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Marriage & Family Counselors: A Basic Guide for Couples in Crisis

Updated on March 23, 2015
Marriage and family counselors may use couples therapy to help both partners find a ways to save a marriage.
Marriage and family counselors may use couples therapy to help both partners find a ways to save a marriage. | Source

Defining a Crisis in Your Marriage

A crisis in your marriage could be defined as one or both partners feeling an uncertainty or lack of commitment in the relationship.

It is important to remember that marriages have everyday problems that are not considered a crisis and may no require the professional help a counselor can offer.

For example, a partner's unwillingness to do household chores is not a reason to seek professional counseling. These types of situations just need to be worked out between partners.

It is also important to note that a marriage in crisis is not necessarily a marriage that is headed for divorce. Sometimes, a crisis may actually deepen and improve the relationship between a couple.

Knowing how to manage and control the direction of a marriage in crisis is key. This is the area in which marriage and family counseling functions best.

6 Signs of a Marriage in Crisis

  1. No matter what you do, it is seen as wrong by your partner
  2. You're the last one to know about a promotion, problems or other news about your partner
  3. You live in silence, never really communicating and don't have anything in common anymore
  4. Emotional or physical intimacy is non-existent
  5. Sudden changes in appearance or personal hygiene
  6. Arguments become severe, frequent and are never resolved

A professionally trained counselor or therapist can provide tools and education to help a couple work through a crisis in their marriage.

Not all couples who decide to seek professional help are having problems or facing a crisis. Some couples who are not experiencing a crisis may see a counselor or therapist in order to find ways to make their relationship even better.


Did You Know: Conflict in marriage can be seen as an opportunity to uncover hidden anxieties or problems, Once revealed, these can be dealt with in a healthy manner and the relationship restored.



How to Select the Right Marriage & Family Counselor

One of the most important decisions you will make after deciding to get help see is selecting a counselor or therapist that is right for both of you. Be careful here - there are a lot of counselors who can legally say they are qualified to do marriage or couples therapy.

You want to ask any potential counselor or therapist about the specific details of their training, particularly in the area of marriage and family counseling. Look for a professional who has additional training or certification in marriage and relationships and is properly licensed.


Helpful Advice on Choosing the Right Counselor or Therpapist

Look for These Qualities in a Marriage & Family Counselor:

  • Caring and compassionate toward both partners
  • Offers hope for your marriage
  • Tries to find ways to solve your specific problems
  • Active in each session - doesn't just sit and observe
  • Offers new way to look at and resolve conflict
  • Offers strategies to help you make changes
  • Teaches you both how to use these strategies
  • Does not take sides

The next thing you will want to ask about is the amount of time a counselor or therapist spends in counseling couples about their relationships. In my opinion, a good choice would be someone who has at least 50-75% of their practice dedicated to couples therapy or marriage and family counseling.

Next, you will want to find out what type of counseling the therapist or counselor uses in their sessions. For example, some counselors are trained to take a neutral position and help you get whatever you think you want from the marriage relationship.

These "neutral" counselors will say things like, "I don't try to save marriages, I just try to help people." In my opinion, these counselors are not in the business of helping couples work through their problems.

Other counselors or therapists will actively work with you to keep your marriage together. These professionals will not sit idly by and let you fight with your partner. These counselors will teach you methods and help you find ways for you and your partner to work through your issues and start to rebuild a better marriage relationship.

It is important that you see the right type of counselor before you make a commitment to seek help.

Next, you will want to find out what type of counseling the therapist or counselor uses in their sessions. Ask questions about how they have helped other couples through similar problems in the past. Ask about what methods they use to help couples work together and resolve conflict. You can find the answer to many of these questions on the wesite of a apecific counselor or therapist.


What to Expect at the First Counseling Session

Anything that is new and unfamiliar is bound to be rather stressful - this is a perfectly natural response. A well-trained professional marriage & family counselor knows you might be a bit nervous or apprehensive on your first visit and will do everything to put you both at ease.

You May Need to See a Marriage & Family Counselor if...

  • You have tried everything else and nothing seems to make the relationship better
  • One or both of you feels emotionally or physically disconnected
  • You think being with someone else will make you happier
  • One or both of you shuts down or withdraws from trying to address problems
  • You think your partner is the problem

Like any professional, you will likely need to arrive a bit early in order to fill out some necessary paperwork before the actual session. Your session will likely be in a comfortable office setting which may look more like a living room than a counselor's office.

After introductions and perhaps some small talk, the therapist or counselor will likely ask both of you some questions about your background in order to get a good sense of where you are as a couple.

This is perhaps the most difficult part of the entire process because you will be revealing the problems that were previously known only by you as a couple.

It's OK to feel a bit uneasy. The important thing here is for both of you to be as honest as you can.

Your level of honesty will assist the therapist or counselor to determine the next steps.

You will also be asked what your expectations are of the therapist or counselor.

Over time, as the three of you get to know more about each other, the level of discomfort will decrease and your ability to open up more will increase.


The Advantage of an Objective Perspective

One of the biggest advantages of a marriage and family counselor or therapist is their objectivity as a third parson. From this vantage point, they are able to see things in a whole new way - maybe even see things in ways neither of you could see before.

This ability to remain objective and not take sides allows them to create the best possible methods to make your marriage relationship even better.

Good luck!




If you have been to see a marriage & family counselor or therapist, how would you rate the experience?

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    • MKayo profile image

      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      Good on ya, Bob! Blessings, m

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 4 years ago from Rochester, New York

      I did actually. I have always been interested in counseling and I thought I would go down that road eventually but God had other plans for me. I saw a good guide to helping people get help. And I will also give them what I can when I do. Thank you. Bob

    • MKayo profile image

      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      Thank you, no body! Hope you were able to learn something you didn't previously know and use it to help someone else.

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 4 years ago from Rochester, New York

      Some very good practical advice. Great article. God bless.