Steps to Find A Good Marriage Counselor

Steps to finding a Good Marriage Counselor.

I like to share a few insights and tips on how to search and screen a therapist for counseling purposes. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist located in historic Roswell, GA, on Canton Street, in the Minton House,  I have been practicing as for more than 22 years in many and various clinical settings including my private practice. I would like to share a few important insights, and helpful tips as you look for a good marriage counselor or a psychotherapist. This is a very important step you are taking so you want to use discernment and take your time before your final decision.

Many people are not aware of the following points.  Prevention is the key to taking care of your relationship problems and communication problemsTiming is everything when it comes to marriage counseling. In particular, I am a great fan of engaged couples who invest months of good premarital counseling.

When you have any relationship problems, the sooner you get the right help the better! Trust me on this. I frequently hear comments from couples in my counseling office who waited too long to get help, and they suffered too long. This is not necessary. Taking the first step and making that call is always hard, but the longer you wait the more complicated it will be.

Below, I discuss and give you important tips on several initial steps as you search for a good relationship counselor. This page includes information on what to be attentive to when speaking to a counselor even while talking on the phone, and when visiting them. When you call a counselor ask the counselor how many couples do they have in their private practice, get a sense of their experience with couples, and feel free to ask questions that are important to you. Ask if the counselor works with a couple together, or in separate sessions?  Listen carefully to how they answer your questions. Ask, if they have a direct and interactive style, and pay attention to their answers and their approach to working with individuals or couples. Be sure to ask the therapist if she or he looks at each spouse’s early life experiences and if that history would be utilized in therapy. You can ask all these questions even during the initial meeting in person. Ask the counselor how much experience they have working with certain types of issues that are important to you. Ask them questions about their comfort level of working with couples. If there is a specific issue you are facing as a couple, feel free to ask if the counselor has treated and helped couples with that issue and their comfort level etc.  Don’t hold back.

Other important points to pay attention to – things you should NOT do in choosing a counselor:

  • Never choose a therapist or a marriage counselor quickly
  • Never choose a therapist without at least a few times of meeting one-on-one in-person interview – Interview potential candidate therapists and pay attention to the points in below
  • Never choose a therapist until you’ve interviewed at least 3 – shop around for counselors before you make your final decision.
  • Never choose a therapist unless you are comfortable with them as a person, with their office environment, and with their practice as a whole – listen to your gut, pay attention to what you are experiencing in their office.
  • Never choose a therapist based on just one contact.
  • If your value system or your belief system is not respected, not honored, and not integrated into your counseling process, then you and your therapist might not be a good fit for the work you need to do together. I have often heard from patients who felt frustrated half-way through their counseling process and abandoned their work due to great frustrations and not being understood.
  • Ask questions, you are the consumer, when you contact the therapist briefly explain your problem and ask the counselor to share how they would approach such an issue. Contact three different counselors on the phone and chat with them briefly and pay attention to their answers.
  • Never choose a therapist from Craigslist or similar search. If you HAVE to go online, search reputable directories like Psychology Today. Yelp reviews can also offer reputable therapist or a local Google search. Even with these sources, be discerning and wise in your search.  No matter which one of these places you find a therapist from, make sure to meet with them a couple of times and pay attention to the suggested points in this article, notice how you feel in their presence. Ask important questions.
  • The following issue is very personal for some individuals and couples. For example, if you are a Christian believer and it’s important to find you a therapist who can integrate effective therapeutic techniques while being sensitive to your Christian faith and your values, I highly recommend is a good source for their network of Christian counselors within the United States. Another good referral source for Christian counselors is Focus on Family.  You can vet them by listening to their weekday radio programs or call their call centers for additional information. Their large network of therapists and marriage counselors are carefully screened nationally.
  • Create a “wishlist” of sorts – gender of therapist, location of the therapist (a 20-minute drive to a therapist you are comfortable with is better than a 5-minute walk to a therapist you don’t connect with), type of therapy offered, issues you need addressed, etc. Knowing what you are looking for will help you recognize it when you find it, and will eliminate some therapists from your search right away.
  • Create a list of questions to take with you on your interview. These should be both “therapy” related – how does the therapist work, what type of methods do they use, what type of issues do they help address – and “practical” – fees, hours, policies for cancellations, etc. Knowing how the therapist operates both in and out of the therapy room can greatly influence your decision.
  • Many therapists offer a 15 to 30-minute free phone consultation to help you in your decision to choose a therapist. After your phone call, if you feel that the therapist was someone you might like to meet, schedule an interview. Don’t choose a therapist based solely on telephone contact alone.
  • Notice and pay attention to how you feel when you are with your potential therapist. Are you comfortable, or reasonably so? How is your body reacting to them and to their surroundings? Do you feel you are being listened to and heard? Do you sense that this is someone you can open up to and be honest with? This individual is going to require your complete confidence in them and in their abilities to help you address your issues and resolve your conflicts. Without comfort, trust, and a certain amount of rapport, that’s not likely to happen.
  • Ask for referrals as stated above. The Source of referral is important. Ask for referrals from those people whom you know have had positive counseling or therapy experience with their therapists, and have been consistently happy with their therapeutic work. You probably know someone who is in therapy, or who used to be. Sometimes it is also helpful to ask your physician who might have a referral list and they can recommend someone to you. Word of mouth is often the best recommendation you can get, as you trust these people, they know you, they can steer you in the right direction.

