A marriage counselor advises couples experiencing emotional difficulties in their relationships. She may dispense advice only to heterosexual, legally married couples or accept clients who are just cohabiting or fall into the gay, lesbian, transgender or transsexual categories. Her job may be affiliated with a group of therapists or she may have a private, independent practice.
A considerable number of counselors help people through social services agencies and mental health centers or provide advice to clients at hospitals and clinics. A fairly recent trend is for a marriage counselor to provide therapy at the homes of her clients. This approach is often believed to be beneficial as the couples may be more candid when speaking in the familiar surroundings of a home environment.
People who seek the help of a marriage counselor have typically hit an impasse in their interpersonal communications. The counselor normally assesses the relationship with the couple by identifying their specific areas of need through speaking with them individually and together. Once the problem has been isolated to the satisfaction of the couple, the counseling program is generally begun.
In some cases, the counselor dispenses advice to couples in group therapy sessions. This setting is customarily considered a good option for couples who may benefit from realizing the universality of some of their difficulties. Group therapy sometimes results in couples seeking more private therapy sessions with the counselor.
Marital problems can stem from a wide range of problems. A marriage counselor is normally expected to be proficient in addressing these difficulties and offering a variety of applicable solutions. She is typically required to remain objective in her recommendations to each party.
The therapy provided by a marriage counselor customarily centers on her clients’ insights into each other’s behavior. One of the first areas typically studied by a counselor is the couple’s communication skills. If she discovers the couple is merely speaking to one another without actually listening or communicating their true feelings, she normally advises them on ways to improve these skills.
Another counseling method commonly utilized by a marriage counselor includes initiating conversations on general topics and common areas of contention with the couple. This frequently encourages them to discreetly disclose their innermost feelings. The exercise frequently brings deep-seeded needs, fears and secrets to the surface, issues often previously unexplored by the couple.
A master’s degree in counseling is typically required to be a marriage counselor. Two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical field experience is also a common requirement to be hired for this job. Many regions also require a license or certification to practice as this type of counselor. Empathy and discretion are customarily expected for those with the position of marriage counselor.