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Will I benefit from relationship counseling if my spouse isn’t interested in attending?
I receive this question quite often. The short answer is, “Yes, of course you will.”
Marriage is a system of three people (husband, wife, and God). If any one of the three change something for the better, then the overall marriage will improve. We know God can’t get any better, so that leaves husband and/or wife. Progress will be easier if both of you feel positive about the counseling process. But don’t underestimate the power of God working in your life. Are you willing to volunteer to go first?
There is one scenario where individual meetings for marriage counseling won’t work. That’s when one person comes to counseling to complain about the other in hopes that they will change. Venting frustration can be therapeutic as long as you allow it to lead to changes in your life.
Counseling only works when the person attending counseling wants to do the work. You can receive care and insights from counseling that bring relief from hopelessness and frustration. Even if nothing else changes, if you reach a place where you have energy to put back into you marriage, then you gained something invaluable.
If you are feeling stuck, you need new input. When something is changing, hope is alive! I discuss this and more in my book Marriage From Roots to Fruits.
Most of my clients ask this question immediately after the first session. Unless a client is in crisis, there is no right or wrong answer. Frequent sessions are necessary to prevent clients from harming themselves or others. If a client is suicidal, I meet with them as often as needed to keep them safe—usually at least 2x/week.
But what if you are not in crisis? How often then? I prefer to meet 1x/week or every other week. The answer becomes increasingly specific to you, so I cannot answer this question for you. But consider the following in making your decision:
Sometimes counseling is like a "job" because facing ourselves and making changes is hard work. We do not always want to do our job, but we do it anyway because we appreciate the benefits. Likewise, in counseling, we do not always want to take a hard look at ourselves, but we do it anyway because we appreciate better emotional health.
Counseling will lack progress to the degree a client is not coming because of their own free choice. Being comfortable with the frequency of meetings is important. For counseling to be successful a client should give serious consideration to what they want to get from it.
If a client does not know their specific goals, then counseling should focus on defining them. The perfect goal becomes defining the goals. The client must become in touch on some level with their reasons for attending counseling. This might be only a gut feeling at first. Eventually, as awareness builds, clients are able to articulate the reasons.
Who is responsible for the results of the counseling? How much is the counselor responsible, how much is the client responsible, and how much is God responsible?
When a client attends counseling and ceases to make progress, often this is a result of a misunderstanding of how counseling works. The counselor plays an important role in bringing care, structure, and expert knowledge to the client. But even the best counselor will run out of novel ideas quickly. Without the client's active participation, a counselor cannot motivate a client to achieve results.
The best counseling sessions happen when a client finds both motivation for change, and a clear picture of the desired outcome. Motivation to do the work of counseling is essential to reaping the benefits of counseling. A client must work actively in-between counseling sessions on what is discovered in each session to see progress toward goals.
God is ultimately the author of our lives, but He made us so that we have a responsibility in achieving growth.
Ideally, as a client you will bring issues, thoughts, desires, and emotions out to the open over time. Exactly how this happens varies because everyone is unique and appreciates a different path to greater wholeness. When you are stuck or do not know what to do next, the counselor is there to provide encouragement, insight, feedback, and direction. Sometimes the simple process of sharing is therapeutic for clients. Other clients appreciate more direct feedback and suggestions. Still other clients need to be gently confronted. Over time you should become more skilled at moving through life’s challenges without the help of a counselor.
Counseling is designed to focus exclusively on the client’s concerns and needs. This allows the client to enter into an objective, supportive relationship that is ideally free of the emotional biases typically present in the client’s familiar relationships (with family and friends). For example, a client’s parents might not support the client setting healthy limits because it might mean they will not get to see their grandchildren as often. But, a counselor can give the client appropriate and necessary feedback (speaking the truth in love) without being so concerned about the impact (whether positive or negative) on the counselor. The counselor can be involved with the client while also maintaining some distance.
