How To Choose A Good Couples Professional
Note: When I refer here to “professional”, I am referring to both degreed/licensed persons, as well as those who are self-taught, and those who use alternative approaches.
I say the main criteria to pay attention to when choosing a couple’s professional would be summed up in these 2 questions:
1. Have they experienced what you’re going through and also had significant success dealing with it in their own lives?
2. If they haven’t experienced what you’re going through, have they had success working with others who have gone through what you’re going through?
Third criteria: Educational background
One can go through the hoops of becoming a professional without actually being competent. I’m not implying that the training to become a professional is not valuable. In fact, one of the next main criteria to pay attention to is their professional and/or alternative training. Professional training—such as master’s and doctorate programs—provide professionals with invaluable knowledge and experience.
Fourth criteria: Your comfort level
Also ask yourself: Do I feel comfortable and confident with this person? We don’t sync well with everyone. Make sure you feel a certain gut-level comfort. Of course, when working with this person, you will certainly have times of feeling very uncomfortable. It may even seem that the professional you’re working with is not right for you. However, it may turn out to be that the bottom line is that you’re dealing with some of your uncomfortable issues. You should certainly feel stretched by the person you have hired. If you’re too comfortable, you may not be making progress.
Other general points to consider
Basically, your choices for professionals include, 1) those in the mental health field (Doctor’s, Master’s, and undergraduate degrees—psychologists, regular counselors, those with social work degrees, marriage trained therapists, sex therapists), 2) psychiatrists (doctors trained in mental health and medicine; are able to prescribe drugs for mental health issues), 3) trained coaches, and 4) those who have enough life experience to offer a service and may not be educated in formal settings. My Professional Status
I encourage people to shop around for the best person and the best fees. However, skill and fees vary greatly. It probably would not be in your best interest to make your decision based solely on who has the lowest price.
Professional fees for my type of service and for those in the mental health field can range from almost nothing to $250+ an hour. If you’re limiting your search to only those who accept insurance, you might be tempted to choose someone who fits your pocketbook, but not your needs.
In my opinion, one would be better off paying a very good professional $150 an hour and getting very good results, than paying someone $30 an hour and getting inadequate results. This, however, doesn’t mean that the professional with the highest fees are the best. You could also find a professional who charges $30 an hour who is better than the person who charges $150 an hour.
I wish it were an easier for the general public to make choices. I thus refer you back to the first two questions to ask a professional before you hire the person.
Also, consider hiring more than one professional at a time. This is not common practice, but I think it will give you a better sense of who is getting the job done for you. It also gives you the benefit of more than one perspective.
Feeling ashamed about getting help
Many people are ashamed to get support for life and relationship challenges. They have the notion that coaches and counselors are for people who are weak and have severe problems. I think of counseling and/or coaching as something everyone can benefit from at many points in their lives. Just as you’d talk to a friend when you’re facing a challenge, you talk to a professional when the challenge is bigger than your friend can handle. I consider your asking for support to be a character strength.
Concern about being judged and told what to do
There are professionals who are judgmental and those who will tell you what to do. In my opinion, these are poor-quality professionals. Ditch any of those you find. Exploring your life challenges is best done in a completely accepting atmosphere. It is also best done in an atmosphere that gives you the power--having you see new options and then you choosing the ones that work for you.
Standard practice of 50-minute or one-hour sessions
The standard session length, especially in the mental health field, is about an hour. Personally I think this is because it’s more convenient for the professional, and not because it best serves the client. This is especially true for couples. I have heard many disturbing stories from couples. They initially had a very difficult time even getting to a counselor’s office. As they began to make deep progress in a session, it was abruptly ended “because our time is up”.
I suggest finding someone
who offers longer sessions—especially in the beginning
sessions. I set my sessions up to be time-flexible in
case we need more time.
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