Thinking of Couple’s Counseling?
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 specifically. In this post, I’ll describe a few qualities that you should look for when considering a competent couple’s counselor.
Look for a Couple’s Counselor that…
- Makes you both initially comfortable (don’t worry… it won’t last). Upon your first meeting the counselor should spend some time with both of you together, and in that context both of you should feel comfortable talking to the counselor. Part of the first few of sessions should be about connecting with both of you and helping both of you share your experience in the relationship. Eventually, the counselor will need to press you both more, making one or both of your more uncomfortable, but this only works if it is based upon trust and connection.
- Doesn’t take sides – all the time (or at least takes sides fairly equally). Your friends and family take your side; your counselor should not, not all of the time. Your counselor should not gang up with you against your partner except in extreme cases. In most cases, it’s when the counselor stays more neutral, and helps you explore your part in the ongoing conflict, that will be most helpful.
- Puts your relationship first (above either of your individual personalities, complaints, or justifications). I often tell my clients that their relationship, their marriage, is my primary client. My work is to improve their relationship, not just their individual experiences. You can work on individual issues in individual counseling, but if you do it will impact your relationships (often for the better, but not always). My job is to improve your relationship.
- Looks for what is working (even though it feels like it sucks!). Though your relationship is probably in significant distress, it’s probably not completely dysfunctional every moment of every day. A counselor should take time to explore what is already working now.
- Engenders HOPE (it can always get a bit better). No matter how bad it is now, it can get better. And if you don’t have the belief for that truth, your counselor should. I’ve personally seen couples overcome tremendous distress, disappointment, and distrust – sometimes to my own surprise! While conflict and pain are part of relationships, it can always improve.
And on a final note, your counseling professional should be specifically trained in couples counseling, and many are not. Counseling couples requires particular expertise, and many counseling professionals do not have adequate training. Ask your potential counselor about their training and certification in counseling couples. 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, or schedule an appointment. We’re glad to help!