A good marriage counselor can give you the tools to save your marriage, but not all marriage counselors are effective. I must say that while education and training are imperative for quality counseling, without some key interpersonal skills and traits even the most educated counselor will not be able to help.
Here are potential counselor problems:
*Couples canít relate to their counselor or vice versa. When my husband and I sought grief counseling after the death of our son, we were sent to an earnest young man in his early 20s. He was a very nice guy, but there was no way he could possibly understand the strains of marriage, parenting and loss. He was going by the textbook instead of real life experience, and while one doesnít necessarily need to *have* a disease to know how to cure it, counseling relies upon a emotional skill set that goes beyond scribbling down a prescription. You canít just nod and empathize with deep feelings that youíve never felt before. We passed on the counseling.
*The counselor does not recognize the uniqueness of each marriage and instead attempts to make every marriage fit the definition of traditional marriage. Not all relationships care to live within traditional boundaries of marriage. Does the counselor take cultural backgrounds into consideration, for example?
*The counselor cannot be objective. Letís face it, counselors are humans, too. They have their own life experiences through which they filter and shape their opinions. Early in our marriage, I began to have second thoughts and wondered if I made a bad mistake rushing into my marriage. I sought counseling and the woman, fresh from a divorce herself, encouraged me to get a divorce, too. She said I was rebounding from a bad, long-term relationship and did not want to get married at all. From all outward appearances, it seemed possible, but deep within, something told me otherwise. Turns out that my inner self was correct. We just celebrated 25 years of a very happy union.
Some counselors take sides when they should view themselves as advocates for each person and the marital union. There is no right or wrong. Just choices and consequences. A good counselorís role is not a referee or a judge; her goal should be to guide each partner to self-discovery and mutual understanding in order to create a happier relationship.
*The counselor has poor communication skills. Some counselors can drone on in technical terms that confound the layperson. Others arenít clear and concise.
*The counselor isnít having any effect on your marriage. While itís good not to expect immediate change, a good counselor should help you set and reach mini-goals and be accountable for your progress.
*The counselor makes you do too many unproductive or silly exercises. Homework is critical. You need to practice newly learned skills. But if the exercises are poorly designed and you canít take them seriously, you wonít be gaining anything.
*The counselor wastes your counseling time. A good counselor will have done her homework to refresh herself about your case before you walk in the door. She wonít spend your time with her re-reading notes while you sit there waiting. She wonít take calls and she wonít use any of your valuable hour to schedule your next appointment.
But itís important to know where your boundaries are with your newfound confidante. You pay for her time as you would with any other service. You should not expect her to be your new best friend nor should you text, email or call her on her private cell number unless she invites you to for emergency purposes.
Despite common pitfalls of counseling, I still firmly believe that counseling is a good way to hear an objective third partyís insights about your marital relationship. A counselor will keep the details confidential, unlike family, friends and co-workers, and offer solid advice on how you can improve the quality of your marriage through better communication and understanding.