Hopefully, in our lives together with our spouses, we will never have to summon the services of a marriage/couples therapist. Many who need these services are often unaware whether they need professional services in relational evaluation and treatment and wait too long to get professional guidance and expertise. As a consequence, their relationships and marriages often fail or a married couple may live for years in torment and lack of fulfillment.
While problems become increasingly complex and entrenched, children become profoundly affected as well, so by the time a phone call is made to make an appointment, problems are often severe. Many couples wait years before finally making the decision to receive help.
Then what? Who do you call? What qualifications and experience make a therapist a good fit for both spouses together as a marital unit? Does the therapist have a doctorate degree in Professional Psychology from an accredited university program, serving internships, and post doctoral residencies? Most importantly, are they licensed to practice psychology in the state you live in, with at least 10-15 years of full time experience working with couples or where at least half of their full time case load is dedicated to relational, marriage, and/or family systems? Does the therapist call you back for a free phone interview before scheduling you so that you have some familiarly with the way he/she works in therapy, their approach, techniques, etc. before you see them in person? What are considered to be reasonable charges for services? Is it better to pay for a more experienced, proven professional or try a recent graduate who is “learning on the job”? What does your budget allow for? What other professionals, in addition to psychologists, provide couples therapy? Do they have doctorate level training and degrees, and if not, what makes them qualified to treat you? Do they have significant experience with child therapy in case your children are affected by your marital problems? These are just some of the questions you should consider in choosing a therapist. Location alone should be of secondary importance in most cases. Fees can be misleading (i.e. a “cheap” therapist may see a couple for 2-3 years in therapy versus an “expensive” therapist who may get you results in several months, actually saving you many hundreds of dollars). On the other hand, the amount of money you spend may not predict successful outcome.
Before choosing a therapist, make sure the therapist calls and interviews you on the phone first and answers your questions. A good, in depth initial phone call with a prospective therapist can go a long way in making you feel comfortable that you have made the right choice.