Thank you all so much for your encouragement and positivity after my posts last week about marriage counseling. As I suspected, writing about it helped to clear my own head and gave me such peace that I am feeling so much better myself, just after sharing.
I am ready to move on and now dwell on the counseling part because four posts in a row about anything is bound to get boring, but before I move on, I did want to answer a few questions I received over and over again about our experience:
How did you find a counselor? We tried going through our insurance company by looking up their counselors in network, but our insurance has surprisingly few options for counseling (boooooooooo!!!!!). They had contracted with one mental health practice here in Orlando and I had heard some really not great things about that practice from a few friends who I knew had seen a therapist over the years. Once we ruled out the private practice option, we turned to our church who has a counseling center. Actually, years ago, my doctor suggested I see a therapist when i was dealing with depression (I didn’t go; bad patient!) and she suggested that counseling center to me. The center is housed within the church, but the therapists are licensed and professional psychologists. In fact, God didn’t come up in any of our sessions. If your health insurance doesn’t cover mental health or just has crappy coverage, I would suggest trying to find a counseling center in a religious organization in your area.
How much did it cost? The counseling center at our church was open to anyone and the fees were on a sliding scale based on income. Our sessions were $100 each because we were church members, but I think the original price was $150 a session. I called around to several private practices before we ended up at this one and the going rate without insurance seemed to be $150-$175 per session.
How often did you have sessions and for how long? We did our sessions every two weeks for two, so we had a total of four sessions. I thought going into therapy would be a huge commitment, but after our first session, our therapist assured us that this was simply about getting our communication back on track and that only a few sessions would be needed. This wasn’t a long-term commitment for us. Your therapist should give you an idea of how long you will be in counseling after your first session, but remember that it can change, depending on what is revealed during sessions.
How did you find the time to go to therapy? Chris and I both have super busy days and we have kids that drag us in 100 different directions once their school day ends, so finding time for a therapist was a concern for us, too. We decided to try and schedule our sessions during the week while the kids were at school and we did them mid-morning so that once the session ended, we could go have lunch together and talk it over just the two of us. Lunch didn’t happen every time because #reallife, but it happened more than not and it was a really nice way to extend the counseling session into a real conversation. It definitely took planning and re-prioritizing. Both of us had to put work aside for a few hours every two weeks in order to honor our commitment, but it was really good for our marriage to see the other making our marriage a priority.
I will say that one time, due to travel for work, we had to schedule a session after school and I couldn’t find childcare for the kids, so I took them with us. They brought their tablets and headphones and just sat out in the lobby for an hour and enjoyed uninterrupted screen time. Not ideal, but you make it work!
How did you decide if you liked your therapist? What would you have done if you didn’t like her? Our counselor made it really easy to decide if she was for us. After our first session, she advised us to not schedule a follow up session that day while we were in the office. She suggested that we go out to lunch and talk it over and decide if we both liked the session. If we didn’t, we should call back to the counseling center and make our follow up appointment with a different counselor. No pressure. She said that therapists are used to having patience bounce around, especially for marriage counseling because you essentially have TWO clients to please instead of just one. We happened to really like ours. She was so encouraging, which is what we really needed. And she listened so well (obviously…) and offered practical, real solutions to our issues. I particularly felt close to her when, after explaining about our summer, she exclaimed very sincerely, “Wow, you guys are in the middle of a real shit show right now.” Maybe that’s not your thing, but to each their own. We loved ours, but if we hadn’t, we would have simply tried another in the same practice. Maybe that’s a good argument for finding a therapist in a group practice instead of a solo one.
One last piece of advice from me to you: Don’t tell anyone you are going through marriage counseling. Chris and I didn’t tell anyone we were going through counseling until it was over and that was accidentally the best choice we could make. First, it gave us the privacy and space to feel all these huge emotions without feeling like we were in a fishbowl of friends and family. But secondly because the stigma of marriage counseling is that you are getting ready to get a divorce, right? The minute I posted about our marriage counseling experience, we had family and friends calling to ask us in those hushed tones, “Is everything okay? Do you want to talk about it?” And our response was, “Nope! We’re good! We’ve already talked about it together and with our therapist. Thanks, though!” Family and friends come from a well-meaning place, but pity is not what we needed. We had made a bold, strong decision to see a therapist and it was making bold, strong impacts on our marriage. There was nothing to whisper or worry over. And, of course, when people find our you are going through a rough patch, they all want to give advice and, honestly, when you’re in the middle of the “shit show,” as my counselor put it, unsolicited advice is the last thing you want and need because it clouds the advice of the therapist.
So, those are the details I can give you about our experience. Bottom line: It’s not scary, you aren’t getting divorced, and you are gifting yourself a healthier, stronger, happier marriage. I mean, what is the downside to THAT situation????
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