Finding a good marriage counsellor is not easy, and there are many things to consider before choosing one. Read on to learn about 10 questions that will help you find the right marriage counsellor.
1) What training and experience does the therapist have?
To be a qualified marriage counsellor in Australia, marriage and family therapists must meet educational requirements. An undergraduate degree in counselling, psychology, or another related field is necessary.
A good marriage counsellor will have at least 5 years of experience, ensuring they have enough knowledge to help and guide you as you navigate your relationship issues.
Advanced training can include post-graduate studies, such as a master’s degree, enabling counsellors to focus on specific problems or demographics.
The more professional training and experience a marriage counsellor has, the better equipped they will be to help you address the issues you are experiencing in your relationship.
Clinton’s training and experience:
Clinton has been helping couples address their relationship issues since 2003. He has a post-graduate degree in counselling and psychotherapy and an Advanced Diploma in Gestalt Therapy.
2) Does the therapist have specialised training in couples therapy?
Not all therapists have training in couples therapy approaches. Be sure that you are working with a licensed marriage and family therapist with training and supervision in couples therapy. Many counsellors do not receive the supervised training component, so this is a good question to ask potential marriage counsellors.
If you’re looking for marriage counselling, seeing a licensed clinical social worker specialising in substance abuse isn’t likely to meet your needs. It’s your marriage, and you deserve to be picky about the help you get. Make sure your marriage counsellor specialises in relationship counselling or other key issues that are relevant to your marriage.
Clinton’s specialised training:
Clinton specialises in relationship counselling and has extensive experience with marriage counselling and psychotherapy. He has comprehensive training in the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT), the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy, the Developmental Model of Couples Therapy, and couples work using Gestalt Therapy.
3) Does the therapist use evidence-based approaches to marriage counselling?
The American Psychological Association defines evidence-based treatment as “the integration of the best available research with clinical expertise, in the context of [the patient’s individual] characteristics, culture, and preferences.”
Some examples of evidence-based approaches include:
The Gottman Method
This approach to marriage counselling involves an assessment session, mutually deciding on the frequency and duration of sessions, and working with the couple to strengthen 3 key areas: friendship, creation of shared meaning, and conflict management.
The Gottman Method focuses on increasing emotional intimacy to improve friendship, deepen connection, and enhance shared goals. You and your partner will learn to build positive interactions and behaviour patterns in your marriage.
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is a stress management approach to couples therapy that aims to decrease negative emotional responses connected with stress.
Emotionally Focused Therapy prioritises reorganising critical emotional responses and creating positive changes in interactions and behaviour patterns. The goal is to develop a secure bond between partners.
Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT)
PACT uses research from 3 fields: attachment theory, developmental neuroscience, and arousal regulation. Blending knowledge from each area, PACT assumes that partners form a romantic attachment and prioritise that attachment.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
This approach to marital therapy is a structured, time-based, problem-focused, and goal-oriented form of psychotherapy where both you and your partner work with a mental health counsellor.
CBT focuses on building skills and strategies for coping with mental illness and addressing current problems. It prioritises changing thoughts and attitudes to regulate emotional and behavioural reactions.
Clinton is trained in and uses the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy, the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT), the Developmental Model of Couples Therapy, and couples work using Gestalt Therapy in his practice.
4) What’s the therapist’s approach when a couple is in crisis or on the brink of divorce?
You want your therapist’s values to align with what you want for your marriage. If you want to be able to explore if divorce is the right path forward for you, a family therapist who doesn’t condone divorce won’t meet your needs.
Many marriage counsellors will advocate for exploring and understanding the situation or problem thoroughly before choosing a course of action within your relationship. Marriage counsellors provide the professional support you need to make difficult decisions about challenging situations in your relationship, not judge whether your choices are right or wrong.
If divorce is a consideration, whether you have children is a significant factor in selecting a marriage therapist. Family therapy supports the entire family unit, which marriage counselling may not.
Clinton’s approach when a couple is in crisis:
Clinton recommends at least 6 sessions before deciding on the future of your relationship. Discernment counselling is available to help couples if someone is leaning out of the marriage, and divorce counselling is a resource for a couple in crisis when both partners are all-in.
5) Is the therapist registered with a professional association?
Professional organisations have consistent eligibility standards. These standards ensure that marriage and family therapists registered with a professional association have a certain amount of study, supervised training, and specific quantifiable clinical experience.
If an American association recognises a family therapist, you can know that that marriage counsellor is committed to their profession and actively participating in advancement in their field.
As a clinical member of the Psychotherapists and Counsellors Federation of Australia (PACFA), a registered psychotherapist meets the following criteria:
- has a degree in counselling or psychotherapy
- has completed an additional 2 years of study
- completed a minimum of 400 hours of instruction (140 hours of which are face-to-face and in-person)
- completed a placement of 40 hours of client contact and 10 hours of supervision attached to the same client
Clinton’s professional accreditation:
Clinton is registered with the Psychotherapists and Counsellors Federation of Australia (PACFA) and Gestalt Australia New Zealand (GANZ). Clinton follows the ethical guidelines of both organisations in his practice.
6) Can you watch a preview of the therapist speaking?
Watching a video of a relationship counsellor talking gives you a feel for what they’re like and how they practice. Preview videos will often tell you what’s important to the marriage counsellor, how they focus their practice, and how they speak with their clients.
