Pam and Bob, a fictitious couple but very representative of the many couples I have heard from, turned to a counselor for help in their marriage, but after five unproductive sessions the therapist recommended divorce. In shock Pam said on behalf of both of them:
The reason we went to the counselor was to help our marriage. Just because we got really mad at each other during the sessions and totally blamed the other and totally justified ourselves didn’t mean we wanted to end the marriage. That’s why we went for counsel! And, yes, I played the victim and sought sympathy more than Bob, who didn’t go to the third session because he was so ticked at me and the counselor, but we didn’t expect the counselor to throw in the towel for us. How could this therapist miss the whole reason we made the appointments? Fortunately for us, this served as a wake-up call for Bob and me. We told each other that divorce wasn’t an option, only murder. We both started laughing. We then found a counselor who believed in “until death do you part” (which may come soon for Bob, in my opinion). This counselor has been helping us since he sees through our tricks and “poor me” tactics yet respects both of us and has given us the confidence we can succeed.
Unfortunately, what Pam and Bob encountered with their first marriage counselor happens more than we wish to acknowledge.
A Concern Among Experts
Do not get me wrong. My son Jonathan is a clinical psychologist, so I believe in competent counselors.
However, years ago Dr. Bill Doherty wrote an article entitled “How Therapy Can Be Hazardous to Your Marital Health.” His credibility as a professor at the University of Minnesota who trains marriage and family therapists got my attention. He warned couples about the downside of bad therapy: “You’d be interested to know that, according to a national survey, 80 percent of all private practice therapists in the United States say they do marital therapy. And only 12 percent of them are in a profession that requires even one course or any supervised experience. Only marriage and family therapy as a profession requires any coursework or supervised clinical experience in marital or couples therapy. So most people who say they’re doing this work picked it up on the side or not at all.”
I do not have statistics to support all of my concerns, but might I say, “Buyer beware,” to anyone seeking out marital counseling from a secular professional.
Specifically, I have three distinct concerns toward even the most good willed therapists:
1) the counselor’s individualistic approach
2) the counselor’s bias against males
3) the counselor’s moral neutrality concerning divorce.