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Marriage counseling advice -- how to choose the right therapist

Great! You’ve taken the first step toward a better marriage and you’re ready to find some relationship help. At the same time, picking the right therapist can be challenging. Here is Dr. Susan Heitler’s advice for choosing a marriage counselor who will truly help you.

First and foremost, make note of how you feel after your first one or two sessions. A great couples counselor will leave both spouses feeling happier and closer after just about every session, and they will have the sense that they’ve learned something lasting.  If you don't feel good right after the session -- try someone else.

Here are some thoughts about what to look for and what to avoid when deciding on a therapist.

  1. Avoid therapists that let you continue your negative habits during a session. A good counselor will help you see these patterns and point them out so that you can correct them. It’s not a good sign if he or she lets you criticize each other, make negative comments, talk over each other, or get angry.  A good therapist is quick to intervene to help keep the couple positive and on track.
  2. Watch out for therapists who take sides or have a “right v. wrong” approach to conflicts.  Marriage counseling advice should be about encouraging dialogue, and is not meant for the therapist to act like a judge and resolve issues.  In the end, he or she should give you tools for coming to a win-win resolution that respects the rightness in both of your positions.
  3. It’s important to reflect on the path of your relationship and dig up the roots of your problems. At the same time, therapy that only focuses on what happened in the past is not a great way to move forward! Your therapist should spend equal time helping you to learn the skills to move forward with a great marriage. That’s what marriage counseling is all about!
  4. A therapist should actively teach you skills and techniques for a healthy marriage and not expect you to have all the answers. It’s great when you’re given the chance to search inside yourself and discover answers on your own. At the same time, if we all knew how to do that, there would be no need for marriage help! The goal in counseling is to get the tools you need to progress forward on your own, and your therapist should be a coach helping you ever step of the way.

For many of couples, skills are really what they need most from couples counseling.  Power of Two Online is your #1 resource for learning the secrets to a strong and loving marriages, and it can be used either on its own or to assist more traditional couples counseling. Become a member and start talking to your personal marriage coach right away!


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Dr. Abigail Hirsch

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Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Health Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant 90-FE-0123. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Department of Health and Human Servies, Administration for Children and Families.