You have decided that Marriage Counseling is your next best step. Now that you took that decision, stress, questions are rushing in your mind. Here is some help to start you on the right foot.
First, it is totally normal that you wonder if this is the thing to do because
- Marriage counseling is expensive (between $75-$200 per hour or more). Most couples undergoing counseling will use between 12 to 20 sessions.
- The statistics are working against you: 50% or marriage today ends in divorce.
- You wonder how good is the counselor and how you can hire the right one.
- You might not be sure how serious is your spouse.
- Will it be only temporary?
- Will the counselor tell you if your situation can’t be saved or will his bias to save your marriage interfere?
You are not alone
Here is a short list of reasons why couples seek marriage counseling:
- premarital counseling
- to negotiate a new kind of relationship
- to understand the other spouse
- to address issues such as sexual difficulties, parenting, substance abuse, financial problems, infidelity
- violence, and other abuse
- at a friend suggestion
The focus of this page is to give you a better understanding of the counseling process, how to prepare, what to expect. As for the costs, you can read the following text on how you can reduce the cost.
Some understanding of the process will help you be comfortable with what will happen. Also, it might help you select the appropriate counselor because you might be more comfortable with a given process. Not all counselor work the same way and have the same beliefs on how to do it.
Looking for a Marriage Counselor
Right at the beginning, even before the first meeting, the process has started. Beware of what you do. Why this warning?
Because many spouse seeking help for their marriage like to be the one taking the initiative because they honestly believe that it is the other spouse that is mainly wrong. Consequently, they initiate the process, find the counselor, meet him or her to ¨see¨ if it is a good match. The hidden agenda is that the leading spouse hope to influence the counselor and have him/her share the same point of Vue.
If you are trying to ¨win¨ the counseling process, be aware that it might just make it worse. There might be more issues related to you than you think. If they do not get resolve because you manipulated the counselor and he doesn’t detect you, your plan will fail. Your spouse will not open up and will have more reasons to quit.
This is also why some marriage counselor will not accept to meet any spouse separately before the first meeting.
Consequently, if possible, try to involve your spouse right at the beginning and remember to avoid the temptation to use it to change him/her.
If you want to consult because you are trying to figure out where you stand. Understand that it is not the same and you should do that first, not at the same time. See ¨undecided¨ or try ¨Save my marriage¨ for what you can do before contacting a Marriage Counselor.
The First Meeting
It is usual to be worried or even scared before that first meeting. It usually is because you expect too much and are concerned that it might turn against you. It will not.
Do not expect too much. Usually, the first meeting is for the counselor to gather basic information on both of you. Each couple is different in terms of experience, age, education, previous relationships, if there is children, health issues, etc. It is also the occasion for you to assess your comfort with the therapist, ask questions, verify his experience.
What not to bring to the meeting: requests to get your spouse to do what you want. He is only a referee. He will not solve your problems. He will help you solve them. You have to understand that.
The first results
What you can expect at that first meeting is that it might change a little the way you talk to each other. You will not learn a new way to talk that you never heard before. But, since the counselor is leading the meetings and setting the rules, it is usual that both spouses accept to ¨play the game¨ and communicate in a way they could have done themselves but was impossible to do because of the tension that is present. But in the office of the therapist, both spouses usually agree since it isn’t a concession to the other.
What to prepare for. He will ask questions. Some might be very personal.
The following meetings
will depend on the therapist, the issues at hand, and many other elements. So it will be difficult to tell you how it will unfold. What you should expect is a quick follow up from the previous meeting and a clear leadership from the counselor.
Some meetings might be with only one spouse. There are issues that are better addressed with a one to one conversation because it takes time for the spouse and/or the therapist to work at it.
At each step, you will probably be informed of the progress. Since the therapist is the expert, he is the one knowing where the process stands and where it is going.
You might feel lost at times and wonder if it is working for you. Ask. Ask the counselor if he evaluates that it is progressing as it should be.
As mentioned earlier it usually takes between 12 to 20 sessions. This is an average. It can be more. If you meet once a month, you can see how long it might take. So be patient. If on your own it took you six years before reaching the point needing a counselor, it would be surprising that it takes only 5 or 6 sessions to resolve it, wouldn’t you agree? The counselor helps you with his expertise to solve your problems but they are yours. If, as a couple, you took six years to agree to consult, what makes you think that as the same couple you can fix it in only a few sessions. You are learning new skills and it takes time.
On your own, it took you six years before reaching the point to agree to meet with a counselor. It would be surprising that it takes only 5 or 6 sessions to resolve it, wouldn’t you agree? The counselor helps you with his expertise to solve your problems but they are yours.
As a couple, you took six years to agree to consult, what makes you think that, as the same couple, you can fix it in only a few sessions. You are learning new skills and it takes time.
THE end result
The objective of Marriage Counseling is to help the spouses improve their communication and their relationship.
- It doesn’t mean it will be as before.
- It doesn’t mean it will be better or worse.
- It might not save your marriage.
The real result is that the basis of the relationship for both spouses will be different because they know more about what is going on between them. They will be more capable of thinking and discussing it.
Which means that it might take the Marriage to a new ¨agreement¨, better or not, and it might also lead to the end of the Marriage. The difference will be that if both spouses did their best in the process, are honest with themselves, whatever their decision, it should be easier from that point on. Unfortunately, it is not always the case, but often it is.
In summary, it will take you faster to your next step in life. It should also equip you better to do it right.
How to find a Marriage Counselor or therapist
Ideally, ask people you trust about health and relationship issues like your doctor, a family member or friend that knows a little about successful marriage. It usually helps to get referrals when choosing a therapist for such an important issue. But do not rely only on such sources. It is not because your sister when through the process with a specific counselor and it worked that it will for you too. Do your homework.
You can search for a Marriage Counseling near you to start with. Also read ¨How to Hire Marriage Counseling Near Me¨ for suggestions on how to select one.
Example of search: ¨Marriage counseling near Houston¨