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Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting a Marriage Counselor

Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting a Marriage Counselor

Marriage counseling is helpful to anyone who is married. A marriage counselor can help a couple through difficult times and they can also help a couple have a happier marriage.

However, not all marriage counselors are suited to help all marriages. You need to know what to look for when you seek out a marriage counselor. Here are the top 8 points that I would tell a friend or family member to consider when seeking the services of a marriage counselor.

1. Know Your Counselor’s Values

If you and your spouse are of a particular faith or religion, use a counselor with that same faith background. I would not recommend that a Christian go to an atheist counselor. Your beliefs and values are going to be starkly different.

Find a counselor that has your similar belief system. How do you know what their belief system may be? Look at the counselor’s website. Most will specify if they use a specific faith to guide their faith and practice.

For example, you can find counselors that use new age practices that embrace spirituality and connection with the universe. If that isn’t your belief system and instead you are a devout Baptist, then look for a counselor that labels themselves as a Christian counselor.

When it comes to matters of the heart, you want to receive life guidance, advice, and support from someone who thinks like you do. If you go to someone who has opposing views to your own beliefs, then the counseling experience will likely not be beneficial to you. Make sure that you and your spouse consider faith, religious background, and your belief system when looking at counselors that you may want to hire.

Your marriage is serious business, so take the time and effort to look at the background of the counselor you want to hire. You want to ensure that they will counsel in a manner that aligns with your personal and marital beliefs.

For example, I know a couple very close to me who went to marriage counseling after a year of marriage. This couple would describe themselves as Christians, even though they weren’t regular attenders at the time.

After several sessions with their couple’s counselor, it was suggested by the counselor that they get divorced. Thank goodness that the couple did not agree with the counselor! They did not take the counselor’s advice and remained married. They did however, feel that their time and money was wasted with that particular marriage counselor.

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The marriage counselor held no personal stock in Christianity or the sanctity of marriage. This counselor focused on individual happiness and doing what is best for each person alone. This counselor did not specialize in helping marriages through their problems. His focus instead was on the individual rather than the couple.

However, this couple wanted the focus to be on their marriage, and helping them through their issues. They made it through that first year, in spite of the counselor and have now celebrated 40 years of marriage.

Their story is proof that you need to look at the counselor’s personal values before you dive into a counseling relationship and spend your money and time with someone who may not value what you value in life.

2. Do They Accept Your Insurance?

If you have health insurance that covers marriage counseling, then use it! The cost of good counseling is not cheap. It is well worth the money. But if you have insurance that covers counseling, then take advantage of this benefit.

You can contact your insurance company and they can provide you with the names and contact information of counselors that accept your insurance. If you found a specific counselor that you want to work with, then contact that counselor to see if they accept your insurance.

If you don’t have insurance, there are some counselors that have a sliding scale for counseling fees. They will charge based on your income level. If you think you would qualify for lower payments, then ask if they have a sliding scale available.

3. There are Free Marriage Counseling Options

If you cannot afford marriage counseling or you feel that the failing marriage is not worth investing another cent, then look at free marriage counseling options.

Don’t give up on your marriage without at least giving free counseling a try. There are many churches that offer free (or highly discounted) marriage counseling services.

For many of these churches you do not even need to be a member. These counseling sessions are often limited in number, meaning that each couple is provided a set number of sessions free.

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This is okay though because if you are one of those couples who wouldn’t get help from a counselor unless it is free, then seek out the free options because several sessions is better than none!

4. What are the Counselor’s Credentials?

A reputable counselor will typically provide their credentials right on their website. They will state where they obtained their education and what degrees that have obtained.

Look to see what kind of counseling license they hold. Most counseling licenses require a Master’s degree or higher. There are some who call themselves counselors and hold no degrees and/or license. Depending on the state where they reside, it could be against the law for them to even be practicing.

It is a good general policy to use counselors that are legitimate, meaning they have the degrees and license. You want to be counseled by someone who knows what they are doing, so don’t risk your marriage by using someone who isn’t legitimate.

