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What You Should Know Before Receiving Marriage Counseling
Written By: Mark Smith

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If this is your first cyber shopping expedition into Indianapolis' Marriage Counseling marketplace or any other marriage counsleing market place there are some things you should know before making the selection of your marriage counselor. I will shoot straight with you in giving background information that will be helpful in your decision making process. I have insider knowledge about the field that I will attempt to objectively give you some helpful information. I have been a player in Indianapolis' Marriage Counseling game since 1987. I started our practice in September of 1989. With due respect to some of our highly Google ranked competition, many of them were actually in grade school in 1989. My schedule has been booked solid since I started my practice and I have 10 great therapists who work in the practice. I have seen many therapists and practices come and go through the years and I think I can offer you some perspective. I will put myself in your shoes as a consumer as I share with you what I know.

Before I begin to coach you on the process of marriage counseling shopping in the Indianapolis market I need to get into a theoretical discussion about the nature of effective marital work. The truth is that there are a lot of really bad marriage counselors out there in Indianapolis and elsewhere. If you think that you can just randomly pick any marriage counselor off the web and get high quality, effective service you are sadly mistaken. If you have already been to two or three marriage counselors you know what I am talking about. Most of them are not helpful at best and downright hurtful to re-building your marriage at worst. The problem with most good hearted and well intentioned marriage counselors in Indianapolis or any market is that they are focused on the WRONG goal. Surprising the wrong goal is to make the main focus of the therapy fixing the marriage. That is a huge mistake philosophically. Marriages are made up of individual people and if a marriage is going to be rebuilt into something healthy, the process is going to have to start with enlightening and emotionally healing those two individual people. I know that you as a consumer are only interested in saving your marriage so an approach that puts improving and fixing your marriage center stage probably sounds reasonable and like what you should be looking for. It isn't. I liken this approach to putting a Band-Aid on a cancer. Please trust me when I tell you that buying into such an approach could very well be the kiss of death for a marriage that could have been re-built with the right approach.

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Before you can fix something you have to first understand exactly what is broken. I know that from your perspective your marriage is absolutely broke down, miserable and in need of serious repair. You wouldn't be surfing Indianapolis Marriage Counselors if you thought otherwise. Here is a mind blower - your marriage is actually just fine. It is actually performing exactly the way it is supposed to be at this point in the marriage. What you (and most marriage counselors) don't understand is that the purpose of marriage is actually to NOT meet your needs and to make you freaking miserable! Your marriage is supposed to be exactly what it is. The pain of your marriage is intended to drive you towards humility, open mindedness, desperation and ultimately into the office of someone who can finally really help you. The truth is that what is broken is you. You are broken. You knew that, right?

The human condition is that we are all pretty dysfunctional. Everyone you know has major issues in their family trees. You and yours are no different. We were all wounded as children in some way, shape or form. If I had a dollar for every time a client of mine told me that he had a great childhood because they had lots of neighborhood friends to play with I'd have enough money to buy that luxury bus that I've been dreaming about. Their dad was busy with work and their mom was depressed so they pretty much raised themselves but they did have lots of fun running the neighborhood. What was the truth about problems in your family as you were growing up? If you compare the emotional goodies that you didn't get growing up with the emotional goodies that you aren't getting in your marriage you'll find that the lists look pretty similar. I wish hard work, a good education, a great job, a big house, a cool car and a Ken and Barbie marriage could erase being abandoned or abused as a child but they don't. The truth about your childhood deficiencies will get exposed and revealed by your marriage. Marriage is life's big truth teller. Whatever dysfunctions mucked up the works growing up will re-visit you during your marriage. Count on it. It is an immutable law of nature.
So what is the truth about you in your marriage? Do you know? What does your spouse say about you? Do you truly listen to and hear them non-defensively? Effective therapy isn't about trumping up cute little plans to try and make things better. That will work well for about a week and a half. Effective marriage counseling is about choking down as much stone cold truth about your role in your marriage and the flaws in your childhood that you can swallow. If your spouse does the same work then your marriage will have a very bright future. Are you controlling, workaholic, critical, too close to your mother, flirtatious, addicted to golf, depressed, a spender, self centered, too nice, lacking in depth, a comfort eater, a little too dependent on wine, a sexual addict, too passive, a ranger, high on Jesus, defensive, or what is your story? You are who you were raised to be. You have nothing to be ashamed of. What is the truth about your spouse? Truly re-building your marriage into something solid and wonderful will mean re-building you and your spouse from the inside out, and that will be a painful, difficult and time consuming proposition.

