Married or unmarried couples often contact a therapist for help with their relationship during times of distress, and may decide to see the first therapist who has an opening. Unfortunately, many therapists who work with couples have not had any specialized training in working with distressed couples.
Ask questions about how couples counseling works for relationship help. If you have never talked to a couples counselor before for couple or marriage help, you may be not be sure about how to proceed. Below are some questions to ask when seeking a qualified counselor, as well as some things to look for once you begin couples or marriage counseling.
Many counselors have a general practice and work with couples on the side. While some may have training in working with couples, others may have limited experience and/or training in couples counseling or marriage help.
Here are some questions you can ask over the phone or in person:
- How much of their practice is devoted to couples?
- What experience and training do they have in working with couples in distress?
- Why do they like to work with couples?
- What do they do during the first session?
Like any other professionals, some are better than others. The answers to these questions will give you some clues as to whether or not this counselor knows something about helping couples.
During the first couple of sessions, the counselor will gather information about the relationship, begin to evaluate your situation, and work with you to develop a plan get the relationship help you need.
A good couples counselor will also exhibit some control over the session, identify the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship, explain what makes a successful relationship, and suggest some things you can try to improve your relationship.
Trust your gut. While you may not know after the first session if counseling will help your relationship, you should be able to get a sense of the skill of the couples therapist after just a few sessions.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the session have some kind of structure? Qualified therapists generally have particular things they hope to accomplish in the first session.
- Is the therapist active during the session? A couples therapist will interact with you, ask a number of questions, and gently guide the process rather than remaining passive throughout. For marriage help it important for the counselor to be active and directive.
- Does the counselor make recommendations for changes or give you some ideas for things you can do differently? Trained couples therapists are familiar with research on relationship help, and will make suggestions for things you can try in the session and at home.
- Is the couples counselor on the side of the relationship (as opposed to on your side or your partner's side)? While a therapist may sometimes spend time focusing on one partner or the other, their primary goal is to help the relationship.
The answers to these questions will give you some clues as to whether or not you are in the hands of a good counselor very early on in the process.
For information about your privacy rights see: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/consumers/noticepp.html.
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