MarriageRoughSpotFilter: How do I find a good marriage counselor?
January 6, 2006 4:59 AM   Subscribe

MarrageRoughSpotFilter: It being the New Year and all, I have decided I am not going through another year like the last one - with a roommate instead of a wife. The thing is, how does one find a good marriage counselor? I know the obvious answer is through referrals, but what if you don't know anyone who has gone to one (that you know of)? It's not the kind of thing I would like to go around and ask my coworkers and friends. I live in the Northern suburbs of Atlanta. Any suggestions, ideas, and advice would be greatly appreciated. I would also like to hear from people who have gone through a rough spot and what they did to get out of it. I love her, and I am trying to figure out a way to work through this. Thanks!
posted by wisdom-seeker to Human Relations (13 answers total)
we've gone through rough spots, although we've never used counsellors and it's impossible to know if our experience is as bad as yours (maybe we're still together just because it wasn't as bad).

no wonderful advice, unfortunately. in our case there's generally been a consensus that talking/arguing/fighting is better than silence, and a committment on both sides to make it work, or just hang on in there.

you'e not alone, it is hard, it can get better, and even a year or two of pretty miserable times can look pretty brief ten years on. good luck.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:51 AM on January 6, 2006

One option, if you're too embarrassed to ask anyone you know, would be to pick up the phone book and just call some of the offices in your area and ask about the counsellors' qualifications, degrees, how many clients they have, etc. Or, if you're church-going people, you might ask your pastor/rabbi/shaman if he/she can recommend anyone.

You might have to visit a couple of different counselors before you find the one that's "right" for you, and that can be frustrating, but it's worth the effort.

Also, just in case -- good on you for taking the initiative on counseling. Do go, even in the event that your wife opts not to go with you at first. Best of luck to you.
posted by Gator at 5:57 AM on January 6, 2006

When we were looking, one of us happened to already be in therapy and we got some good leads that way. Talk to your primary doctor, they should be able to send some info your way. Call your insurance company, see who is nearby that they cover and then call up the counselors they recommend. Do a phone interview with them - see if you "click" over the phone. Does your employer offer an EAP (employee assistance program)? Call them up and see if they have recommendations. Talk to your church leaders if you're a church going person. Sometimes churches will offer free or low-cost counseling.

Ask them how long they've been doing this, what their qualifications are (degrees and whatnot), etc. etc. etc.

And don't feel like you're stuck with the first one you get. It won't always work out with the first one.

That's what worked for us and we found a great one. Nowhere near Atlanta, though, so I'm not help in that regard.

Good luck!
posted by schnee at 6:02 AM on January 6, 2006

It's a good idea to go to counseling.

It won't necessarily help.

You and your spouse have to 1) Agree to make changes; 2) Write down and sign - what you will do to achieve those changes? 3) Keep each other accountable for the terms of your agreement.

This process of written agreements is basic Behavioral Therapy 101. If you can't agree on what needs to change and what you will each do to accomplish it, then you need to reassess the future of your success.

Negotiate. Ask questions. Be supportive, be demanding. A professional can guide you through this process, but to change your marriage you have to change your marriage.
posted by ewkpates at 6:32 AM on January 6, 2006

All good advice. One thing I'd add is to think about what type of counselor you and/or your spouse would repond best to. Male? Female? Any certain approaches you like or dislike?

Years ago my then-girlfriend and I went to see a counselor who was deeply devoted to Freud and it was a frustrating waste of time for all involved. It wasn't about not getting a red bike for my fifth birthday -- it was about our communication issues. He never addressed the present.

It's okay to change counselors if they don't seem like a good fit for you. The important thing is making an effort and working on things together.

I wish you the best.
posted by Atom12 at 6:38 AM on January 6, 2006

Just go and check out some counsellors. It's hard to find a great one on the first try and knowing that saves a lot of frustration. If your gut says no, then no. I've gone to great therapists and awful ones and knew in the first 1/2 hr which was which.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:17 AM on January 6, 2006

Either of your workplaces may have an Employee Assistance Program; very often they're mentioned at your benefits briefing and then swiftly forgotten in the onslaught of other benefit information coming at you. The EAPs can often guide you in the right direction on counseling referrals, if you don't have a pre-existing therapeutic relationship with a professional. If you do, then I would inquire with them first.

