How to Choose a Marriage Counselor

You have made the decision to contact a marriage counselor. The next question is "How to choose the right marriage counselor?" The success of your counseling experience will relate directly to your compatibility with your counselor.

Start by asking friends and family for a referral. A great resource for finding a marriage counselor is an online directory. Searches can be performed according to city and specialization. Both http://www.counsel-search.com and http://www.aamft.com offer detailed biographies of marriage counselors.

Before you call a marriage counselor

Ask yourself why you are consulting a marriage counselor. Define your issues as best as you can in order to communicate them to your prospective therapist. Outline what you would like to gain from counseling. Is it important to you that a marriage counselor be familiar with the issues at hand? Do you prefer a marriage counselor that is married? Is it important that your marriage counselor has raised children? Do you have a preference as to a female or male marriage counselor? How far are you willing to commute to a marriage counselor's office? What hours are you available to commit to counseling sessions?

Fees

Decide what you can afford to pay a marriage counselor. There a several questions you may want to ask a marriage counselor in regards to fees such as:

How much does the therapist charge per session?

Does the therapist charge according to income (sliding scale)?

Is there a policy concerning vacations and missed or canceled sessions?

Is there a charge?

Will your health insurance cover you if you see this therapist?

Will the therapist want you to pay after each session, or will you be billed periodically?

Relevant Questions

Other questions to keep in mind while searching for a marriage counselor you are comfortable with include:

How many times a week will the therapist want to see you?

How long is a typical session?

How long does the therapist expect treatment to last?

What are some of the treatment approaches likely to be used?

Does the therapist accept phone calls at the office or at home?

When your therapist is out of town or otherwise unavailable, is there someone else you can call if an emergency arises?

Are there any limitations on confidentiality?

Credentials

Marriage counselors' academic degrees are different. The type of credentials may be of importance to you throughout your search for the right marriage counselor.

M.S.W.: Master of Social Work

Social Workers apply social work theory, knowledge, methods and ethics to restore or enhance the functioning (social, psychosocial) of individuals, couples, families, and groups, as well as organizations and communities.

M.F.C.C.: Marriage, Family and Child Counselor

An MFCC therapist has earned a Master of Science degree in counseling with a specialization in marriage, family and child issues. MFCC's are trained to understand problems from both individual and family systems perspectives; develop intervention skills; incorporate cultural, age-specific, and gender-respectful understanding in theory and practice; and handle clinical, ethical, legal and general professional aspects of their practice.

M.F.T.: Marriage and Family Therapist

A marriage and family therapist has earned a master's degree in social work with a particular emphasis on relationships. This professional is interested in who each person is within the context of their family, both past and present. Marriage and family therapy applies therapeutic techniques and focuses on issues of human development, communication skills, and interpersonal relationships.

L.C.S.W.: Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The LCSW is a state licensure designation for practitioners with a master's or doctoral degree in social work. Clinical Social Work, a practice specialty of Social Work, utilizes social work theory, knowledge, methods, and ethics to restore or enhance the functioning of individuals, couples, families, and groups, as well as organizations and communities.

Make an appointment

Once your search has been narrowed to a handful of marriage counselors, pick up the phone. Most therapists will have a brief phone consultation with you and answer most questions you might have. The phone consultation is a great way to determine if you and the prospective marriage counselor might work well together.

Shelly Phegley is a staff writer for The National Directory of Family and Marriage Counselors found at http://www.counsel-search.com

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