One of the biggest questions we get as marriage counselors is: what are your qualifications? First, we’re licensed counselors who are experts in marriage. This may not seem like much to some people, but there is a difference between a licensed counselor, life coach, and a pastor of a church. All of these individuals are good at what they do. They may have had some training that involves marriage counseling. The licensed counselor may have taken a course while in college about how to perform family therapy. I have to be honest, I have no idea what a life coach would do to get training in the field of marriage counseling. I’m sure there’s something out there, but I really wouldn’t know what it is. The pastor of a church could have gone to a weekend workshop where he might have been able to pick up some tools that would help him understand the complexities of marriage counseling (we host those workshops for pastors) or may have taken a course or two at seminary. Now let me give you a word picture: Take your car for instance, say you like to drive a Mercedes, BMW or Ford 250. Your car starts to have some issues; it stalls, sputters and backfires all while putting out some funky smells. You understand it is coming from under the hood; your gas mileage isn’t what it used to be. What you know for sure is that you want your baby back (I want my baby back, baby back, baby back). You have a choice on where you can take your car to be serviced. You can take it down to Bubba’s or Homer’s garage. Understand what I’m saying, Bubba is a great guy, he can change your oil or your tires in no time flat, but is he an expert on your particular problem? Now realize that he has one of those books on his shelf with the title of your car on it. He might tell you that they’re all the same: a problem is a problem. However, if you’re not sure what the problem is then you need an expert who really understands the nuances of your particular make or model in order to diagnose the problem. You want to take your car to the person who services your particular type of vehicle exclusively, someone who is under the hood with your “baby” at least, 35 to 50 hours a week. This is a person who really knows and understands the complexities and nuances of how your engine runs. Someone who can stand there and listen to your motor running and give you three options of what the problem is and one of them is right.

What makes an expert in marriage/couples counseling? The amount of training and how many couples they see a week.

Counseling couples is not like counseling the individual in one-on-one counseling. First of all, there are two people in the room instead of one. When someone walks into the office and is looking for one-on-one help for anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, social problems or anger, the licensed professional counselor can help them. It is usually easier to help that client because they understand that the problem is most likely themselves, not someone else.

Marriage counseling involves couples coming in knowing that there is a problem, but they don’t know what it is. Most of the time they sit on the couch, point to their spouse while saying, “The problem is over there, if you could just fix him/her we wouldn’t have any issues”. It’s not as easy as that. In order to facilitate change, the marriage counselor has to get both parties to understand what it is that they’re putting into the relationship that could be causing issues. This is not easy because no one wants to be the problem; no one wants to hear criticism. What they want to hear is that their behavior is fine and the spouse’s behavior is wrong. As a marriage counselor, we can’t do say that. I can’t look at your husband/wife and tell them what they’re doing is wrong (there are some exceptions to that). As marriage counselors, our biggest challenge is helping people understand what the problem is, how they are adding to the problem and helping them come up with a solution of change that they are willing to do. That last one is the hardest because I can’t tell someone how to change (well I could, but they wouldn’t listen) it has to be his idea otherwise it won’t take hold.

At Texas Marriage Retreat, marriage and family are our specialty. It’s what we do. We have had a lot of training outside of the traditional marriage counseling criteria. (I could give you a bunch of fancy names of doctors and theories, but they wouldn’t mean much to you. If you want them, just ask). Our practice, Lee Counseling Services, sees 35 to 50 families/couples a week. We help couples deal with problems in communication, blended families, anger and sex. We realize that, sometimes, the problem lies within the individual, so we see husbands and wives and their children individually in order for everyone to be able to speak their mind without being judged. Lee Counseling Services is the place to go when you want an expert for your marital problems. Healing starts here.