I also very firmly second Atom12's remarks regarding seeking someone else if you find that it's not a good fit. That being said, don't use that to avoid becoming uncomfortable — as I'm sure you know, it's very likely not going to be an easy or happy process.
posted by WCityMike at 7:30 AM on January 6, 2006

I think the advice given above is good. Personal referrals are just a starting point - you still have to screen each referral you get, as someone else's perfect therapist may be the most awful rigid person you've ever met. Your starting point could be your primary care physician, the yellow pages, or the Georgia Psychological Association, for instance. I'd strongly suggest you consider yourself as an employer and the therapist as a consultant you are hiring for a project. Be prepared to do your part, and expect results, as you would from any collaborative work project. If, after 4 - 6 meetings, you feel that you haven't gotten anywhere, be sure to bring up your concern to the therapist, and assess how you feel about his/her answers. Don't hesitate to move on if you're feeling that things are going nowhere and you don't believe the therapist is helpful.

Another possibility I'd like to present to you is a new model that I've seen a fair amount of lately. This is where highly regarded therapists put on intensive weekend workshops where lots of couples come and work on their relationships within the context of these marathon sessions. Some examples are like from the Gottman Institute in Seattle and this one from the Couples Institute in Menlo Park. I even notice that the Gottman's have packaged the workshop into a homestudy kit with DVDs, etc.

I don't know anyone personally who has attended these workshops, but I know the Gottmans are very solid practitioners and researchers, and Pete Pearson (Couples Institute guy) is a solid, reputable therapist. The whole approach seems interesting and a novel way of health care delivery - you just pick up and spend the weekend somewhere away, like a mini-vacation, during which you get a chance to look at, and even address issues in your relationship. It's obviously not for everyone, but I just thought I'd put it out there as an option you may not have heard of.
posted by jasper411 at 9:34 AM on January 6, 2006

I, and others I know, have had a good experience with these folks. I don't know that they offer what you are looking for but they may be able to give you the names of a few people in the Atlanta area.
posted by Carbolic at 10:21 AM on January 6, 2006

This doesn't answer your question directly, but as you and your wife seek out a counselor, you might find How to Be an Adult in Relationships helpful too (don't be put off by the "How To" in the title -- it's really not a traditional self-help book at all). I've just started reading it on the recommendation of a friend, and I'm astonished and delighted at how much it resonates with me in a way that no other book on the topic of relationships (or self-growth) ever has. It's an interesting synthesis of Western therapeutic models and Eastern spirituality, and is based on the concept that all healthy relationships (from parent/child onward into adulthood) are predicated on what he calls "attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing." It definitely doesn't need to be a substitute for counseling; in fact, the author encourages an approach of therapy and spirituality simultaneously.

Good luck to you and your wife.
posted by scody at 11:34 AM on January 6, 2006

Ask your doctor. Your doctor will know (usually, anyway) who the mental (or, well, marital) health professionals are in your area, and should have a decent bead on your personality, too. Good luck.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:49 PM on January 6, 2006

Read The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate (half/amazon). It only helps on learning how exactly to speak to your mate, but if you've both read it, can do amazing wonders. I'm no counselor, but I honestly can't see how rough spots occur particularly while knowing the info in this book, but that may just be me. I honestly think it is a plain communication problem, despite having not been given much details about your particular issue :-/ Also check out What Women Want Men To Know (half/amazon) for a load of eye-opener concepts that radically changed the way I speak to women, even my mother.. I'm always one to recommend personal research and resolve before jumping to expensive counseling, because it is usually simple concepts and minor epiphanies that turn the tide, not major overhauls and extensive sessions.. for me, anyway.
posted by vanoakenfold at 1:11 PM on January 6, 2006

This is all great advice, thank you. My company does have an EAP and I will check it out.

Here's some irony: As I type this, I am watching "Everybody Loves Raymond" on TBS - The episode where Deb and Raymond go to a marrage therapist...I swear when it rains it pours...
posted by wisdom-seeker at 4:44 PM on January 6, 2006

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