Saturday, November 8, 2008

What Would You Look For?

What would you look for in someone to counsel you in a marriage problem?

This is my question today. Our here pastor is doing the job, but we are both increasingly frustrated with him. He has no plan besides "meet and talk about issues of the heart". That is it. Nothing more will he tell us. I've asked and asked, but he says he can't give us a time-line or anything else, only that as we talk, more issues will come up, and we will talk more.

Makes me want to not talk.

He hasn't even yet talked about meeting with us both together. He hasn't shared what his philosophy is or how he think. It is just "trust me".

My husband and I really both want to work on our marriage. We do. We have problems, yes, big ones, yes, but we want to work on it. This is very slow, and without a plan or purpose, and we just aren't sure about it.

What would you look for in someone to counsel you in a marriage problem? Or course, it is also an anger problem which is separate from and twisted into the marriage, too. But what would you be looking for? Or, if you were considering having a pastor counsel you, what questions would you be asking to be sure that this is the wisest choice?

Maybe the pastor is a good guy for the job, but what questions should I ask him to know that or not?

Thanks for your input.


Becky Aguirre said...

Having recently been through some marriage counseling, I have a few thoughts...I don't have a lot of experience with counselors since he was the only one that I've ever seen. But I can tell you what I appreciated about him...he had a "plan" in that he sent us both a marriage inventory that we completed online and sent back to him for evaluation before we started meeting. This helped him get a sense of where we both were at and also gave us topics to discuss (structure) at each meeting instead of trying to come up with what to talk about once we were there. We didn't always even follow the questions and often got "off-topic", but it was nice to have that structure.

Also, this counselor was a great listener and knew how to ask questions to draw us out in a way that was not threatening or a "put-down". He often shared things from his own life/marriage and I appreciated his openness and honesty. He showed us unconditional love and gave honor and respect to both of us.

I'm sure there's more I could say...gotta run...oh, and it's not wrong to request a change in counselor, not everyone will be a good "fit" for both of you and you should have the freedom to say that.

Alan & Beth McManus said...

We have not been through marriage counseling although I have been through extensive counseling for anorexia/bulimia and was diagnosed a couple years ago with depression. A doctor friend of ours caught it and then did some impromptu counseling with us, talking very directly to my husband about some changes we needed to make (including some marriage books he wanted us to read -- TOGETHER). It helped a lot.

One thing I know, if you don't trust the counselor, you won't "get better" because you won't really open up. There are some organizations that help missionaries -- LINK Care, Chuck Lynch's organization, and WOTH has some info on one in Europe. Maybe having someone not so emotionally close to the situation would help.

If you're interested, books we were "required" to read were "His Needs Her Needs" and "Love and Respect." A friend who is studying for her masters in counseling also gave me some of her homework books on depression. If you guys are interested in those, I'll email her for the titles, can't remember them now.

Becky Aguirre said...

I was looking through some other notes from the classes I took last year and came across an interesting booklist that one of them or more of them might be interesting...I also really like the DNA of Relationships for Couples by Greg Smalley and....can't remember his name.

A Woman of Healthy Relationships Bible Study by Dee Brestin
Boundaries Drs. Cloud and Townsend
Dealing with the Crazy Makers in your Life Dr. David Hawkins
Families Where Grace is in Place Jeff Van Vondervan
Family is Still a Great Idea H. Norman Wright
Relationships that Work H. Norman Wright
Relationships Drs. Les and Leslie Parrot

H. Norman Wright also has an awesome book called Recovering from the Losses in Life (and many other books, like How to Get Along With Anyone) with how to recognize and grieve the losses of

Will be praying for God's leading and provision.

junglewife said...

I haven't been through any marriage counseling (except for premarital counseling) but I have talked to a few counselors in joining our mission, etc.

I would say that you have some valid concerns. You need a balance. You don't want someone who's just going to sit back and just listen listen listen, saying "Uh huh" every once in a while, but on the other hand you don't want someone who's just going to push their own agenda, not giving you a chance to share. You DO need structure. If all you needed was someone to talk to, for cryin' out loud, you could just go find any ol' Joe Blow pastor off the street and just talk to him. You need a counselor - someone who has a plan, questions to ask, topics to discuss, etc. That is what makes a counselor (among other things, of course) rather than just a good listener. If you really want to save your marriage (and I know you do!), it will be worth the hassle of trying to find someone who is really going to help you. It helps that your husband feels the same way you do!

Anonymous said...

I talked with my mother to ask her opinion. My dad is a pastor, but he has his counseling degree and they have done multiple marital counseling sessions over their 38 years of ministry. She had a few suggestions that I thought I'd pass along.
She said the first is obviously to have a Christian counselor (which I know you already know).
- Make sure the counselor has had experience, a really good track record; not just a pastor who does it occasionally or someone who does it on the side.
- Someone who is not biased towards one of you. She said a good sign of this is that the counselor will ask to talk with the one who has NOT asked for the counseling, alone, before the counseling together begins. She said that's something they've always done, that way they can ensure the other party is willing to be involved and so they can get a good view of what the other side is thinking.
Those are the few tips she passed along. My dad is a seasoned counselor, so if you'd like me to pick his brain on this issue, let me know.