WHAT DOES A GOOD MARRIAGE COUNSELOR DO?
Written by one of our mentors- Dr. Williard F. Harley Jr.
Jim and Teresa are passionate about marriage. The passion started with a desire to improve their own marriage and over the last 26 years has spread to a desire to improve marriages all across the country. They have 4 children.
Jim was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Teresa in Tupelo, MS.
Jim is a graduate of Delta State University, Teresa received her undergraduate degree at Mississippi University for Women and her Master’s at Reformed Theological Seminary in Marriage and Family Therapy.
The Adams are sought after speakers and group facilitators and the Co-founders of Family Matters First, Inc. an organization dedicated to forming strategic partnerships with local churches to divorce proof marriages, strengthen families, and model Christ to young people.
My books and articles provide you with methods and tools that have proven useful to me in saving marriages. But even the best concepts and forms in the world won’t help under certain conditions. Sometimes you need the support and motivation that only a professional marriage counselor can provide.
The purpose of a marriage counselor, from my perspective, is to guide you through (1) emotional minefields, (2) motivational swamps and (3) creative wildernesses.
The emotional minefields represent the predictable, yet overwhelmingly painful experiences that many couples go through as they try to adjust to each other’s emotional reactions. Hurt feelings are the most common, but depression, anger, panic, paranoia and many others seem to pop up without warning. These emotions distract couples from their goal of creating romantic love, and often sabotage the entire effort.
A good marriage counselor helps couples avoid many of these emotional landmines and is there for damage control when they’re triggered. He/she does this by understanding the enormous stress couples are under as they are facing one of their greatest crises.
When one or both spouses become emotionally upset, he/she has the skill to diagnose and treat the emotional reactions effectively. I counsel with a psychiatrist who prescribes psychotropic medication (anti-anxiety and anti-depressants) to alleviate the emotional pain that often accompanies the process of marital adjustment. A good counselor knows how to calm the couple down and assure them that their emotional reactions are not a sign of hopeless incompatibility.
The motivational swamps represent the feeling of discouragement that most couples experience. They often feel that any effort to improve their marriage is a waste of time.
Over the years, I believe that one of my greatest contribution to couples has been my encouragement when things looked bleak. My clients knew that at least their counselor believed that their effort would be successful. Eventually, each spouse would come to believe it too.
Discouragement is contagious. When one spouse is discouraged, the other quickly follows. Encouragement, on the other hand, is often met with skepticism by the other spouse. So its easy to be discouraged, and difficult to be encouraged, when you are trying to solve marital problems. A marriage counselor should be there to provide needed encouragement when there’s none other in sight.
The creative wilderness represents the typical inability of couples in marital crisis to create solutions to their problems. In the books I’ve written, many solutions are suggested but they’re only the tip of the iceberg. Many marital problems require solutions that are unique to certain circumstances. In this site, I put more emphasis on the process you should follow to solve marital problems than I do on the specific strategy you should use. That’s because there are too many situations that require unique strategies.
A good marriage counselor is a good strategy resource. While you can, and should, also think of ways to solve your marital problems, a marriage counselor should know how to solve problems like yours. That’s what you pay him/her to do! And his strategy should make sense to you. In fact, his strategy should encourage you in the belief that your problems will be over soon. Counselors often obtain special training for many common marital problems, such as sexual incompatibility and financial conflicts. These counselors can document a high rate of success in finding solutions to those problems.
To summarize, the three most important reasons to find a marriage counselor are (1) to help you avoid or overcome painful emotional reactions to the process of solving marital problems, (2) to motivate you to complete your plan to restore romantic love to your marriage, and (3) to help you think of strategies that will achieve your goal.
If you can handle your emotional reactions, provide your own motivation and can think of appropriate strategies, you don’t need a marriage counselor. In fact, I suggest that you try solving your problem on your own until you hit a roadblock. But if your efforts hit a snag, find a professional marriage counselor to help you. Marital problems are too dangerous to ignore, and their solutions are too important to overlook.