, and finally, discussing long-term goals and dreams.
Does couples counseling work?
Yes, couple counseling works very well. In an article published in The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, clients of 526 marriage counselors were surveyed, and 91.2% of the clients said they were satisfied with the amount of help they received.
You and your partner have learned many things during your lives. If you want to, you can also learn new ways of being with your partner, and there is an excellent chance that couples counseling will help you to get the changes you want in your relationship.
I’m not sure if we need marriage counseling or not. How can we know for certain?
My belief is that if you think you might need counseling, you probably do! Marriage counseling is under-utilized. Marriage counselors should be consulted sooner, rather than later! Studies show that the average couple doesn’t seek professional help until six to seven years have passed since the relationship started to go downhill. Sometimes a couple is on the verge of divorce before they begin working with me, and they always wish that they had started counseling sooner.
I offer a free 30-minute consultation which allows a couple to “kick the tires” and find out if they feel comfortable working with me.
My husband would prefer to see a male marriage counselor. But wouldn’t a male marriage counselor take my husband’s side, and/or not understand how a woman feels?
Marriage counselors avoid taking sides because it is counterproductive to long-term counseling success. That said, if I feel one partner needs to make a change in a particular area, I’ll say so.
I spent a year as a volunteer counselor at a domestic violence shelter working almost exclusively with women. That experience plus my time working with couples makes me confident that I am capable of seeing things empathetically from a female perspective.
Why is counseling better than reading a self-help book, such as the one by Dr. Phil?
Relationship counseling books may help a few people, but they rarely motivate people to do the things necessary to achieve long-lasting improvements. Authors don’t know the details of your relationship, so they can only present general suggestions in a “one size fits all” manner. Another problem is that a person may incorrectly interpret things from a book in a way that favors his or her own position. On the other hand, marriage counselors are unbiased and insure that neither partner can claim an unfair advantage over the other.
Will marriage counseling make us agree on everything?
That’s unlikely! Up to 70% of couple conflict, even in stable couples, is about “perpetual” issues. My goal in dealing with perpetual problems is not to decide who gets their way and who doesn’t, but instead to avoid gridlock by establishing healthy dialogue about the issue, in which each partner communicates acceptance of the other’s position.
Amazingly, in an advanced (or “emotionally intelligent”) couple, these perpetual issues can become a source of amusement! It’s safe to say that there is no relationship without at least one perpetual problem.
How long does couple counseling take?
I usually ask a couple to commit to 12 sessions. The first few sessions should be weekly, and after that sessions can be either weekly or bi-weekly. Couples are always free to come back on an “as needed” basis.
What hours do you work?
I work from 12 noon until 8 PM Monday to Thursday, and 10 AM to 6 PM on Friday.
Do you offer in-home counseling?
Yes, counseling in your home is available in certain situations, such as high-profile individuals or people with physical disabilities. There is an extra charge for in-home sessions.
Is it ever too late to save a marriage?
No, it’s never too late. Marriage counselors agree that if both husband and wife are open to change and willing to do some work, love can be rekindled and a happy and satisfying marriage can be restored.
We have been fighting so much that I feel physically ill. Is that crazy?
No, not at all. Marriage counselors will tell you that a fractured relationship can cause significant stress in an individual, and that stress can contribute to a variety of physical ailments that can have serious physical effects. Recent studies also show that when a fight begins with a “harsh startup” (referring to how the problem is initially presented by one partner to the other) adrenaline and cortisone levels rise significantly, just as they do in the “fight or flight” response.
My husband (or wife) refuses to go to a marriage counselor. Is there any benefit in me going alone?
Yes. When one partner makes some positive changes and shares what has been learned, the other partner frequently becomes motivated to make his/her own positive changes. Hopefully the reluctant partner then becomes willing to attend counseling. Read more about my recent experiences on this matter in my blog post Marriage Counseling for One.
Does infidelity mean the marriage is over?
No, infidelity doesn’t have to mean the end of the marriage. Many couples have survived infidelity. It’s traumatic, it hurts terribly, but you can get through it with professional help. I have found that the crisis brought on by a unfaithful spouse is frequently the trigger for the couple to seek the counseling they have needed for a long time.
Are you the kind of marriage counselor who just repeats everything I say?
No. I listen to what my clients say and then either ask questions in order to probe deeper or point out other things that may need to be addressed.
Do you offer pre-marital counseling?
Yes. Some couples come voluntarily for pre-marital counseling, while others are required to do so by their church. I try to make pre-marital counseling a fun experience while at the same time looking for any potential trouble spots that should be addressed sooner rather than later.
Do you offer divorce counseling?
I hardly ever recommend that a couple divorce. However, if both husband and wife are agreed that they want to divorce, and both wish to work with a counselor so that they can terminate their marriage as amicably as possible, then yes, I am happy to work with them.