If you are looking for a good mechanic or plumber, you probably have no problem sending out a text blast or posting on Facebook a recommendation request. However, if you are looking for a good marriage counselor, it’s a little trickier. People just aren’t as open about their marriage counselor as they are their dentist. These are five good ways to take to make sure you find the right therapist for something as sacred and important as your marriage.
- Find a specialist.
When my daughter started having weird rashes, my pediatrician recognized—after several failed antibiotics and ointments—that we needed to see a specialist. We met with the pediatric dermatologist for about thirty seconds before she accurately diagnosed her condition. With the correct diagnosis and treatment, her skin cleared up in less than a week.
The same thing applies to therapy. If you are looking specifically for marriage counseling, find someone who specializes. Look on their website or call and ask them if they specialize in working with couples, and if so, what training/certifications or modalities they use. All therapists technically can “treat” couples, but certain therapists go through speciality training to become specialists.
- Get a referral.
Your marriage is just too important to leave it up to chance. Ask around to find the well-known, respected marriage counselors in your area. Yes, it means the people you ask will know you are having marital struggles. But when you ask your friends, co-workers, neighbors, church friends, or gym work-out partners if they know of anyone, you will be surprised how many of those have been to marriage counseling before. Great people to ask for referrals are friends, pediatricians, OB-GYNs, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, and pastors. If you know someone who loves their individual therapist or their child’s therapist, get their name and call them for a referral to a marriage specialist. The good therapists usually know each other and refer back and forth to each other due to a mutual trust they have in each other’s work.
- Find the approach that resonates best for you and your partner.
There are two well-known, credible approaches to couples counseling. Now, you may find a therapist who doesn’t do one of these approaches and is still a wonderful couples therapist. However, if you don’t have a referral from a trusted source, I would find someone who does one of these approaches: Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) www.icefft.com or The Gottman Method www.gottmanmethod.com. Both have a ton of research supporting their effectiveness and both require a lot of advanced training. As an EFT therapist, I’m a bit biased and think EFT is the best couples therapy out there. But, ultimately, I recommend you look into both and see what resonates with you and your partner.
- Be willing to shop around.
You should shop for your therapist the same way you shop for a car. You likely didn’t buy the first car you test drove on the lot and in many ways, this is no different. If you have a great referral and you meet that therapist and it feels good, then you have my permission to stop there. However, if you are going at it a bit more blindly, take the time to have a phone consultation and/or an initial session with two or three therapists before making a decision on which therapist feels like the best fit.
- Assess if it’s a good fit.
Does the therapist seem knowledgeable about couples issues? Does the therapist seem neutral and like a safe place for both of you? Does the therapist have a plan for how the therapy will proceed? Does this plan resonate for both of you? These are questions you and your partner can discuss together after the initial session to decide if you want to continue with this therapist or try someone new.
Remember, this is your marriage, so finding the right fit is important. Take the time to do your homework so you can give your marriage the best shot!