Finding the Best Marriage and Family Therapist: Tips for Finding the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Who Is Right for Your Needs
The best licensed marriage and family therapist for you may not be the one who worked for your neighbor nor the therapist you find listed in a magazine of top mental health care providers. Finding the best therapist means finding the professional who is right for your needs and a good match for your personality. Before choosing a therapist, look closely at qualifications, therapy techniques, and cost. By carefully weighing these factors, you can find the therapist who is right for you and your partner.
Finding a Relationship Therapist: Where to Start the Search
To start your search, you may want to look at mental health care providers who are part of your managed care network. If you feel comfortable, you can talk to your friends and family about which therapists they recommend and why those therapists worked for them. If you have a university in your town, you can call the psychology department and ask for recommendations. If you are already seeing someone for individual therapy, you can ask for recommendations, but you should avoid bringing your partner to your individual therapist as that may make your partner feel outnumbered. There are several websites available, such as the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, that have easy-to-use directories of licensed professionals to help you start your search. Once you have narrowed down your search to a short list of candidates, start to interview them about their therapeutic practices.
What to Look for in a Counselor or Therapist
The therapist you choose to work with must be a good match for you and your spouse. Before you begin any marriage counseling or family therapy sessions, interview the therapist and ask a few pointed questions. Make sure that the therapist is committed to helping you find solutions to make your marriage better rather than just helping you get through a divorce. There should be a level of comfort and respect between you and the therapist, and he should have the same relationship and marriage values that you have. A good therapist will help to set goals that you will work toward and will keep you on track with those goals instead of simply attending endless therapy sessions with no end in sight. Finally, trust your instincts. If you don’t think you’re making progress or aren’t able to truly open up with your therapist, it may be time to move on and choose another professional.
Evidence-Based Couples Therapy: Utilizing Therapeutic Approaches that Truly Work
There are several different types of therapy, ranging from psychoanalytic to existential. Before starting any type of therapy, you and your partner should talk with any therapist about whether or not the chosen approach will actually work for you. Ideally, the type of therapy that you use should have a proven track record of working for other couples who are experiencing the same issues as you and your partner. Ask the therapists about their experiences working with couples like you, and ask how they treated those couples. If you are looking for a therapy with a proven record of effectiveness, you may want to try emotionally focused therapy (EFT). Research shows that EFT tends to be one of the most effective types of therapy for couples. Nearly three-quarters of all couples who use EFT progress out of distress and toward recovery.
Modifying Dysfunctional Behavior: Choosing a Therapist Who Is Committed to Helping You Function
If you have any dysfunctional or unhealthy behavior in your relationship, the ideal therapist will work with you to modify those behaviors. If there is seriously dysfunctional behavior in your relationship, such as physical or mental abuse, the therapist may intervene and send one of you to a safe house. However, other issues may be dealt with through therapy or education as you continue to live together. For instance, one person may attend anger management classes in addition to the therapy that the two of you engage in together. In many cases, a timeout strategy can work to help modify dysfunctional behaviors. Dealing with dysfunctional behaviors should be one of the first things that your therapist addresses.
Marriage and Family Therapists or Psychologists and Psychiatrists
One of the first decisions you will have to make when looking for marriage counseling is which type of therapist you would like to see. Psychologists are mental health professionals who have doctoral degrees in psychology, and psychiatrists are mental health professionals who have medical degrees. A great marriage counselor or family therapist, in contrast, may work with only a master’s degree. However, it is important to note that many of these professionals also have doctoral degrees. Although marriage and family therapists may have less education than most psychologists or psychiatrists, they have been specifically trained to work with families and couples, and this focus often gives them a unique advantage. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, family therapy usually resolves issues in 30 percent fewer sessions than individual therapy.
The Price Is Right: Finding a Therapist You Can Afford
Unfortunately, many insurance plans do not cover couple’s therapy, so you may have to think about other options. Keep in mind that the cost of therapy is an investment into your long-term relationship. A bit of extra money spent now could make the rest of your life a lot happier. As a bonus, family therapy is also linked to lower healthcare expenses over the course of a lifetime. That said, you should avoid spending money that you cannot afford on therapy, as the extra expenditures could make you feel even more stressed. A marriage and family therapist charges approximately 40 percent less than most psychiatrists and 20 percent less than most psychologists. If you still cannot afford their rates, ask if other payment options are available. Over two-thirds of all marriage and family therapists are willing to offer their services on a sliding scale.
How to Approach Your Marriage & Family Therapist
Finding the perfect marriage and family therapist is pointless if the family doesn’t approach therapy with the best of intentions and some idea of what to think going in.
- Try to have an open mind – Even if you’ve been to therapists before. Not only is the therapist different, but you’re different too. Every day, you and your family change. This is an opportunity to start again and be happy.
- Be ready for a new way of doing things – A new therapist likely means new tools and a new approach. Be ready to look at things a different way.
- Don’t judge by the first few meetings – Every therapist will start the same way, by getting to know you and your family. There might be a lot rehashing things that you’ve done before and things that you’ve tried. Don’t be discouraged that it all seems the same. They need to get their bearings and see what hasn’t worked.
- Many therapies feel the same – Most therapy is a lot of talking. If you are expecting that your new path runs through a miracle, you’ll be disappointed.
- Therapy can involve a lot of falling down – Therapy is like learning to walk. You will fall down, then get back up. You need to keep getting back up; it’s worth it.
- Every day is a new day – It’s always a chance to be a new you and a new us. You can decide that things will be different.
- Lead, follow or get out of the way – Not every relationship is perfect or even viable. If you want it to survive, you either need to lead the change, follow the change, or get out of the way.
The most important thing to remember is to listen closely to the therapist and your partner. Listening is the single most important skill that you have for fixing your relationship.
An Alternative to Marriage Therapy: Marriage Fitness
Mort Fertel’s Marriage Fitness program is an alternative to marriage therapy. You learn to neutralize your problems and put into practice a system of relationship habits that will shift the momentum of your marriage. The best news is—you don’t have to dig into your past, dredge up your problems, or practice communication techniques. This is not marriage therapy; it’s Marriage Fitness!
Marriage Fitness was created by relationship expert Mort Fertel. Marriage Fitness is a step-by-step relationship-changing system that’s been used by over 2,000,000 people, most of whom are on the brink of divorce suffering from infidelity, separation, or broken trust. There’s a Duo Track for couples, and a Lone Ranger track for people doing the program alone dealing with an adamant spouse. The program claims a very high success rate.
Learn more on how to avoid divorce in our Marriage Counseling Guide.