Marriage and Family Counseling
Marriage and family counseling is the heart of everything we do at Samaritans Well. For couples counseling we usually begin with the husband and the wife together, but sometimes with one of the spouses only to start, to discuss the identifying problems.
Much of the first session is getting the history of the marriage and the history of the individual husband and wife individually. We need to know about the presenting problems, the highs and lows and the strengths and challenges in the marriage. It’s important that we get an assessment of where the communication levels are, what resentments or unforgiveness are possibly in the marriage, and what issues there are with trust in the marriage, among other things.
The foundation of any marriage begins with a solid and growing friendship. We need to assess where each couple is in the strength of their friendship and whether it is growing or stagnant. This will be part of the history we take for each couple’s current situation and their history.
In the first session, we will be assessing communication issues also. Communication includes a sender and receiver. The bible teaches us to be “quick to hear and slow to speak.” This is sometimes the opposite of what we find when couples come in for counsel. We find that some of the most damage comes when a couple is Critical, uses Contempt, and Condemnation. The healthy side of communication is when there is room to Correct, Complain and we do it with Commendation instead of condemnation. Communication is assessed throughout the first session and ongoing in counseling.
Most couples come in because there is some level of conflict in the marriage. It could be ongoing and building and a consistent part of the marriage. It could be conflict from a crisis like an affair or an addiction or something else that has come into the marriage that is the basis of a new challenge that is causing a stalemate in the marriage.
When there has been adultery or an affair, we have to approach it in a very specific way. The most effective way is to use the first one or two hours to hear the story and the confession about the adultery and the history of the marriage. Then we would commonly ask the person that has had the affair to write out a disclosure of his/her sexual history to present to the counselor and their spouse in the next session. After going through the disclosure, often in a two or three hour session, we set up a polygraph to verify the contents of the disclosure. The steps are essential in the foundation of building back trust, which of course takes time and great effort after a broken trust like an affair causes. As we go through the counseling process for recovery from an affair, it will take time and patience and hard work on all sides to move towards forgiveness and rebuilding trust. This will include the current support system and often new members for your support system. And when the time is right, forgiveness can be extended. We can forgive by choice after we acknowledge the hurt and the hate. However, trust is only rebuilt through time and consistent right behavior. Over the years, we’ve learned that forgiveness is a choice but trust is related to the other person’s behavior. Our quote is, “All things being equal, trust is rebuilt through time and consistent, right behavior.” The “all things being equal” part has to do with the person attempting to extend the trust again. This behavior may have happened before in the relationship, making it harder to rebuild trust now. Or, some similar behavior may have happened in the past, and they have the additional challenge of overcoming that pain that has been stirred up by today’s pain.
One of the most significant things that we observe when a couple is struggling is this: Negative Sentiment Override. This means that instead of a person believing and living out that “Love Hopes all things,” a person may begin to have a negative perception of some or all of their spouses’ communication with them. We believe this is an emotional issue, but also a spiritual issue and in couples counseling we look for all the things that might contribute to any negative perception you may have towards each other as a couple. It’s essentially the biscuit turned around, forgiveness and grace being extended, and we began to have a positive sentiment override to replace this. This is foundational in counseling.
Couples often come into our office in distress—discouraged, embittered, and sometimes traumatized from recent events in their marriage. It’s vital that we listen to your story and hear both sides so that we can form a preliminary strategy at the end of the first session.
Often at the end of the first session we will set up an individual session for husband and wife to go further into their story and their need for ministry as a couple and as an individual. When couples give us permission to address Marriage AND individual issues, we are able to have the freedom to address issues that are directly and indirectly connected to marriage.
Many licensed professional counselors do not do marriage therapy. This is where experience and a clear process really come together and are vital. God has led me to emphasize marriage counseling at Samaritan’s Well. When couples are open to prayer we pray in the sessions. When couples are open to it, we share scriptures during the sessions.
Homework: for most sessions homework is used to supplement the things we are covering during the session. We emphasize communication skills with some couples. Some couples need to rebuild their friendship with each other. Some couples need to catch up with forgiveness. Whatever your need is, we will put together a custom plan for your needs.
We ask that God will lead you to the right place for your marriage needs!