Saturday, July 12, 2008

Referring people to counseling: advice from a marriage and family therapist

image Got some great advice from a trusted friend (who happens to be a marriage and family therapist) about referring people to counseling resources. As a minister, sometimes our relationship to people or the nature of their circumstances makes it difficult or inappropriate to act as their counselor. When that happens, how do you know who to trust? Here's her words on the subject:

You have the right to ask a counselor any info you want to ask. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy has a website--this will give you a list of marriage and family therapists (MFT's). Of course, this is my preferred theory. You work with the whole system even when working with an individual because all of us are a part of a system that effects us. Other theories are based more on medical diagnosis and behavior change. Sometimes this is also needed but I think even then you have better results when the individual receives some counseling to more effectively set their own goals, expectations etc. within their system. If you are seeking marriage counseling, I strongly suggest the MFT model. Of course not all MFT's necessarily believe in trying to save marriages. Even though according to our code of ethics, we cannot lead anyone to make a decision on whether or not they get a divorce, our beliefs will still color our therapy.

So basic questions:


Licensed in the state? In other states? Ever had it revoked? You should also be able to look on the state website (health or mental health boards) and find any complaints made against a therapist.

What is their educational background? Truthfully with some states it doesn't take much to license- Washington included.

Theory or model? What is their approach to therapy?

Client-directed or therapist-directed? This may be important to any postmodern. I think most would like a more client-centered approach, where client and therapist work together on solutions. Therapist-directed will ask you to do certain things, they think are important. There is nothing wrong with this approach as long as the client is willing to trust that the therapist knows what is best for them. A MFT can be either approach.

How long do they expect therapy to take? I would answer that it varies but I would like to set a goal to be done in 10 sessions or less. We will only go as long as is needed.

If dealing with marriage problems, ask their views on marriage and divorce.

Ask if they have experience in dealing with your specific problem.

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