As a marriage therapist, it is of the utmost importance to me that my clients and I are the “right fit” for each other. I often encourage people to interview therapists and meet with them at least a few times before making a decision. While a marriage counselor must be caring and professional, it’s highly important that she is able to be direct, open, and feel free to ask difficult questions. Pay attention to your feelings and your gut instinct when you are meeting and use your instincts in making this determination. It’s important that for both partners to trust, like, and feel comfortable with their therapist. If either of you feels uncomfortable or you think that the therapist takes sides, encourages you to leave the relationship, meets with one of you alone more often, or allows secrets – Be Sure to Voice Your Concerns.  It’s important that the marriage counselor is alert to the real issues and challenges that matter to each individual such as alcoholism, depression, anxiety, adult attention deficit disorder, and medical illness which influences your marital relationship and your marital problems. 

The marriage counselor should be able to actively communicate hope with effective real practical tools to help you solve your marital problems; go beyond clarifying your problems; coach you about the roots to your individual problems that possibly impact the marriage in destructive ways and finally offer you lifetime communication tools.  The marriage therapist should be able to structure the session so that over time you are getting closer to progress and see changes in your relationship over a period of several months.  The marriage counselor should be alert and open to discuss if there is physical abuse or danger to one the spouses etc.    If the marriage counselor takes sides, the counseling process won’t work.

Remember that therapy or marriage counseling is a process. During this process, if you are dissatisfied or either of you are experiencing negative or raw feelings about the process, please speak up and address your concerns. Take an active role respectfully. Don’t wait too long to ask difficult questions. Remember this therapy is supposed to help you two and work for you to grow or heal, it’s not for the therapist.

Important Note: please know that your problems won’t be fixed in the first few sessions. If or when you are with the right therapist please be patient with the process. This process takes time for both of you as a couple. However you should have somewhat of a good and clear understanding of your own and your partner’s issues and relational patterns.  As a couple’s therapist, I initially focus on teaching each spouse to learn or become aware of their own core patterns in order to move forward with communicating better.  If interested to know what I mean by core patterns you can read about this in my Blog.

Choosing a therapist is a major undertaking and not something to be taken lightly. It can be a rewarding and informative experience. One thing you must know is that if you want counseling to be effective it’s highly critical that you keep the momentum going by attending weekly consistently with your meetings so that you could benefit from the process. This is why it’s so important to find the right therapist for you as it can be quite expensive but a priceless investment in your life and in your marriage. You can learn a great deal about yourself and your spouse. I invite you to meet with me and find out if this would be the right fit for your counseling journey and your growth.

In my counseling practice in Roswell, I help adult men & women individual and couples become familiar with their love style. In particular, they learn how their love style impacts their relationships and communication style. I use attachment theory to help you discover your love style, and move you towards effective ways of connecting with your loved ones.

I am also trained using the How We Love model helping couples transform their marriage. I am endorsed as a therapist by Relationship180 which helps couples based on How We Love model.  I also like to highly recommend you read How We Love book, authored by Milan and Kay Yerkovich – in addition to this book, they have additional resources that many couples can benefit from. In my practice, I work with couples very closely using this model. If you want to find out what attachment style is feel free to read my Blog in this website.

Wish you all the best and please don’t wait and take care of your marriage soon. Act and call now. Be proactive and serious about your marriage.