I am passionate about healthy marriages.
After obtaining licensure as a Professional Counselor in California and then Texas, I pursued 18 months of post-graduate training and supervision specifically in the area of marriage/relationship counseling with Carol Middleberg, PhD. I also attended conferences and workshops which focused on marriage and couples. You see, working with couples is VERY different than individual counseling, yet many people don’t realize this.
May I suggest a couple of options, if you’re looking to make your marriage healthier?
Crisis intervention: If your marriage is in crisis, whether from years of neglect, or an abrupt change, such as an affair, sudden financial loss, death of a child, the best life support is an intensive marriage option.
You and your spouse step away from the daily pace of life and unplug for a few days, guided by skilled therapists who will help you begin to heal in an environment of trust and safety. It is like a year’s worth of therapy, and though that may sound daunting, it is even more painful to show up weekly, pull the scab off just a bit, then try to go back to “normal” life.
Most couples are able to reconnect, and leave with a plan to move forward. Most intensive options will then either provide follow-up, ongoing therapy, or if you’ve traveled some distance, will try to connect you with a therapist that practices a similar therapy approach, or has had some training by the organization.
The following list will be updated as I become aware of effective intensive options:
Center for Relational Care: https://www.relationalcare.org/intensive-retreats
3 or 4 day intensives are currently (2019) offered near Austin, TX, and Atlanta, GA.
The Hideaway Experience: https://intensives.com
Intensives offered in Texas, California, and Georgia. The book Five Days to a New Marriage, written by Sharon Hargrave, Shawn Stoever, and Terry Hargrave (Sharon & Terry helped structure the format used at The Hideaway) was transformative for me and Mark, even after 35 years of marriage.
Restoring the Soul: https://restoringthesoul.com/soul-care-intensives/
Located near Denver, CO, they offer intensives for individuals (men dealing with sexual addiction is one primary focus) or couples.
Couples Intensives Inc.: https://couplestherapyinc.com/clinical-services/
This is a really interesting, effective format. Couples fill out a good bit of information prior to their personalized retreat, allowing the therapist to get started much faster. Offered in MANY states, with online counseling options. So even if you live in Timbuktu, there is no excuse for not getting help!
Whether you are in a tough place, or just want to improve your marriage, scheduling weekly or biweekly sessions can be very effective. Where do we learn to have healthy relationships? Sometimes, working with a skilled mentor or counselor can provide you with tools and processes needed to build a thriving relationship.
Many people want to know if marriage counseling is covered by their insurance. The answer is yes & no.
IF there is a diagnosis, i.e. depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc., then SOME insurance companies will cover conjoint therapy.
HOWEVER, if the health of your marriage is important, (and I hope it is), consider investing in your marriage regularly, whether through marriage retreats, a trusted advisor (coach or therapist). You wouldn’t buy a brand new car, and expect it to run flawlessly for 100,000 miles without any maintenance, am I right? Or plant a tree and never water it, then be surprised when it eventually dies? Relationships are living and dynamic, requiring some regular attention.
How do I find a competent marriage counselor/therapist?
Great question, I’m so glad you asked!
- Begin with people you know and trust—friends, a pastor, priest, rabbi or other spiritual advisor, even your family doctor may know or have experience with someone they can refer you to as a starting point.
- AAMFT is a national organization whose members have demonstrated training in systems and relationship therapy. That’s a starting point—you can search by location, then look at their specific training/specialty.
- Contact the therapist. Many now have websites and provide a lot of information online.
- Once you decide and schedule with someone, go TOGETHER, and have an exploration meeting. Ask any questions that are important to you, and expect that your questions are treated respectfully. Pay attention to your gut. If you don’t feel a sense of connection in the first meeting, it’s ok to move on to another therapist. They may be perfectly competent, just not for you.
- Ask about their treatment approach. You may not know much about their approach (cognitive therapy, systems therapy, brief therapy, etc.), but you should have a sense of whether it is the right approach for you. If they can’t explain their approach, and therapy expectations, move on.
I hope this helps you get started.
You’re building a life together. Make it a GREAT one!