couples counselingIndividual counseling and/or couples counseling can be an extremely important and beneficial aspect of recovery and healing from infidelity. 

We only attended a couple of sessions but feel that if we would have continued, our recovery would have progressed much more quickly and smoothly.  Linda did however, go to some individual sessions.

Many people feel though that perhaps therapy isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

William Doherty, Ph.D., professor and director of the marriage and family therapy program at the University of Minnesota says…

A dirty little secret in the therapy field is that couples therapy may be the hardest form of therapy, and most therapists aren’t good at it… Surveys indicate that about 80 percent of therapists in private practice do couples therapy.

In our most recent reader survey, 69.2% of those who responded spoke with a counselor at some point in their recovery.  Of that group, 32.4% felt that counseling was mostly frustrating and not helpful, while 33.8% thought it was helpful, but not as much as they would have liked.  Just 33.8% thought counseling was very helpful.

A common issue that is very apparent from some of the emails, comments and discussions we’ve had with disgruntled people is that they’ve experienced what they feel to be as poor, incompetent or ineffective counseling. 

One reader recently lamented about his wife’s experience with a counselor…

She bamboozled the therapist into thinking that this was just a friendship that went a little too far. The therapist gave her the green light to keep seeing the AP as long as they kept it on a platonic level.

Some of the common complaints that we’ve seen are…

  • The therapist taking sides
  • Lack of experience in treating couples who have suffered from infidelity
  • The therapist was condescending
  • Client disagreed with the method of therapy
See also  4 Reasons Why Couples Counseling is Not a Good Idea if the Affair Has Not Ended

What’s also apparent is that one partner’s complaint about the therapist is often the other partner’s praise.

I do feel that therapists and counselors get a bit of a bad rap.  For every couple with bad experiences with therapy, I’m sure there are equally as many (or more) that have success stories to share. I think a lot depends on the timing in which a couple begins counseling.

From what I’ve read, many marriages are so far gone by the time the couple starts seeing a therapist, that there is little chance for the therapy to have a lasting positive effect. 

There is also the problem where one or both of the partners don’t really put forth much effort in working the plan that the therapists has suggested.  I imagine at times the therapist feels that they’re fighting a losing battle.

So with all of this said, here are some discussion points for this week…

What has your experience been with couples counseling?

Do you feel it was a good experience or bad?  Why?

Any tips for those that may be considering marriage counseling?

If you have not gone to couples counseling, why not?

Please feel free to share your story, and respond to each other in the comments section!


Linda & Doug


    8 replies to "Discussion – Your Experiences with Couples Counseling"

    • Jan

      I am 3+ months past DDay. We talked about counseling from almost the moment I discovered what was going on. We weren’t sure we wanted to do that because we didn’t have alot of confidence it would help. So, we put it off until about 2 months past DDay and then finally scheduled an appointment with a counselor provided through our church. Our intent was individual counseling as well as couples counseling.

      We arrived a few minutes before our appointment so sat in our car until closer to the appointment. Another car drove in, parked, and out stepped a VERY young woman, dressed in a business suit and looking like she was unsure if she was at the right place. I looked at my husband and said, “Well, that’s our counselor.” He said, “How can you be sure?” I said simply, “Because I just know and I can tell you right now that girl is straight out of college and has no idea to handle a situation like this.” He just told me to wait and see if it was even her. And of course, it was. She was very nice but at 24 years old and right out of college she didn’t have a clue. We met individually with her for 40 minutes each that day and then together. It was what we basically thought a first appointment would be, i.e., gathering background, information, etc.

      But, I knew she couldn’t be a marriage counselor for us because as I unfolded the story, she kept rolling her eyes when I revealed some of the things my husband said to me, etc. She was very definitely on my side. I didn’t want that. I wanted someone to be impartial.

      Then my husband met with her and then we met with her afterwards. Again, she was very nice but way in over her head. A therapist is going to need some experience under their belt to deal with this kind of situation.

      We got in the car, my husband said, “Well, she’s way too young and she’s attractive. That’s going to be a problem for you, sweetheart. I think it would be better if I found a male counselor. And someone needs to tell her to not wear a skirt because as I sat across from her, I could see straight up to her underwear.” Gotta love him for being honest.

      We located another counselor but haven’t scheduled an appointment yet. We have been traveling constantly due to some personal demands. And honestly, I am NOT going to be the one to make the move on the counseling. I pushed the first time and won’t do it again. He knows he needs to get into counseling. We’ve talked about it alot and he says, “We need to make some time in our schedule so I know when to set an appointment.” We’ll see what happens.

      So, the first shot at counseling was a bust. I do think we need to go and plan on persuing my own counseling regardless of what my husband does. I need to get to a point where I don’t feel the anger, rage, and depression. It’s certainly much better this past week but I know at any moment I could slip right back into it.

      I think there is great benefit to having someone to talk to that isn’t related to you or friends with you or whatever. As long as the therapist is impartial. That’s the big thing.

    • Tiredofitall

      In my husband’s first marriage, he & his ex-wife went to couples counseling and it was a terrible experience for him. (No infidelity in that marriage, just incompatibility) that may be why we don’t go. Like Jan said, I feel like it is my husband that should want the two of us to go. I can’t fix this, it’s his job to step up and make it right. Living in a very rural location our options are limited but maybe we could at least meet with our pastor. I feel like meeting as a couple would be more beneficial for us than me going alone.

