What makes a good marriage counselor? Surely the universal principle of ‘not all things are created equal’ applies to doing counseling, especially relationship counseling. When it comes to your most important relationships, selecting the right therapist to guide you to a happier place is crucial. The purpose of this blog is to give you a few tips to consider when making this important decision.
1: They are an advocate for the RELATIONSHIP
This may be a little bit of a new concept, but bare with me for just a sec. If you are seeking counseling specifically for your relationship, than neither you nor your partner are the most important entity. BUT your relationship is the most important entity. Your relationship in essence becomes like a person in fact more like a child, it needs to be nurtured, guided, and given an environment where it can not only survive, but grow.
When choosing a marriage counselor, be sure they put the relationship first, above you, and above your partner. Remember you are seeking out a counselor because you are feeling stuck or unhappy in your relationship.
2: They help each partner take responsibility and provide hope for working harder
The very essence of being in a relationship means that more than one person is involved. Meaning that both people play an integral part in that relationship (whether for good or for bad).
We all do things in our relationships that aren’t necessarily helpful; a good therapist will not belittle you or make you feel like it’s all your fault. Occasionally YOU might interpret it that way, but your therapist should be working to help you and your partner to take accountability for the role that you play in your relationship.
Taking accountability for your actions as well as helping your partner see their role should provide hope that something different can and will occur in your relationship.
3: They speak in simple terms, not trying to impress with jargon
Matters of the heart are S.I.M.P.L.E. Therapists should not be trying to impress you with their jargon or fancy terms. They should be helping you to uncomplicate things and jargon should be left to conversations with their colleagues. Emotions and deep matters of the heart are simple things, like “I want you to want me” “I want to be accepted and admired by you” “I want to know that I am important to you.” All of which are simple longings of our heart, which do not need muddied up with jargon or more confusion.
These simple, yet deep rooted longings/emotions should be at the forefront of every interaction you have with your therapist. And if they are not, then it may serve you well to seek a therapist who will put those crucial emotions first.
4: They are relatable but not too personal
Many people search out a therapist who appears to have gone through a similar situation as to what they have been through. There are pros and cons to this approach. As discussed above in point number two, GREAT therapists are able to remain objective throughout the process, putting the relationship first above their own emotional reactions. Although they may be able to relate completely to your situation, your experience may trigger even the best of therapists to relive their own experience making it difficult for them to remain objective.
One healthcare provider, who although is very young in his career, I greatly trust puts it this way “If I had every condition or injury that I saw in just one week of work, if I was not dead I would be completely useless!” You want to know your therapist understands you and your situation but this doesn’t mean that they have to have walked the same path to skillfully lead you. If you find your therapist, not able to stay objective or becoming too pushy, it’s either time to address it with them or find a new therapist.
5: They help you feel less confused, not MORE confused
Have you ever gone to a physician thinking that you had one thing going on and leave feeling more confused or like there is no answer and certainly, very little hope? Walking out of your therapist office should not be that experience. You should feel that they understand you and your situation and have a road map to get you unstuck.
Most importantly they should leave you feeling CONFIDENT not only in their ability, but confident in you and your partners ability to recreate your wonderful relationship. If you leave feeling hopeless or more confused than when you walked in (I’m not saying that they haven’t challenged you) but they really don’t understand, then you may want to find a therapist that better fits your needs.
On a side note, through the course of your counseling journey it may become apparent that the best environment for your relationship is for you and your partner to not stay together. If this is the case, YOU should be the one to decide, not your therapist. At this point a good couples therapist will be able to help both you and your partner understand the difficulties that lie ahead and help navigate those waters.
At Cache Valley Counseling, we offer free Discovery Visits (either in person or over the phone) to make sure that you feel heard and understood by the counselor before you even begin the therapeutic process.