5. Ask About the Counselor’s Track Record

Ask the counselor what their success rate has been with other couples who have sought their help through couples counseling. A counselor who has a good record of helping couples survive their issues, helped them work though their problems, and the couple did not get divorced, then that counselor will be willing to tell you about it.

They obviously can’t violate confidentiality laws, but they can speak about general statistics and couples that they have helped without getting too specific or providing names.

Counselors who have a good track record of success are going to be more than willing to share about their success. They will want potential clients to know that they have helped others and that their success can be repeated with you and your marital situation.

6. What to Expect in a Session

In marriage counseling, your counselor will use the techniques and methods that they have been taught and that they find to be effective in helping couples.

Not Taking Sides

Not all marriage counselors utilize the same methods. There are some general policies that most marriage counselors will hold. This includes not taking sides. They will act as a middle man or mediator, not taking either side in the marriage.

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Even if they do find that one side is “right”, then they help in a diplomatic way that does not alienate the side that is “wrong”. Therefore, don’t go into marriage counseling seeking to get the counselor on your side. The counselor’s job is not to take sides. Their job is to help you through your problems and issues, so you can have a happy marriage.

Keeping Everyone Calm

Another general policy that most marriage counselors hold is that they are going to try to conduct sessions in a manner that keeps everyone calm.

Things can get heated in marriage counseling situations. For example, a couple may go to counseling because the husband has been unfaithful. The wife is very hurt and angry. She starts yelling and pointing her finger at her husband saying “you cheated and you are the one who needs to fix this situation”.

The counselor will calmly ask the wife to stop. The counselor will then explain that pointing fingers and yelling is not allowed. The words can be expressed, but not though yelling and finger pointing.

Yelling at the husband won’t likely get a response that will work toward healing the relationship. They are there to heal the marriage, so communication of feelings is important, but it needs to be done in a way that helps the other spouse receive the message with an open heart. Yelling will only cause the other person to harden their heart toward their spouse.

Tough and sensitive topics come to light in these sessions. The counselor will work hard to make sure that couples do not interrupt one another, that voices are not raised, and that things remain calm in every session.

Tough topics can be discussed, and the counseling setting should be an emotionally safe place to open up. Your counselor will work to allow you to voice your side without getting attacked verbally or emotionally from the other side.

7. Seeking Marriage Counseling Does Not Mean You Have a Bad Marriage

Many good marriages seek out couples counseling. My husband and I have gone to couples counseling together on several occasions.

Our newborn son died during our first year of marriage. We attended counseling together to get through our grief, but at the same time, some marital issues came up and were addressed.

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It was so helpful to have a counselor in our lives to help us through that difficult time. We found that the counseling we had then has been beneficial to our marriage in the many years since that time. The time and money invested was greatly beneficial to our marriage in the long run. Marriage counseling can do that for you as well.

Couples who seek counseling do so for a variety of reasons. It doesn’t always mean that they are there because they don’t have any other options or at the end of their marriage. Many couples go because they have problems or issues that they recognize could become bigger and more damaging to the marriage if not addressed now.

Some couples want to be proactive about their marriage and the small problems that crop up. They want to ensure that as a couple, they develop good communication and coping skills to handle smaller issues now; so that when bigger issues come up, they can handle them when they come.

There are other couples that go to improve their marriage. They want better ways of communicating and more emotional openness. The counselor can help couples develop better communication skills and they can help draw out emotional openness. Both of which can make a marriage happier in the long run.

8. Marriage Counseling Can Benefit All Marriages

Don’t wait to go to counseling until you are at the end of your rope. Seek counseling before you get to that point.

It is easier to resolve problems when they are just getting started. It is much harder to resolve problems that have been festering for years and couples have hardened hearts.

Do your marriage a favor and consider seeking counseling sooner than later. Every marriage can benefit from marriage counseling. If you are dealing with issues and problems now, consider seeking a counselor, because wouldn’t your marriage be even better if those issues were resolved sooner than later?

Featured photo credit: Gades Photography via unsplash.com

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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