    • exercisegrace

      Counseling, both individual and marital were on my list of deal breakers in order for me to stay in the marriage. My husband had absolutely no problem agreeing. He was relieved it was out in the open, tired of carrying the burden of his awful secret and more than ready to go about repairing what he had broken.

      Our first counselor did not work out. He actually asked me why I wanted to ask my husband any questions about the affair. He definitely aided and abetted my husband in giving me “I don’t know”, and “I don’t remember” for answers. My response was….because I can’t forgive something unless I know what I am forgiving. I also said that I could not tolerate there being anymore secrets that only my husband and his whore knew about. I was powerless during the affair, given no choice and no voice. So during recovery, I was the one calling the shots and if he didn’t like it he could leave. The guy was really taken aback. Then he said it. The sentence that killed it for me…….Well if MY wife cheated on ME all I would want to know is “are we going to be ok”. I was stunned. I call bullcrap on that one. You want to know pesky little details like, was there unprotected sex? Do you ( or should I say WE) have a disease now?

      Additionally he told my husband things would be “great” in a few months, because I seemed very forgiving and willing to work things out. WTH?? We found a new counselor. My husband was not thrilled because this first guy was telling him things he wanted to hear. BUT they were not based on truth and in hindsight did a bit of damage.

      So my advice is this. Find a counselor that has a LOT of experience working with couples experiencing infidelity. Ask them specifically. It makes a huge difference. Choose one that shares your world view. For us it was important that the counselor treat and support us through the lens of our shared Christian faith. I was committed to saving our marriage and I needed to know this was our counselor’s goal as well.

    • Tiredofitall

      Great advice.

    • Hope in Harmony

      In case this would help someone going through this situation, my perspective is from 6 months post d-day. I learned of my husband’s emotional turned physical affair, knowing we had relationship issues but never thinking in a million years that our love story would be utterly destroyed in such a heartbreaking way. It’s still a shock sometimes.

      I wanted to work on things and willing to do whatever it took. I had hoped to attend a retreat-type of counseling for marriages in crisis, but he didn’t want to go or spend that kind of money. He didn’t want to attend couples therapy either but did see a counselor briefly on his own for a few weeks, then stopped because of logistics and “feeling better.” I had seen one therapist during the summer, but stopped after his nonchalant reaction to me learning about the affair. It became true what I’ve heard about trying another to find a better “fit,” and having successfully found another wonderful therapist has been remarkably helpful for me as an individual all throughout this grieving process.

      In our case, my husband has never shown any desire or effort toward reconciliation, and we separated in early November when he moved out. We have had some emotional phone conversations, which have helped a little with some healing, but it’s clear to me now that he views our union as being very much over. Throughout these months, our communication has turned into mostly cordial business dealings via text/email in regard to our house selling and property division before proceeding with divorce paperwork, a conclusion that he had been seeking for some time, while waiting for me to come to accept it and let the idea of us go. It’s very necessary for BOTH parties to be actively involved in wanting to save a marriage, and as much as one would like to, one person cannot hope, work, or love enough for the both of you for the partnership to survive.

      To the subject at hand, counseling: I was embarrassed about this process initially, but now I highly, highly recommend seeing a therapist for any kind of marital issues, especially for infidelity, or separation/divorce. With the right person, it can be extremely valuable. Having not been in couples therapy, I can’t speak for whether or not it’s effective, but my guess is that it would definitely be worth doing research about a therapist’s experience level. Having been in individual therapy for several months, it’s been remarkably helpful in many ways, in terms of healing, staying grounded in the midst of the pain and heartache, learning how better to deal with family/friends (finding “safe” people), and has helped most with learning more about myself, values, my true nature as a person (feelings, wants, needs, etc.), and hope for going forward.

      In the couples retreat-based therapy I’ve researched, the strongest programs do a lot of individual work with each person one-on-one, not just in sessions where couples are together. They have found that many marital issues can stem from a variety of personal problems brought into the marriage, and once these are identified and work begins on the individual level, it helps foster the two-way street that’s needed in addressing the couple’s issues overall. In my case, I had great recommendations from a pastor, in terms of good websites to search for resources, counseling, or marital help of any kind. It’s very helpful to find good, reputable people who can point you in the right direction, especially when you’re in the early stages of confusion and grief.

      Whatever happens in your marriage, GO SEE a therapist for YOU, and be choosy about making sure you find the right fit – your gut will give you a sense of this early on. My hiccups with the process were always trying to figure out the “HOW” – how do I go forward from here, how do I do the day-to-day, how to I communicate with my spouse and those around me, how do I heal, etc. A good therapist should help with the how’s, and keep you motivated and hopeful throughout the journey.

      • Doug

        HH, thanks for sharing your story and your perspective. I’m sorry that your marriage did not work out. Best wishes on your continued journey.

    • Osita

      Thanks for sharing these lessons-stories.

      The choice of a counselor is important. As said, one that good track record in handling the marital challenges you are facing. Experienced counselors have effective methods that have served couples well in the past.

      The couples’ timing in seeing the counselor is important; as in most other challenges the earlier in the day, the better.

    • Let down on every front

      Well we did counseling for a brief amount of time, but my husband would put his sad, I feel so bad face on for her and then punish me all week. We quit after a few months and then he quit his individual therapy as well. He insists he won’t do therapy now even though marriage and individual therapy were two of my four requests for even attempting reconciliation. He also backed out of the other two as well, so I guess that tells me his level of commitment.

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