Finding a Marriage Counselor or Marriage Help
Getting Marriage Help: The Good News and Bad News
Finding a marriage counselor or therapist who can work well with you and be committed to your marriage can be a difficult task. Unfortunately, finding the wrong person can have severe consequences for your marriage and your finances.
Marriage Help Qualifications? In Some Cases, NONE
What qualifies someone to give you marriage help? How can you trust a stranger with your most precious secrets and problems? Should you choose a licensed professional who does marriage therapy or someone who professes to be an expert without qualifications other than his own limited life experiences?
NO National Requirements to Give Marriage Help
This is the Bad News. It means that anyone on the internet can claim to help you fix your marriage, and charge you for it - even your garbage man.
While you're in the process of finding a marriage counselor, you need to know that some of the most prominent websites for marriage repair and marriage help offer a variety of programs - from CDs and live sessions to weekend boot camps - with people who are marketing experts with no training in psychology, behavior, personality, relationships or counseling.
Some call this a "Marriage Counseling Alternative" in order to avoid calling themselves counselors, which may be regulated by their state laws. Once you've gotten your marriage back on track, or even if you haven't, you could even advertise YOURSELF as an expert because you "know all about" marital problems from your own marriage.
These marketing experts are trained in selling products effectively. In this case, the product is help for your troubled marriage. What are their credentials? By self-report, these marketers say they solved their own marital difficulties and now think they know how to solve yours, as if there were one mold for all problems.
State Licensing Requirements
This is the Good News. Most states have rigorous licensing procedures for people who want to practice marriage counseling or other types of counseling within the state.
In most states, this requires a license as a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or one of a few other professions, varying from state to state. Even with these requirements, people can get around the law by saying they provide "marriage help" or refer to "not a marriage counselor."
Are Requirements Necessary?
Why does it take someone with years of graduate-school training and supervision (e.g. a psychologist) to provide marriage counseling or marriage therapy?
You want someone well-trained in both normal and abnormal human behavior and with a broad background in behavioral and personality change. You need someone who can put your issues and problems into a proper context and recognize if there is more than a marital issue involved.
Psychologists and other licensed mental-health professionals spend years in school learning about behavior and psychology and various other sciences that give a good foundation for counseling couples through marital problems. In addition to their schooling, they often have requirements of supervised training that they must complete before they can sit for the examination and obtain a license.
You also want someone who has been screened by a board of his professional peers for both character and knowledge, and is always held to the highest ethical standards by that board.
Accountability & Responsibility
There is NO accountability or responsibility for self-proclaimed "Marriage Counseling Alternatives". This means they can do WHATEVER they want to you, your marriage, your spouse and your information, and you can do NOTHING to stop them, short of normal legal proceedings.
Licensed mental health professionals who do marriage or relationship counseling, such as psychologists, have an examining board that oversees their ethical standards, character and degree of knowledge.
If a person suspects a licensed mental health professional doing marriage therapy to have overstepped boundaries, or to have done something harmful or wrong, that individual can report the counselor to his/her examining board. When the board deems it appropriate, they can even restrict or invalidate the therapist's license to practice.
Can I Trust My Licensed Counselor?
When seeing a psychologists or other licensed professional, you can always call his/her examining board and find out if there is any complaint against that psychologist or counselor. The examining board will vary from state to state, but will always be made up of a group of his or her professional peers that maintain high ethical and professional standards.
In addition, there are professional associations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) or the American Psychiatric Association that accept complaints. If a complaint is registered, these organizations report to the state board and also pursue the case, even to the point of ousting someone from the organization.
Complaints about "Marriage Counseling Alternatives"
What happens if one of those marketing people does something wrong or if you have a complaint? Whom do you call?
There is no examining board to call because he or she did not have to pass any examination, he or she did not have to demonstrate to a professional board that he or she is a person of good character. There is no professional group to hold him to ethical standards because there are no ethical standards.
Their only test is if they can get you to purchase their products, such as marriage help services or other programs.
There is no license to take away because he or she has none. There is no professional association to call because there is none.
How do you find out about any complaints that may be lodged against a "marriage counseling alternative"?
There is no one to call. Perhaps, you could check with the Better Business Bureau, but there is no requirement that they be notified and they don't check legal proceedings, and you might not locate the correct branch to obtain the information even if they had complaints against them.
Save Your Marriage
I know this is a struggle for you to find the right person to work with. There are so many considerations and you are putting the life and health of your marriage in someone else's hands. Choosing the wrong person or the wrong marriage help can have devastating consequences on your life, your marriage, and your finances.
I recommend you find a licensed professional who can help you work through your marital issues and assist you in creating a better and happier marriage. Learn more about choosing a good marriage therapist.
I send my best wishes for you to find the right counselor to work with, and I wish you complete success in creating a better-than-ever marriage.