For many couples, seeing a counselor for the first time produces many different feelings, including feelings of failure and even disgust. However, it is better to the one’s pride aside and reach out for help when the relationship is one that contains value, and both parties are interested in working out their problems. Some couples are quite distressed and walk into their first appointment having no idea to what to expect. Preparing some questions for a marriage counselor can help produce results faster and get everyone on the same page. This helps the counselor know what to expect from you, and for you and your partner to know what to expect from each other as well as the marriage counselor.
The first step in finding a marriage counselor who can help you is finding a marriage counselor who respects your lifestyle. This means if the woman in the relationship is the main bread winner and the man is staying home with the kids, visiting a marriage counselor who believes that women don’t belong in the workforce and men who stay home to raise children are shirking their responsibility, chances of finding a workable counseling relationship are really quite slim. One of the first questions to ask in a counseling session, before divulging a lot of personal information or presenting your own view points and lifestyle, is what is the nature of the counselor’s life perspectives? While this may seem like a broad and open ended question, what it does is allows the couple a chance to evaluate the counselor’s response as it pertains to compatibility issues. A professional can live a very different lifestyle from you, but where their belief system is grounded is going to help govern their counseling. Finding open and “everyone has a right to their own life” type of counseling may or may not happen, depending mostly on geographical location.
Determine what you feel you need from your time in counseling. This is an exercise that is best done separately and revealed to each other during the counseling session, especially if there is a lot of arguing within the relationship. By presenting your goals to the counselor and asking him or her how they intend to help you get there, you are laying out a very clear and concise need for the counselor to help you fill.
Ask the marriage counselor if they have ever recommended a divorce. Some people see it as either a positive or a negative if the counselor will recommend a divorce. Some people believe that any relationship can be worked out if the hearts and minds involved just stick with it. Others believe that there comes a time when a relationship is no longer salvageable and needs to be reconciled through an amicable separation. Depending on your viewpoint and the counselor’s answer you may find you feel much more comfortable working with them.
Most counseling sessions are scheduled weekly, however people in crisis do not always have bad moments during office hours and conveniently scheduled time frames. Ask the counselor about their emergency policies, how available they may be, and where clients can turn for help if there is an emotional crisis after hours. Many counselors have an answering service that can reach them if there is a dramatic crisis. Some counselors make themselves remarkably available to their clients while others will simply direct their clients to the nearest emergency room, which is not always necessary.
Additional questions for a marriage counselor may include whether or not children should be involved on any part of the counseling. Family distress plays a role in everyone’s life, and sometimes it can be healthy for kids to have the floor and express how the tension has affected them and what they believe needs to change in the household. Kids can be a remarkable source of insight. However, many marriage counselors are dealing third hand with children by trying to help the adults in the situation be stronger, more understanding people with stronger communication skills.
When encountering feelings of failure or guilt associated with having to reach outside of the relationship in order to fix it, it is a good idea to bring these feelings to the counselor’s attention. A good counselor can help their clients find logical and reasonable solutions to these feelings. After all what is the alternative? A couple can continuously argue, or the relationship can end, or the couple can get some help in dealing more creatively with their problems. Some couples, and it maintains a healthy relationship, go twice a year to a counselor for a “check in session.” These are otherwise healthy couples that simply place their relationship in front of a counselor for examination and suggestion. Going to counseling does not mean that anyone has failed.
When gathering your questions for a marriage counselor together, it can be reasonable to expect to leave with one solid suggestion before the session is over. While it is true that the first session is a period of “everyone gets to know each other,” you are still there with a problem, and a good counselor can at least offer one suggestion to make the week between the first and second session a bit better. If the counselor doesn’t offer a suggestion, ask for one.
Going to marriage counseling means that both parties in the relationship are hopeful that there will be a better tomorrow with everyone’s needs being met. It is also an indication that both parties are willing to put in the effort in order to make that true. Marriage counseling can be a very positive thing and often it can lead to a stronger, more satisfying relationship.