Questions to Ask your Couple’s Counselor

How will you know your Couple’s Counselor is qualified?

If you need help with your relationship, it is CRITICAL that you find a professional who has training, wedding-silhouette-kissexperience, and skills in counseling couples.  Relationship therapy is a specialty, and most mental health professionals did not receive any direct training in couple’s counseling in their graduate programs.  That’s like asking a heart surgeon, who’s incredibly trained and skilled, to perform Lasik eye surgery.  They could probably muddle their way through it, but it won’t be pretty, and could be damaging.

Before employing the services of a potential couple’s counselor, I suggest asking them a few questions about their training and background.  Ask:

  1. How much experience do you have specifically counseling couples?

Experience isn’t everything, but it’s a good indicator of success.  I train counselors, some of whom have lots of talent, but little experience.  In that case, with the right supervision, they can still be very effective.  That being said, in most cases you want to find a counselor with at-minimum several hundred hours experience counseling couples.  If they have several thousand hours experience with couples, that typically means that they are having success and their clients are referring friends, which is typically a good sign.

  1. What types of training did you receive to work with couples?

Most therapists do not receive specific training in counseling couples or performing marriage therapy.  In the graduate training programs, students take loads of important courses, but couples therapy is often not one that’s offered.  Furthermore, all mental health professionals are required by law to engage in continuing education throughout their career, and some professionals use this opportunity to hone their couple’s counseling skills.  Ask your potential counselor about their specific training in working with couples.

  1. What’s your success rate in working with couples?

I’ll be honest – this is a very hard question to answer.  “Success” takes lots of different forms in couple’s counseling.  Often success means improving the relationship, reducing conflict, strengthening communication, etc, but success can also mean feeling heard, feeling validated, increasing empathy, and feeling like counseling was a good use of time and money despite the outcome.  For me, I want to help the couple achieve their goal, which generally means improving the trust and connection in the relationship.

  1. What rules do you have for meeting with us individually or together?

There are lots of couple’s therapist that only meet with the couple as a unit.  If one or both partner’s needcouples individual counseling, the client is usually referred to another counselor.  Other couple’s counselors will use individual sessions alongside the conjoint couple’s sessions.  Both methods have pros and cons, and there is no perfect way to do it.  In fact, I recently gave a professional presentation at a Law & Ethics Conference on ethical considerations when integrating individual sessions into couple’s therapy.

  1. How does insurance billing work when used in couple’s therapy?

It’s complicated.  Health insurance is almost exclusively tied to an individual person, with each person in the family or on the policy having a unique identifying code.  If health insurance is used to offset some of the cost of couple’s therapy, the service is billed through one of the partner’s policy.  This often requires that the partner be diagnosed with some approved mental health disorder.  The insurance company then gets to authorize treatment for said disorder, but the treatment may or may not include couple’s therapy sessions.  It’s complicated.  Moreover, many health insurance policies do not include marital or couples therapy, because relationship health is often not considered “medically necessary.”  Each policy is unique, and you will need to contact your insurance company for authorization.  For these reasons and others, I do not accept insurance in my practice, but other counselors do.

Want to know my answers to these questions?  Click here…

While there are lots of great counselors, therapists, social workers, psychologists, and other helping professionals in the New Orleans area, not all of them are trained to counsel couples.  Ask your potential counselor about their training and certification in couple’s therapy.  Also, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy maintains a list of members in your area (aamft.org), which is a helpful resource in searching for a professional trained in relational therapies. More locally, the Louisiana Professional Counseling Board website maintains a list of licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs).

If you have further questions about couple’s counseling, please give me a call.  I’m glad to help!

 

 

My Answers:

  1. How much experience do you have specifically counseling couples?

I have thousands of hours working with couples, and today, approximately 80-90% of my clinical work is with couples.  More specifically, while most of my work is spent with regular couples trying to improve their relationship or increase intimacy, I have lots of experience with premarital counseling, sex therapy, repair after infidelity, peaceful divorces, financial and business coaching, co-parenting, and parenting-skills training.

  1. What types of training did you receive to work with couples?

Both my Master and Doctoral degrees are in Couple and Family Therapy.  I’m a Clinical Fellow and Premarital CounselingApproved Supervisor for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and I’m licensed as a Professional Counselor (LPC) and Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).

I am also, since 2007, a Professor in the Couple and Family Counseling department at the University of Holy Cross.  I teach courses specially related to Counseling Couples, Families, and Sex Therapy.

  1. What’s your success rate in working with couples?

Again, this is a hard question to answer, because success is so nuanced in couple’s counseling.  Most of my clients attend multiple sessions, and most report feeling like it was a worthwhile experience.  I have seen countless couples improve areas of their relationship, including overcoming difficult and painful affairs.  Despite the circumstances, I try to hear and respect each client, try to put their relationship first, try to avoid blaming one partner for the entirety of the problem, and try to be a compassionate guide.  As a rule, most of my clients attend 10-14 sessions.

  1. What rules do you have for meeting with us individually or together?

I find it beneficial to use individual sessions to adjunct the couple’s therapy.  This is always done in coordination with the couple – both partners need to be aware and agreeable to any individual session.  Most, if not all of the work is done with the couple, but I am open to meeting with an individual partner as needed.  Any session is designed to benefit the relationship.

  1. How does insurance billing work when used in couple’s therapy?

I do not accept insurance because most of my clients do not have mental illnesses that insurance companies require in order to authorize treatment.  Most of my clients have insurance, but few of them allow for couple’s therapy.  I know, it sucks.  I hope in my lifetime relationships are covered as part-and-parcel of mental health.