Make Counseling work????
Guest Author, Anne Kass, - a retired District Judge of Albuquerque, New Mexico
Marriage counselors can help married couples try to keep their marriages from ending in divorce, but only if each spouse has a realistic understanding of how marriage counseling works.
Many of the divorcing couples I see tell me they tried marriage counseling, and it was a waste of their time and money. However, when you look a little deeper, it's easy to see why the counseling was not successful. The reasons for failure include:
a) Some couples who say they've had "a lot" of counseling have actually seen three or four different counselors, two or three times each. But it takes time time build a trusting relationship with a counselor, especially if the counselor needs to tell each person about his and her shortcomings.
b) Some couples wanted a quick fix, instant gratification. But it takes more than a month or two to unlearn bad habits, and it also takes time to learn new, useful habits. People seeking marriage counseling should expect months of intense, weekly counseling tapering off to monthly, and even after they've completed counseling, they should expect to return from time to time to take a refresher course.
c) Some couples expected the counselor would do the work, and they could be passive observers. But counseling is hard work for the participants. It's the counselors who sit back, watch, and listen as the participants practice new skills and techniques of talking and listening to each other. It is an exhausting and often frustrating but worthwhile effort.
d) Some couples wanted to change one another. But none of us has the power to change someone else, and counseling won't change anyone who doesn't want to change. The reason to participate in counseling is for each to voluntarily change him or herself, even if it's only changing the way each one reacts to the other.
e) Some couples wanted the counselor to make things the way they used to be, before they had marital strife. But going backwards won't work. What the couple once had didn't work, or they wouldn't be having problems. Counseling is about negotiating a new deal, a new way to interact and make decisions.
Divorcing couples who never even attempt to work it out with the help of counseling make me sad. They're throwing their marriages away without even trying. But divorcing couples who do try counseling need to be prepared to work hard, to be patient and to make and accept change
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