Third, seek a ‘strength-based’ counselor. Many counselors are trained to ‘find out what is wrong in the marriage.’ With this training and orientation, they tell you everything they see that is wrong with your marriage. Of course this only serves to make matters worse if this counsel is not coupled with observing and building upon the strengths in your marriage. Your counselor notes, and help you note, what you do well in your marriage. What are the ties that bind you together in a healthy way? 

Fourth, seek a counselor willing to offer clear and specific guidance. If you could find your way out of your jam on your own, you wouldn’t need a counselor. Sitting with a counselor who only does reflective listening can make you feel good temporarily, but you need an ‘emotional surgeon,’ willing to make incisive comments and observations. This won’t always feel good, but you will sense you are getting to ‘the heart of the matter.’ If you don’t have a sense that you are receiving specialized, skilled, decisive direction, you’re not getting your money’s worth. 

Finally, find a counselor who is available to you. While most counselors work 9-5, Monday through Friday, not all issues arise during ‘banker’s hours.’ Increasingly I find I must often schedule multiple sessions per week during the crisis phase of marriage counseling. At times I must take phone calls or answer emails to ensure the couple is staying on track with homework assignments or managing their conflicts effectively. Good marriage counselors aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and listen carefully to the needs of their clients, changing course as is needed and requested. 

What is the bottom line? You must feel a sense of direction and traction in your counseling. If frustrated, share your frustration with your counselor. If they are unwilling to alter their course, find another counselor who will work effectively with you. You must feel satisfied and have a sense of teamwork. If you don’t, something is wrong. 

Living Beyond a Broken Marriage from drdavidhawkins on GodTube.

What have you found helpful in marriage counseling? Share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center and my Marriage Intensives on my website and You’ll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.

Publication date: November 2, 2012