A recent New York Times article warned people about the potential risks of seeking professional help for their marriages. It cited examples of therapists doing more harm than good to the marriage. In my opinion, most therapists don't offer marriage-friendly therapy. Some even see divorce as a rite of passage. Unfortunately, people in the throes of marital problems aren't always able to recognize that they are being nudged right out of their relationships in the name of personal growth. But it happens.
Nonetheless, it's important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to counseling. There are some therapists who really make a difference in couples' lives. Not all therapists are created equal.
Here are some guidelines to consider when seeking professional help to improve one's marriage:
1. Make sure your therapist has received specific training and is experienced in marital therapy. Too often, therapists say they do couples therapy or marital therapy if they have two people sitting in the office. This definition of couples therapy is ludicrous. You can't identify the type of therapy that is taking place by doing a head count. Marital therapy requires very different skills from individual therapy. Individual therapists usually help people identify and process feelings. They assist them in achieving personal goals.
Couples therapists, on the other hand, need to be skilled at helping people overcome the differences that naturally occur when two people live under the same roof. They need to know what makes marriages tick. A therapist can be very skilled as an individual therapist and be clueless about helping couples change. For this reason, don't be shy. Ask your therapist about his or her training and experience.