If you are going to enlist the help of a highly effective marriage counselor you will need someone who understands the healing actual purpose of marital pain, has knowledge of and firsthand experience in healing (their own) childhood wounds, has great courage, has the ability to impact people powerfully with articulate words, knows the difficult truths about themselves, doesn't need your money, deeply cares about people, has years of experience dealing with complex issues, has strong ethical standards and is well trained in understanding addictions and marital issues. I fit the bill on all counts and I have trained and I continue to supervise 10 high character therapists who also fit the bill, though with varying degrees of experience.

It is best to read, watch or listen to materials from the various therapists that you are considering that expound upon their therapeutic philosophies. See which therapist's materials you really connect with. If a therapist doesn't offer much in the way of free materials that explain their approach pass on them. They probably offer a watered down vanilla approach that will be a waste of your time and money.

The problem with marriage counselors locally in Indianapolis or nationwide who don't shift the focus of the work from the current marital issues to the root causes of childhood dysfunction is that they inadvertently encourage "the offended spouse" to slip into the role of embittered victim while the other is left with the bad guy role. This is extremely common in bad marriage counseling. Anyone thinking that they have been victimized in the marriage is both poisonous and cancerous to effective marriage counseling. The number one cause of divorce isn't infidelity or money problems or addictions or in-law issues. The number one cause of divorce is taking a victimy, judgmental, "I'm less dysfunctional than thou" stance in the marriage. Without the paradigm shift of knowing that there are never, ever any victims in marriage because we all marry the hidden worst characteristics of our parents, settling into the victim/bad guy routine is inevitable. Men, would want to hazard a guess who most often gets elected to the bad guy position? Yep, that would be you. If your wife settles on a victim's role you will be stuck in the dog house for the rest of your short lived marriage. There are no victims or bad guys in marriage. Any
approach that allows for even a trace of a victim mentality is an absolute marriage killer.

Whether you pick a Family Tree Counseling therapist or one from another marriage counseling practice in the Indianapolis area I want to reiterate that you should use these 10 previously mentioned guidelines in your selection process. You are looking for...

#1 Someone who understands the healing purpose of marital pain - They aren't trying to put a Band Aid on the marital symptoms but rather focus on the root problems from both of your childhoods.

#2 Someone who has knowledge of and firsthand experience in healing (their own) childhood wounds - A great therapist is made on the therapy couch from doing their own work. The more work they have done on themselves the better. Therapists tend to be pretty dysfunctional folks so be careful.

#3 Someone who has great courage - It takes a lot of courage and personal strength to powerfully confront defensive, intimidating people who aren't used to ever being confronted.

#4 Someone who has the ability to impact people powerfully with articulate words. - A therapist's stock in trade is their ability to effectively use words. The right word at the right time said in the right way can make all the difference in the world. Honestly, enough of those right words can shift a marriage headed for divorce into the marriage headed for rebuilt happiness column.

#5 Someone who knows the difficult truths about themselves. - You don't want a healthy therapist who has had an easy life. You want someone who has struggled, worked hard on themselves, has had a lot of pain, has developed an openness and a depth emotionally and who is humble enough to take feedback, even from clients. They already know who they are and what their issues are so they don't get defensive.

#6 Someone who doesn't need your money. - Most therapists are unsuccessful enough to really feel the loss of your check to them every week. That might keep them from saying the difficult things that should be said; for fear that they will chase away their weekly paycheck. Pick someone who doesn't think about money because they have some any clients lining up that they don't need to.

#7 Someone who deeply cares about people. - Frankly, this is the easy one. Most average to bad marriage counselors care deeply and sincerely about their clients. We get into this because we do care. But do you feel that caring each week in your sessions?

#8 Someone who has years of experience dealing with complex issues. - Nothing is a substitute for years of experience. In nearly 25 years I have seen it all and then some, but I am still hearing and experiencing new situations almost weekly. You learn by doing so get someone with a lot of experience.

#9 Someone who has strong ethical standards. - Obviously this is a must. Have you heard negative things about a particular counselor? Have they ever had ethical issues with their licensing board?

#10 Someone who is well trained in understanding addictions and marital issues. - You notice that training is last on my list. It is important, but not as important as ethics, doing one's own work, psychological openness, the right general paradigm, being gutsy and being cutting and wise with words.

Use these guidelines, ingest all the materials that you can find from your final list of Indianapolis Marriage Counselors, see if they will meet with you the first time for 15 minutes for free so that you can get a sense of them and then just go with your gut reaction. A good therapeutic match includes some personal chemistry and fit as well as the 10 traits that I described. Good luck to you. No matter where you go for your therapy I hope that your marriage gets the overhaul that it needs and that you live as happily ever after that real life and real life marriage allow.

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This article was authored by Family Tree Counseling Associates, a marriage, individual and family counseling center serving the Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville communities in Indiana. If you would like to contact us, please fill out a contact us form or call us at 317-844-2442.
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