When a partner in a marriage has been unfaithful, it may seem that there is no choice but to dissolve the marriage; however, couples counseling may provide another alternative. A skilled couples counselor may be able to help both partners see how the marriage got off course and help them develop skills to get back on track and build a strong and healthy marriage.
When you engage a couples counselor, you are essentially taking on a third partner in your marriage. For this reason, it’s very important that you choose just the right counselor. You will have a much easier time doing this if you are able to ask the right questions. Here are eight essential questions to ask when choosing a couples counselor.
1. How much will therapy cost?
No matter how wonderful the counselor of your choice is, if you cannot afford his or her fees, you will need to look elsewhere. If you have health insurance, searching for a therapist through your health insurance company will save you time and frustration, since you will only be referred to those whose services are accepted by your insurance company. Otherwise, referrals from family members, trusted clergy, or assisting organizations may help you narrow your search to counselors within your price range.
2. How did you become a couples counselor?
This is an important question because there are many levels of couples counseling and many institutions that provide various types of couples counseling. A person calling him/herself a couples counselor might be someone who has taken a certificate course online or had training through a church or someone who is fully licensed and has a Master’s Degree or a Doctoral Degree. In most cases, you will be best off choosing a fully licensed therapist!
3. What’s your track record?
It’s important that you choose a marriage counselor who has a good rate of success; however, you should be wary if the counselor says that his or her success rate is greater than 75%. That’s not a realistic number. Most good couples counselors have about a 70% success rate. A success rate lower than that would also be reason for caution.
4. Can you help us recover from infidelity?
The best therapists are non-judgmental, and this is very important. If you feel your counselor is judging you, it will be difficult or impossible to have productive counseling sessions because you will always want to hold back. Ask this question and explain the situation briefly, then give the counselor ample time to respond. Pay attention to how you feel about the counselor’s response. It should be non-judgmental and helpful. If it is not, keep looking.
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5. Can you counsel our children?
If you have children, they are involved in your marriage, and they may very well be experiencing difficulties. Often, children mask their distress or exhibit it in some way that doesn’t seem connected to your marital problems. It’s important to find a counselor who can work with the whole family and get to the bottom of any problems your children may be having.
6. How often do you think divorce is the solution to marital problems?
If the counselor says that divorce is often the only solution, it would be a good idea to find another counselor. If s/he says that every effort must be made to avoid divorce and that it is the last resort, that is a good sign the counselor will work hard to help you heal your marriage.
7. Do you do other types of counseling, and if so, how much?
A therapist who primarily works with individuals and doesn’t really devote much of his or her practice to couples counseling may tend to work on the individual more than on the relationship. This may not be helpful to your relationship. Clearly, if you did not want to stay together, you would not be seeking couples counseling, so you should be sure the counselor you choose is focused on saving your marriage.
8. Have you ever undergone extensive counseling?
It’s important that the counselor you choose not just pay lip service to counseling. A counselor who has never been counseled will have a difficult time empathizing with his or her clients. Ideally, your couples counselor should have personal experience with counseling beyond the classroom role-playing required to earn a degree.
Your counselor should understand, first hand, that it takes courage to ask for help and it takes strength to commit to creating positive change in your life. Your ideal counselor is one who seeks counsel for his or her own challenges.
When you find a therapist who can answer these eight important questions to your satisfaction, you have found the perfect counselor for you! Once you have made your choice, you can get down to the difficult, yet rewarding journey of couples counseling to rebuild and reinforce your marriage.