Working with a couples therapist means you’ll spend a lot of time talking with one another. Preview videos can give you a sense of a marriage counsellor’s communication skills, approach to medical treatment, relationship skills, and definition of a successful marriage.
If you watch a video of a marriage and family therapist speaking and they don’t touch on all these topics, ask questions about them in a consultation interview.
7) Is the therapist’s location convenient for you?
A convenient location keeps you motivated to keep appointments. If you have to travel to the next town over, spend twenty minutes searching for a parking spot, or get in and out of your car with mobility problems to work on building conflict resolution skills, it gets easier to justify not going to marriage counselling.
Online couples and individual therapy is an option available from the convenience of your home. Online therapy can take place anywhere, as long as you have a computer/laptop/phone/tablet and a stable internet connection.
Clinton provides online relationship counselling and therapy services throughout Australia. Whether on the road or in a remote area, you only need a device and a stable internet connection to attend sessions with Clinton.
8) Does the therapist offer regular couple therapy sessions?
For best results, it is more important to make and attend appointments regularly than the number of appointments attended. Couples who attend therapy regularly receive greater and longer-lasting benefits.
Attending a set number of sessions is less critical, as every couple will have different needs and be working through various issues. The key is to attend therapy at regular intervals with frequency.
Clinton sees clients on the same day and time every 2 weeks until the work is finished.
9) Does the therapist offer a free inquiry call so you can speak with them and ask questions?
A good therapist will offer a free inquiry or consultation, enabling you to speak with them and ask questions. This meeting allows you both to get a sense of one another. You get to see what the couples therapist is like to talk to, and the therapist gains an understanding of your situation as well as what you’re looking to get out of marriage counselling.
This is an excellent opportunity to ask questions you have about their practice, qualifications, and experience. It’s also a good time to ask about payment. Some marriage counsellors use a sliding scale, some only take payment out of pocket, and others may accept payment through health insurance plans.
An inquiry call allows you to ask the questions you need answers to before scheduling the first session. It’s more like a meet and greet and won’t involve delving deeply into issues.
A consultation with Clinton:
10) Is the therapist open to feedback about what you like and don’t like?
Working with marriage and family therapists who don’t understand how your relationship works makes it hard to get the help and support you need. It can also make it challenging to express when you feel like you aren’t being understood.
The best marriage counsellor for you will be one who makes you feel comfortable. They will encourage you to correct them if you think they’ve misunderstood and work with you as you navigate the issues you bring to your sessions.
A good marriage counsellor understands that what works for one partner or one couple won’t work for all. Sharing what does and doesn’t work for you will guide them in adjusting their approach to working with you and your relationship.
Clinton’s approach to feedback:
Clinton works with his clients to find methods that work for each individual couple and their needs. Clinton will share approaches that have worked for other couples and encourages his clients to provide input about what works for them or has worked in the past.
Finding things that don’t work is part of working together and building a relationship with your marriage counsellor. Let Clinton know when you need alternate support, and he’ll work with you to adjust his approach so that you can get the most out of your therapy experience.
Finding the right fit
Building a relationship with a marriage counsellor is a personal experience. To maximise the benefits of your couples counselling experience, you must choose a marriage counsellor that is right for you.
A licensed professional counsellor will have the training and experience to support you as you work on your marriage.
All couples therapists are not equal. Ensure you’re working with a professional whose training, practice, approach, and personality meet your needs. It’s essential that you feel comfortable, heard, and understood by the individual therapist you choose to work with.
If you’re unsure where to start, an online search of therapists in your area can lead you toward local resources and give you a look at the many therapists and types of therapy available.
Do your research. Make sure you understand what sex therapists do before you decide you don’t need sex therapy. Learn what qualifications and experience separate a life coach from a family therapist. The more you know, the more informed your decision will be when selecting your marriage counsellor.
If you’ve tried marriage and family therapy before and are shy to try again because of a bad fit with your family therapist, remember that a bad experience with one counsellor doesn’t mean all marriage counsellors will be the same. Individual therapists bring their values, philosophies, and approaches to their practice – you have to find the one that matches you.
There are a wide variety of specialisations therapists can focus on. Most therapists focus on one key area but pursue education and training in other specialties. Ask potential therapists about their areas of focus or specialisation, and consider how the answers align with what you are looking for.
Couples attend counselling for many different reasons. Relationships with other family members, child development, and work-life balance are issues people bring into therapy just as regularly as lack of intimacy, distrust, and infidelity.
There is no right or wrong reason to attend therapy, but the couples therapist you choose can make a big difference in what you get from therapy. It’s important to work with a counsellor whom you feel comfortable with and who creates an environment in which you can be vulnerable.
When considering a potential marriage counsellor or family therapist, ask questions about their training, experience, values, views on specific topics, and general approach to therapy. Get a sense of what kind of therapist they are by attending a consultation, and pay attention to how they speak and whether they are receptive to feedback.
Logistical considerations such as location and frequency of sessions also impact whether to choose one marriage counsellor over another.
Do you need relationship help?
If you and your partner are considering divorce, contact Clinton at (02) 8968 9323 during business hours to discuss your situation and find out how Clinton’s counselling services can help or book an appointment online now.
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.