Marriage Counselors, Family Therapists

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Read our guide: Tips to Choose a Marriage Counselor

Tips to Choose a Marriage Counselor

When seeking a marriage counselor or therapist, it is important that the couple view themselves as a consumer of a product. The couple needs to feel in control of the process and view themselves just as they would, if they were purchasing a car. The process involves careful research, consideration and consultation.

One of the first steps in seeking counseling is to decide as a couple if you would prefer a male or female therapist or marriage counselor. This will narrow down the selection process and the couple can proceed from there.

It is imperative that the couple inquires or asks the therapist or counselor the following before starting on the therapeutic process. Sample questions are:

  • Counseling fees: How much does each session run? Are there any discounts possible?
  • Are insurance reimbursements possible?
  • Inquire about the counselor's training: How long have they been in practice? What experience do they have in working with couples? (refer to the Types of Therapists article below for a description of therapist's backgrounds)
  • What type of therapeutic style do they employ? (read on for a description of therapeutic styles and modalities)
  • Ask about the therapist's license: not all states mandate that therapists hold a license, and one can always confirm a license by contacting the State Board of Licensing and/or Certification for that field of practice. If the therapist does hold a license, make sure that license is up to date and that the therapist is not sanctioned in any way.
  • Inquire as to the counselor's cancellation policies.

Both partners seeking marriage counseling need to feel comfortable with the counselor or therapist that they have selected. If one partner is reluctant to pursue therapy with a particular therapist, it is important that the couple find someone else.

Therapeutic Styles/ Modalities

There is no one type of therapy that is the best or most effective. It depends on each person's individual needs and the wishes of the couple. Some specific techniques have been found to be more useful than others in dealing with certain types of problems (such as phobias), but in general, research about the "best" model or most "effective" model of marriage counseling always reaches the same conclusion: the most critical factor is the relationship between the therapist and the clients/patients.2

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy/ Ego Psychology
Psychodynamic psychotherapy is used to help clients understand themselves more fully. The theory behind this approach is exploring our past - adverse childhood experiences or other unconscious conflicts . This is the basis for problems that persist into adulthood, such as unusually low self-esteem, anxiety, or a feeling of being incomplete. Psychodynamic therapy presumes that some facets of our lives are hidden from us, in the subconscious mind, and that we use defenses to help keep us from experiencing the pain that would come from acknowledging elements from our past. The classic form of "talking therapy" is psychoanalysis, which has evolved into several modern branches, including self-psychology, object relations psychotherapy, inter-subjectivity, and psychodynamic psychotherapy.3

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) uses a combination of both cognitive and behavioral therapy. CBT explores both thinking patterns and harmful or self-destructive behaviors that might accompany them. The therapy then combines changing the thinking patterns along with changing the behavior.4

Solution Based Therapy
Solution-based approaches provide the methods and the tools for people to move beyond old patterns and previous unwanted behaviors. These technologies and tools empower the individual to be more resourceful and to have a quicker route to the desired outcomes that they want and deserve.5

Structural Therapy
Is founded on four basic concepts, boundaries, subsystems, alignments, and complementarily. A structural therapist takes these into consideration in working with the individual, family, and the social context. The most important component of this therapy is that the therapist must recognize that every family has a structure, and this structure is revealed only when the family is in action.6

Systems Theory
Systems theory is based on the premise that all pieces of an organism are part of a whole. A system theorists examines all pieces of the couple's family and identifies holistic changes that need to be made to the entire familial unit, rather than focusing on one individual.7

The Feminist Approach to Therapy
Feminist clinical approach encompasses a diversity of treatment interventions. Many rely on the lives and experiences of women and men- in particular, the nature and impact of inequality between genders and the structuring of gender roles, privilege, value, social class, culture, sexuality, and the concept of the self.8

Types of Therapists / Marriage Counselors

There are many different types of therapists and counselors. It is important to shop around for a therapist or counselor that fits the needs of both partners in the relationship. If you as a couple are currently seeing a particular type of therapist and that counseling style is not working, you may consider trying someone else. Below is a list of different types of therapists or counselors and the educational backgrounds mandated for their certifications:
Clinical Psychologist
o Example: Molly McJoy, Ph.D. or Psy.D.
o Scientist-practioner
o Has Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree
o Usually complete a one year internship

Counseling Psychologist
o Example: Molly McJoy, Ph.D.
o Scientist-practioner
o Has Ph.D. degree
o Usually complete a one year internship

o Example: Dr. Molly McJoy or Molly McJoy, M.D.
o Physician
o Has a medical degree
o Has medical internship and residency in psychiatry (3 years)
o Can prescribe medicine

o Does not necessitate a certain abbreviation , but can be Ph.D., M.D., LCSW, and others.
o Psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, and master's level candidates for admission require significant additional education and supervision in order to qualify.
o Admission to a psychoanalytic institute (3 years)
o Goes through psychoanalysis themselves.
o Psychoanalysts are among the most highly trained psychodynamic psychotherapists.

Social Worker
o Example: Molly McJoy, MSW or Ph.D.
o Has MSW degree or Doctorate of Philosophy
o Licensed individuals usually have LCSW or another variation depending on the state
o Usually complete a one year internship, licensed practitioners have been under field supervision for usually 2 years.

Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT)
o Example: Molly McJoy LMFT or MFT
o Has a masters degree or a Doctorate of Philosophy
o Completed a two year post degree and work under supervision to attain licensure.
o MFT's are trained in many different approaches to marriage & family therapy.

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
o Example: Molly McJoy, M.A. or LPC or both
o Has a masters in counseling
o Usually complete a one year internship, licensed practitioners have been under field supervision for usually 2 years.

1. Carter, B., McGoldrick, M., (1998) The expanded family life cycle: Individual, family and social perspectives. Alllyn and Bacon: Boston.
2. Psychotherapy, relationship help and marriage counseling. Available at:
3. Psychotherapy, relationship help and marriage counseling. Available at:
4. Psychotherapy, relationship help and marriage counseling. Available at:
5. Client Centered Counseling, Available at:
6. Dorfman, R.A., (1998) Paradigms of clinical social work. Vol 2. Brunner-Routledge: New York.
7. Dorfman, R.A., (1998) Paradigms of clinical social work. Vol 2. Brunner-Routledge: New York.
8. Dorfman, R.A., (1998) Paradigms of clinical social work. Vol 2. Brunner-Routledge: New York.
9. Types of therapists. Available at:

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