How to Find a Marriage Counselor Don’t just drop in on the first shrink in the Yellow Pages. Follow these six tips for finding someone right for the two of you. BY FRANCINE KIZNER
When seeking help, finding the right counselor is very important.
“ It’s vital to find someone who is truly a couple's therapist, and not a therapist trained to work with individuals who happens to see couples, too.”
Marriage counseling… ugh. It’s the last thing you want to go through. But sometimes it’s just what your relationship needs, and it’s important you find the right one. We’ve done the grunt work by consulting some experts who’ve given us six tips to help you find your marriage-counselor match.
1. Use your intuition. "Be sure you find someone you like and feel comfortable with. Finding the right person can make all the difference," says Dr. Ellyn Bader, founder and directors of The Couples Institute (couplesinstitute.com). When you call the therapist ask yourself, "Does the therapist seem interested in you? Do they ask you questions to get significant information, or do they seem to be in a hurry to get off the phone?" asks Bader.
"A good marriage therapist creates an environment where both sides can feel safe to discuss anything," says relationship expert Shoshanna Rikon (shoshannasmatches.com).
2. Check out their experience. "Look for a therapist who has been in practice more than seven years, who sees a minimum of six to eight couples every week and can tell you that they’ve gotten specialized training," says Bader.
"It’s vital to find someone who is truly a couple's therapist, and not a therapist trained to work with individuals who happens to see couples, too," says Susanne Alexander, founder of Marriage Transformation (marriagetransformation.com). "There’s a danger that the therapist will treat individual unhappiness and not effectively address the couple issues."
3. Find someone affordable and geographically desirable. "You don't want excuses, like 'it's a hassle,' or 'it’s too expensive to go to therapy,' to derail the progress you can make as a couple," says Rikon.
4. Don’t go to a divorce therapist. "Ask about the therapist's philosophy regarding divorce," says Stephanie Buehler, a psychologist specializing in relationships and sex therapy and director of The Buehler Institute (thebuehlerinstitute.com). "The joke about couples' therapy is that it’s really divorce therapy, wherein the therapist helps the couple to separate rather than stay together. If this isn’t your goal—and as long as there are no glaring red flags, like repeated affairs, repeated drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, etc.—make sure you see a therapist who believes in marriage."
5. If you have a special problem, go to a specialist. "If the couple has specialized issues—such as drug addiction, alcoholism, sex addiction or abuse—the counselor must be skilled in addressing these," says Alexander.
"Therapists often choose a niche that they are passionate about, and you can benefit from their additional knowledge and training in those areas," says Buehler.
6. Ask for a referral. "Ask some happily married friends," says Rikon. "Doctors and other psychiatrists are also another good way to go to get a referral on a top couples' therapist."
"A referral does two things," says Buehler, "It’ll make you more confident in the therapist, and the therapist will take an interest in you because he or she wants to please the referral source."