Professional counseling is an intentional process. When the client pays for counseling, they are foremost paying for the right environment in which they can recover. A therapeutic environment has elements of real life, yet is a somewhat ideal environment that allows for exploration with minimal consequences. The right environment includes best therapeutic practices such as confidentiality (the client is not harmed by others finding out about the client’s personal concerns), assurance that the counselor is available (the counselor will not abandon the client), the use of practices that clinical counselors agree are sound and helpful (not harmful), and a comfortable environment free from distractions.
Surprisingly, other potential helpers such as family, friends, or others in close relationship often are not the best choice. Others may have abused the client. Others may be less motivated than the client, so they will not be able to model the needed behaviors. Others may care and have life experience, but do not have the time or resources to devote their full attention to the client’s issues. Still others may not have the gifting or ability to discern or advise. A counselor has experience helping people and can focus their full attention on the client, which increases the likelihood that issues are addressed properly and timely and decreases the likelihood of further emotional harm. Feeling safe and secure is a necessary ingredient for healing.
Counseling provides the opportunity to connect and grow by experiencing a therapeutic relationship. Clients with unidentified, unmet needs tend to subconsciously expect (or even demand) others to fill their emotional void. This usually results in increased tension and conflict. So, it becomes helpful, and in some cases crucial, for the client to be able to step away from those with whom they are directly involved, get the help they need so they can return to their family and friends as a rejuvenated person.
Deciding whether to seek professional care is usually a personal decision. What is considered an inconvenience by one person could be a crisis to another. Different people tolerate levels of pain differently. But, there are times when professional counseling should always be considered. These involve life-threatening situations such as severe depression and suicide. At times other than personal crises, whether to seek counseling is entirely a personal decision. Counseling involves both correction (trying to change what is not working) and enhancement (trying to improve what is already a positive). Professional counseling provides a way for clients to restore their emotional, spiritual, and mental health. Professional counselors have the experience, training, and objectivity to help the restoration process move faster than without professional help. If you are not satisfied with how you are managing your life, the pain you are experiencing is too great, or you feel stuck and do not know how to move forward, consider seeking professional help.
New Reflections Counseling (NRC) is not affiliated with any particular church or denomination, but uses the Bible as the foundation for its beliefs. Any client from a church or denomination sharing our basic beliefs will be comfortable with our services. NRC respects clients’ established beliefs and offers services to everyone, regardless of what they believe. Differences on minor beliefs (baptism, communion) are accepted and do not interfere with progress. Differences on major beliefs (salvation, grace, forgiveness) will be considered for areas of change because they directly affect your spiritual, emotional, and mental health. NRC staff consult with other professionals as needed to ensure the services provided meet or exceed the standard of care for the counseling profession. We believe this allows for the greatest flexibility in being able to offer counseling services, while remaining accountable to God, the teaching of the Bible, and the professional community.
How can someone overcome the fear of the unknown? Doing something for the first time takes courage and determination. There are potentially an infinite number of distractions. Does counseling really work? How will I be able to afford this? How will I find the time? Who will watch my children? What is it going to be like? What is going to happen to me when I start talking about “it”? But guess what? Counseling is God’s idea. God is our Counselor. Counseling does work! Counseling is worth the time, money, and effort! In fact, counseling can help anyone (who wants help). Everybody struggles with something. So everybody can benefit from personal care and attention to help them through life’s struggles.
Maybe you have figured out that the only prerequisite for counseling is a humble heart. The good news is that it does not even take that much. All it takes is the desire to have a humble heart. Admitting you need help by scheduling and attending an appointment demonstrates you have enough humility to get started. When you are ready to move forward there are some attitudes that especially strengthen the effectiveness of counseling. You can begin to prepare your heart for counseling by giving yourself permission to be:
This probably seems unrealistic to have everything together so well. However, the primary quality is humility – a willingness to participate with your best effort. Your best is your best, no more, no less. The humble person is able to surrender their independence and receive help from others.
God intends for your best efforts to always be enough. Some of the time this is only possible because God provides the help of other members of the body of Christ. Life can be too much to handle alone. There are times when you are not going to know what to do next. When your pain exceeds you ability to handle it, it can paralyze your ability to move forward. This is the time to seek the help of a counselor.
Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22 – NIV)
Moving through life effectively requires positive relationships along the way. If we cannot connect with others, we will be unable to grow. Many times people find themselves in a difficult bind – they want to fit into their natural community around them, but they feel so inadequate that they cannot effectively develop positive relationships. Sometimes the client finds they are lost far off the path of where they need to be in order to keep growing. Sometimes they are in a lot of pain. Sometimes they have no idea which direction to go next. Sometimes they hunger for more of the abundant life God wants us to have.
God has a plan for you! God desires to transform you into His likeness. Professional Christian counseling provides a safe place for you to grow relationally by exploring your feelings and experiences as well as try on new ones. Matt uses insight and empathetic listening to help clients heal from wounds and bring clarity where there is confusion. Let Matt help you encounter new perspectives (new ideas to reflect on) which result in seeing yourself the way God sees you (your new reflection). When you are doing this you will be able to follow a new plan of action. You will be even more of the person God means for you to be.
New Reflections Counseling (NRC) is dedicated to providing professional counseling based on a Christian worldview. All counseling interventions are in harmony with what the Bible teaches. NRC believes in absolute standards that by nature remain unchanged and yet valid over time.
NRC has five beliefs related to counseling:
In summary, God made us with the intention that we would grow towards the likeness of God through our own willingness and acceptance of God’s help. Learn more about Values and Beliefs.
To make the best selection, aside from whether or not you want to see someone who can prescribe medicine, you are best to select someone who you can relate to and has the most experience in the area of your concern, for the fee you can afford. The following descriptions should help you narrow your choices.
Doctor – as a generalist, a doctor focuses more on your physical health, but might prescribe some mental health medicines to treat mild to moderate depression or anxiety. They do not typically provide therapy.
Psychiatrist – a psychiatrist is a full doctor specializing in the area of mental health. They can treat all mental health concerns with medicine. Most do not provide therapy.
Psychologist – a psychologist has a doctoral degree and focuses on mental and emotional health, with special emphasis on testing. They cannot prescribe medicine.
Clinical Counselor (LPC, LPCC) – a counselor has a masters degree and focuses on mental and emotional health for individuals, couples, and families, with special emphasis on practical application.
Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT, IMFT) – a therapist has a masters degree and focuses on marriage and family therapy, and may not be able to provide a clinical diagnosis. They typically use a systems approach to therapy.
Social Worker (LSW, LISW) – a social worker has either a bachelors or a masters degree and focuses their efforts even more broadly, by providing community case management as much as individualized therapy.
A “Licensed” counselor has gone through the formal process (training) approved by the State of Ohio Counselor and Social Worker Board (http://cswmft.ohio.gov). While different counselors have different levels of experience, a licensed counselor should have a general competency to provide counseling services. This is because Ohio has education, experience, and examination requirements before a license will be issued.
Matt wants to help people realize God's truth in their lives so that God's kingdom advances. The healthier we all are, the stronger the church will be. Matt has over 20 years of experience. He is insightful and open to God working through him to help you.
NRC is self-pay and offers a sliding scale fee in place of directly accepting insurance. As a courtesy, NRC is willing to provide you a receipt so you can submit it to your insurance company and be reimbursed. If you are relying on insurance to pay for counseling, we recommend you call your insurance company to learn how much your benefits will pay toward NRC's services.
Clients who pay directly for their counseling gain the following benefits:
One of the primary goals of the first session is to make sure you understand the counseling relationship. You can ask whatever questions you want to make sure you understand the counseling process. Your counselor will review the self-report information you completed. The self-report questions provide a context for the reason(s) that are bringing you to counseling. Then your counselor will go through a fairly structured interview. Your counselor needs to ask enough questions in order to consider all the different factors that may be bringing you to counseling.
Completing the initial diagnostic assessment can take one to two sessions depending on how many people are involved and the complexity of the situation presented. After the assessment is completed your counselor should have a clear picture of where you are at and what you want to achieve. In some cases you may want to develop a formal treatment plan that describes how you are going to get where you want to be. Most of the time this is handled from session to session as you give feedback to your counselor regarding how you feel treatment is progressing.