A Primer: Counseling, Coaching, Mentoring

If you have come to the point of wanting help for your marriage you can find it. There are many resources but trying to sort out what is right for you can be a struggle.

There are many types of professional counselors. Some are psychiatrists (MD’s who can typically prescribe medications). There are psychologists, professional clinical counselors, licensed social workers, licensed marital therapists, and pastoral counselors. In general, most of these are licensed by a state in one fashion or another. Depending on their licensure some can diagnose mental and emotional disorders and some can’t. In general, marriage therapy is not covered by insurance.

Marriage Coaching is a relatively new field. Coaching is very focused on listening to the clients, helping them sort out where God may already be leading them, and giving them encouragement to achieve those God-given goals as a couple.

Mentoring is primarily done on a volunteer basis by long-term married couples who have received some training in helping to share their life experiences with a younger couple. It is often done with some sort of pre-approved mentoring curriculum.

Several things to consider. If you are a Christian I highly suggest getting Christian help, if it’s competent and available. If not, be aware that your helper’s worldview may be very different than yours and may not be “marriage-friendly”. This may seem like a surprising issue, but really probe your helpers to see how marriage-friendly they are. There are certain marital professionals that often seem to recommend divorce way too early in the process.

A good fit personality-wise is helpful also. Sometimes this may take some trial and error to find, especially getting a helper that is acceptable to both partners. For some issues, especially mental, or emotional issues requiring specific expertise, couples may go at least part of the time to separate counselors. It is quite beneficial if both partners can sign authorizations to allow the helpers to communicate confidentially with each other about the marriage.

Be willing to get help from various kinds of people helpers – maybe counseling and mentoring at the same time. Both can give you different perspectives on your situation.

Be aware that some professionals are great in helping individuals, but may struggle in helping couples. No person can be the best at everything.

The key is not to give up. With God’s help keep looking until you find the right combination of help for you as a couple and as individuals.

By the time we came out of our marriage crisis, between the two of us we had worked with  psychiatrists, psychologists, professional clinical counselors, mentors, pastoral counselors, and elders. Was it expensive? Yes. Was it frustrating? At times, yes. Did our helpers always agree? No. Was the end result of a reconciled marriage worth it? Absolutely, yes.

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