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   Choosing a Marriage Counselor: Things to Consider

Most marriage relationships encounter challenges at one time or another. Today’s fast-paced lifestyles may add stress to otherwise healthy marriages, and often it’s difficult to determine when to look for professional help. Even grandparents need help. But if you’ve arrived at the decision to seek outside help with your marriage, the next question becomes, “Where to go?” Here are some common-sense questions to consider as you search out the appropriate marriage professional to guide you and your mate through the issues you’d like to address.

Professional Credentials and Experience

Just as you’d probably prefer to have an experienced surgeon doing your triple bypass, you probably also want a counselor or therapist with some experience.

There are different professional degrees to consider in finding the right person and background for you. You’ll want someone who will focus on the relational aspect of marriage rather than personal therapy for one.

Values and Belief Systems

It’s crucial that you find a counselor who has similar values and beliefs to yours. If your goal is to strengthen marriage bonds and your counselor believes that marriage is an outmoded way of life, you’re in trouble. That’s not to say that you need to take an inventory of personal beliefs such as church denomination, or political leanings, but in the broad scheme of things, you’re looking for a professional person who holds similar values to yours and those of your spouse.

The expense: Time and Money

 There are basic questions to ask before you ever set foot in the counseling room.

First you’ll need to know how much the counselor charges per session and how long each session lasts. Are you signing up for a series of sessions and if so, how many? What happens if you need to cancel a session and does your medical insurance cover the cost? Is there a sliding scale based on your income? Get your time and money questions answered before you begin to meet with the counselor.

 Gender and Personality

Your long-term goal is a stronger and happier marriage. Who can help you achieve that? Are you most comfortable with a man or a woman or does that matter to either of you? And what sort of person will make you feel most at ease as you work out problems? Are you okay with an aggressive type A personality, or do you prefer a calmer, quieter person? While you may not be able to know all the details about your counselor ahead of time, you can probably get a good idea by asking questions.

 Where to Find the Right Person?

How will you find this qualified, just-right person for your marriage counselling? Will you cruise the phone listings or go online? Will you ask trusted friends or perhaps a pastor to give a recommendation? And does the location of the office or other meeting place make a difference to you? You may want to think about attending a counseling session in the midst of your busy schedule and think twice about making sure you can get to the counseling site without additional stress before your sessions.

Trust Your Instincts

As in all major decisions, you’ll need to be honest with yourself all through this important process. If the counselor selected doesn’t work out for you, you have the right to find another. If the location or cost doesn’t feel right to you, it probably isn’t. If you attend session one and feel worse than when you went in, or if anything about the session strikes you as unhelpful, you have the right to terminate the counseling relationship. This is one time when it’s important for you to “trust your gut.”

As you search for the marriage professional who will help guide you to a stronger, healthier marriage relationship, take courage from the fact that you’re being proactive. You’re taking a step to make one of the most important relationships in your life better. Good for you, and good luck in your search for the best possible counselor for you and your spouse.    A list of the top 10 counseling resources on the web.