How To Find A Couple’s Counselor
Updated March 03, 2020
Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC
All relationships face challenges and undergo stress. Maybe the two of you just cannot agree lately, or work has become a burden, or a family member is sick. Any of these things can cause an otherwise happy relationship to turn into a terrible situation. Some people, when faced with this, will give up and try to move on. Others like you want to save a relationship that matters to them.
When you and your partner are experiencing relationship issues, an avenue to mediate any relationship, the struggle is through a couple's counselor. Couples counseling can provide tools for both you and your spouse when navigating issues in your relationship. Here are tips for finding the best couple's counselor for your relationship.
Foreword: Having an Open Mind
Many people, at least at first, experience some discomfort with the idea of going to couples counseling. There can be any number of reasons that a person would not want to attend. It is of utmost importance that, prior to choosing a counselor, you become aware of some things that may stand between you and your (or your partner's) progress. Whether you resolve them beforehand or during counseling, you will need to overcome these obstacles. In this section, we will go over some of the most common.
Swallow your Pride
Some people feel embarrassed about receiving couples counseling. They feel as though they should be able to fix their relationship on their own. However, when things start to get out of control, there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help. In fact, willingness to get help should indicate to your partner that you genuinely care about your relationship with them.
If you or your partner decide to try and fix it alone and fail, you may end up feeling silly for avoiding therapy. Should you go into counseling without intending to take it seriously, you will both defeat the purpose of the therapy and further damage the relationship. Also, the money you spent on it will not come back, so it would be extraordinarily wasteful not to make the most of it. It is up to you to decide - what is worth more, your relationship or your ego?
Let Down your Walls
It is challenging to tell anyone about the shortcomings of a relationship. This is especially true when you have only just met the person you confide in. You may not be sure if you can trust the person yet, or if they will approve of the things you say. While it is your counselor's job to establish rapport, trust, and communication are two-way streets. If you are unable to meet your counselor halfway, they will have considerable difficulty helping you. Remember that these are paid professionals with formal training, and they are there to assist you. You may need to disclose some very personal information to this person. It might help to remember that they have seen it all, and they have probably heard the same or worse from other clients. Even if not, a counselor's job is to counsel, not pass judgment.
Be Ready to Try
When you begin counseling of any type, you may hear some things that you do not want to hear. Sometimes, though, we need someone to tell us painful truths so that we can heal and grow. Your counselor may point out some things you could work on. Should you react badly, you might be tempted to look for someone else or stop counseling altogether. Rather than scoff at the suggestions, though, it is worth taking them into consideration.
Relationships require compromise and sacrifice, and you might have a few bad habits that you will have to lose to keep yours together. Be willing to see the situation from the perspective of your partner and others around you. If you are not, the best counselor in the world will not be able to help you.
The point is, you will probably be asked to try some new things. It is perfectly natural for people to resist change to some degree. Eventually, though, you will have to decide if you are willing to bear the discomfort of novel experiences in the interest of your relationship. If you don't go all the way, the results of your counseling are sure to be unsatisfactory.
Couple's Counseling Basics
If you have successfully resolved the problems above, then you have arrived at a mindset that will be responsive to counseling. The next step is to start shopping around. While the focus of this section will be on the counselor, there are other things to consider as well. Finances, ease of access, and time constraints are all factors that should influence which counselor you choose. You will need to find a balance between all of these things to make the best choice.
The most important aspect of finding a couple's counselor is pinpointing the one that is going to help you and your partner best. Make sure that the counselor you choose is a choice that both of you agree on. Be sure to focus on picking a couple's counselor that will help you mend your relationship, not help you leave it.
Avoid the Possibility of Favoritism
It is important to find a counselor that has things in common with both you and your partner. If one partner "clicks" with the counselor significantly more than the other, the latter partner may feel slighted. This situation also leaves room for genuine bias. A counselor may favor one client over another and demonstrate those feelings unbeknownst to themselves. Situations like these can be hard to identify and even harder to resolve.
Value Objectivity More than Anecdotes
At first glance, it seems like seeing a counselor who has been through your situation would offer the best advice for getting through it. However, their personal experiences are likely to be more of a hindrance than a help. This is because, having been in this situation, they acted out one role in a two-person play. If you or your partner is playing a similar role, the counselor may see themselves in that person, and the sessions will be skewed.
This can be a difficult situation to avoid. Many people have experiences in common, and relationships are no exception. General things like frequent arguing or communication hiccups are things that almost everyone has to deal with, and it is okay to have these things in common.
You are looking to avoid egregious situations that your counselor may have gone through - especially recently. If infidelity was an issue in a counselor's recent relationship, their still-fresh emotions could cloud their judgment when they go to advise you. Find a counselor with an aesthetic distance from your situation.
Sometimes, during their education, a counselor may have studied specific situations in couple's counseling. If your counselor holds a Ph.D., for instance, their prior research experience may have been focused on the problem you and your partner are experiencing. It is true that most couple's counselors will have something to offer you in the way of help. However, specialized knowledge of your specific subject can only serve to help further you resolve the problem.
Counselors with Master's degrees have often conducted research, as well. Most students that pursue post-graduate education work as research assistants at their respective schools. While this means they did not likely organize the study they were a part of, they still bring a unique experience to the table. If you ask your counselor about the projects they have participated in, they will be more than happy to fill you in.
Finding a Counselor with Mutual Respect
Another important factor when choosing a couple's counselor is making sure there is an environment of trust and respect between you, your partner, and your counselor. Don't be swayed by fancy rhetoric, clever marketing campaigns, or a counselor that strives to provide only one of you with any benefits. A mutual feeling of respect must exist between all parties.
What Is The Counselor Like?
Even though you're searching for a counselor that best suits you and your partner, keep in mind that a counselor's own relationship opinions and ideas matter in your therapy. You want to find a couple's counselor that believes in relationship goals and ideas akin to your own although this might seem like an extra step, having a couple's counselor that understands you and your partner's goals is paramount for a successful bout of therapy.
Set Goals Early On
Make sure your couple's counselor is keen on setting and achieving you and your partner's goals early. Setting goals is extremely important for couples seeking to mend their relationship, and without them, there is no path for both of you to walk together on. Having a counselor whose goals are in line with yours helps them lead you and your partner to the path of success.
Look to The Future
Hashing out childhood behaviors to try and assess current, real-time relationship issues isn't a productive way to start your couple's counseling. Finding a counselor that looks to address the future while also focusing on the present and past, but not sticking to it, will help both of you work towards an ideal place in your relationship that is attainable.
Couple's counseling can seem like a daunting prospect when you're having relationship trouble. Finding the couple's counselor that best suits both of your needs is the most important aspect of taking the therapy plunge. By focusing on the future and how your counselor mediates you and your partner's issues, this will only lead you both to a resolution, not a breakup.
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