Finding a good marriage counselor can seem like a daunting task. It is ideal to ask for a referral from a friend who has gone to one, your physician or clergy. Some people may be uncomfortable asking anyone for such a referral as you will obviously be disclosing that you and your spouse are having problems. The internet is often where people turn, but this is not always a guarantee of a successful outcome.
Here are four tips to help you find the right professional to help you with your marriage.
Search reputable directories
Here are some recommended websites with a counselor search feature:
- National Registry of Marriage-Friendly Therapists
- The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally-Focused Therapy (ICEEFT) find a therapist search feature
- The Gottman Institute Referral Directory
- The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT) therapist locator directory
Find a counselor with the right credentials
All therapists are required to be licensed (or licensed eligible) to practice therapy. This may vary state to state, so be sure to check yours. A practitioner who does marriage therapy can be a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) or psychologist (Ph.D. or PsyD). To specialize in a particular disorder or population, such as marriage or couples treatment often requires advanced training.
A therapist trained in emotionally-focused couple’s therapy (EFT) will have experience with the most proven method to help couples.
Ask the therapist several questions
It is perfectly acceptable to ask the therapist some direct questions to find out if he or she is competent to practice and would be a good fit.
This is particularly important if the therapist was not directly referred to you or you found the person by searching online. No therapist can easily predict how long you will be in therapy until a thorough assessment is completed and even then it can be difficult. Expect to be in therapy a minimum of four to six months and possibly up to a year depending on the degree of problems and how long you have had them. After getting information on fees and scheduling options (make sure you can both make the appointments consistently), the therapist should be willing to spend several minutes on the phone to answer any questions.
Here are some good questions to ask before hiring a marriage counselor:
- How long have you been practicing couples therapy?
- Do you have advanced training? Can you elaborate on that?
- How long are sessions?
- What should we expect?
Is there anything that would rule us out as good candidates for marriage therapy? (For example, a history of domestic violence, substance abuse, etc.)
It is also okay to ask the marital status of the counselor if this is important to you. You may feel more comfortable with a counselor married with kids than one never married or divorced. It isn’t right to ask a bunch of personal questions of the counselor, but, marital status should be acceptable.
Trust your gut about the counselor when you first meet
It what the counselor telling you making sense? Does it sound like he or she has a good understanding of your problems and what can be done to improve things? Do you both like the counselor and feel comfortable? If you do not feel this way within the first few sessions, this particular counselor may not be a good match and it is okay to find another one. Understand that the counselor will assist and guide you to find ways for you both to solve your problems but is not there to solve them for you. A lot of work will be required of you.
Finding help for your marriage is a brave and hopefully, positive undertaking. Knowing where and how to start is the first step.