How do Find Qualified Help for Your Relationship during a mental health crisis?
Finding a qualified counselor to help you with your relationship isn’t always straightforward or easy.
Couples often contact a therapist in times of distress and may decide to see the first therapist who has an opening. And these days, there seems to be a mental health crisis in the US, and the shortage of qualified therapists who work with couples has become even more severe.
Many therapists who work with couples have not had any specialized training working with distressed couples. Qualified couples therapists may have a variety of degrees or licenses. The most important aspect is their training and experience in working with couples in distress, not their degree.
Here are a few tips for finding a qualified, knowledgeable relationship and marriage counselor.
Take your time.
If you’ve never talked to a couples counselor before, you’re probably unsure about how to proceed. First, prepare some questions to ask each therapist you call.
Questions to ask on your first call.
Many counselors have a general practice and work with couples on the side. While some may have couples or relationship training, 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.
What happens in a couples counseling session?
During the first couple of sessions, the counselor should gather information about the relationship, begin to evaluate your situation, and work with you to develop a plan to get you the relationship help you need.
A good couples counselor will also exhibit some control over the session and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship. They’ll also explain what makes a successful relationship and suggest some exercises you can try to improve your relationship.
Don’t forget, you’re also evaluating the couples counselor.
It’s important that you and your partner feel comfortable with your couples counselor. Trust your gut. While it may take more than one session to determine if counseling will help your relationship, you should get a sense of the skill and experience 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 remain passive throughout. It’s important for the counselor to be active and directive and to stop fights, for example.
- 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 suggest 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.
It you are currently looking for help and everyone seems booked, be patient. 🙏
Waiting for a qualified counselor who knows how to work with couples can make a big difference in your life.