The best way to find a good therapist is through a personal recommendation. If someone tells you that a particular therapist helped save his or her marriage, then that therapist is likely to be very good. Also consider asking your religious leader. He or she has probably referred couples to therapy in the past and would be happy to help you find a good therapist.
Another good resource is your primary care doctor. Many physicians refer patients to therapy and can recommend a good therapist to you. If you are using your medical insurance to pay for the therapy visits, you might be limited to a specific list of therapists. Bring along the list of therapists' names and show it to your doctor. He or she might know one or more therapists on the list.
The first step to being happy—with yourself or in your marriage—is to figure out what is making you unhappy. The therapy process can help you understand why you aren't happy.
The following are some initials you will need to know when finding a therapist who is right for your situation:
- M.D.—Medical Doctor (psychiatrist)
- Ph.D.—Doctorate (in psychology or social work)
- L.C.S.W.—Licensed Clinical Social Worker
- M.F.C.C.—Marriage and Family Counselor
If you are considering seeing a therapist with your spouse, it's useful to have specific goals for your therapy. This will make the best use of your time in therapy. Having specific goals is especially useful in short-term therapy because you want to make the most out of every session.
You might have different types of goals for therapy. Perhaps you want help resolving a specific issue, such as dividing your child care responsibilities fairly. Therapy can be useful when you need to make a big decision, like whether to move. You might want to understand why you always argue about a particular issue. A goal in therapy can also be more general, such as improving communication with your spouse.
Couples therapy can help you understand what your spouse is feeling. This is called empathy. You will feel closer to each other as you see what the other person has experienced in the past and what issues might be troubling him or her that you hadn't realized before.
There are many issues a therapist can help you with, including:
- Communicating with your spouse
- Resolving an issue
- Time scheduling
- Making a big decision
- Understanding emotional issues about money
- Dealing with your extended family
- Work-related problems
If therapy is not possible for you and your spouse, there are other resources that can offer you help. Here are just a few:
Religious leaders. Many religious leaders are excellent resources if you are having conflict with your spouse. Some have special training in counseling, and all have dealt with people in crisis situations. If they can't help you directly, they can often find a therapist for you. Don't forget this resource!
Support groups. There are many types of groups that can be useful to you and your spouse. Some groups focus on specific problems, such as parenting or illness. Others are designed for couples to work on their marriage. Groups tend to be less expensive than therapists and are a good way to get help without spending a lot of money. It can also be useful to hear how other people deal with issues similar to yours.
Anonymous groups. In Getting Help for Alcohol Abuse we discussed some of the different anonymous groups. If one of you is addicted to something, anonymous groups can be an invaluable resource. Alcohol, gambling, and overeating are some of the addictions they deal with. Al-Anon groups can help you deal with your enabling behaviors and with issues that are common when your spouse has an addiction problem.
Encounter groups. These groups often have weekend retreats to work on your relationship, with follow-up meetings. They can be secular or affiliated with a religious organization.
Classes. Relationship courses and workshops are offered through colleges, extension courses, and health care centers.