7 Questions to Ask a Marriage Therapist
If you and your spouse have made the decision to seek help from a marriage therapist, I congratulate you on working to protect and preserve your marriage. It is often difficult to admit that you may need help but there is no shame in using a marriage and family counseling service. A good marriage therapist can help prevent small problems from turning into big ones and big problems from turning into divorce.
However, it is important to find the right therapist. With so many individuals providing family therapy services, you want to make sure you use someone that holds the same values and beliefs as you.
Here are some questions to ask a marriage therapist before signing up for counseling sessions…
What is your educational background?
According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, licensed marriage therapists should have either a Master’s or Doctoral Degree. If you are considering a therapist who is self-taught or who has only attended a few marriage workshops, think again. It is likely that they do not have the appropriate education or resources to address a broad range of marital issues.
What percentage of your practice is committed to individual therapy vs. marital therapy?
You will want to find a marriage therapist who works mainly with couples. Marriage and family counseling that stresses working with individuals may not be the type of practice that will encourage a couple to stay married. Instead, look for family therapy that asks for couples to attend together.
How successful are you at maintaining marriages?
If you ask this question and the therapist responds that almost all the couples he or she treats stay together, this should be a red flag. Such a high success rate is at best an exaggeration and, more likely, an outright lie. According to studies, 70% is the average for marriage therapists trying to keep a marriage together. If the family therapy service reports a lower percentage, keep looking for someone more successful.
Will children be a part of the counseling process?
Tensions in a marriage can greatly affect a couple’s children. If you are looking for marriage counseling online, many sites will list whether the marriage therapist works only with couples or provides family therapy as well. Even if your children haven’t begun acting out, it can be helpful to give them an opportunity to discuss with a therapist any concerns they may have.
What is the cost of therapy? Do you accept my insurance?
A practical consideration when seeking out marriage and family counseling is the cost. Many insurance companies will cover therapy as an outpatient mental health service. However, there are generally restrictions as to which therapists participate in the plan and often co-payments must be made. If you have to pay for the service out-of-pocket, ask if there is a sliding scale. Also, make sure you know whether you must pay in full at the time of service or if you can make payments.
Do you have experience with couples in our situation?
Every couple is unique as is every marriage therapist. Some therapists have rigid views and may not be supportive of non-traditional situations such as a female breadwinner or stay-at-home dads. Others may not understand or accept a couple’s views on birth control or family values. Explain your situation and listen to how the therapist reacts. While it is good to keep an open-mind to new perspectives on your marriage, you do not want to use a counselor who has a fundamentally different view than yours.
Have you ever recommended a divorce?
This question will give you some insight into how hard a marriage therapist will work to salvage a relationship. If the therapist tells you that often a divorce is the only option, consider using a different practice. While it is unlikely that a counselor has never recommended a divorce to any of their clients, you do not want to use an individual who makes it a regular practice.
These questions give you a firm foundation on which to select the right family therapy practice to help your marriage. Once you have narrowed down your search, also ask about the frequency of sessions, how long they last and how long the entire therapy is expected to take.
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