If your marriage has experienced infidelity, be intentional about finding an affair recovery specialist.

finding an affair recovery specialist by Tim Tedder, LMHC, NCC 

Imagine a man with high blood pressure being hit by a truck while crossing a street. He smashes to the pavement, broken and bloodied, and a nearby doctor rushes to his aid. The doctor quickly assesses the situation and then exclaims, “Man, you’re in poor health. You need to eat better and work out more!”

Ridiculous? Sure. But I’m surprised at how many times a couple in crisis will come to me and tell me essentially the same story about their previous counseling experience. Even though they had just experienced the trauma of an affair, the counselor spent one or two sessions asking questions about their condition and then began to focus on issues like communication and conflict resolution. In fact, some counselors went so far as to tell the couple that it would not be beneficial for them to focus on the affair.

And so the couple tried to do what they were told. 

They struggled to practice the fundamentals of a healthy relationship while their marriage continued to bleed out. When I hear stories like these, I am infuriated because I know someone failed to give the help they needed. Focusing on relationship basics is certainly an important part of the counseling process, but only after a couple is stable enough to do so.

affair recovery specialistWhy do some counselors deal so poorly with affair issues? I assume that most of them just are not knowledgeable enough or comfortable enough with such messy situations. They turn so quickly to the basic skills because they feel more confident in these areas. But their effectiveness is usually no better than a doctor who prescribes blood pressure medicine to an accident victim without treating his wounds.

See also  9 Ways to Not Recover From an Affair

Here’s what one client had to say about her initial counseling experience:

“The first counselor I went to really confused me. She wanted us to process the whole affair in one or two sessions.  Then she seemed to place all the responsibility on me. She said I needed to forgive him right away in order for our marriage to heal. It felt like I was being asked to ignore all the pain and confusion I was feeling.”

If your marriage needs a tune-­up, then most counselors are going to be able to help you find your way to a more satisfying relationship. But if it has experienced a trauma, be more intentional about finding a therapist who has expertise in the area of affair recovery. Make sure the wounds have been treated before you return to the “diet and exercise” of your relationship.

Comments from Other Authors

In her book, Not “Just Friends”, Shirley Glass lists the following guidelines for assessing whether or not you have the right therapist for your situation. Is your counselor…

  • Lacking in direction? Are things improving, or do you feel hopelessly stuck? If stuck, are you gaining insight into the reasons? Does your counselor sit back and listen, or does she/he provide structure and direction?
  • Judgmental? Does your counselor let personal values dictate their counsel? Is your counselor either adamantly against divorce under any circumstances or strongly opposed to remaining with an “adulterous” partner?
  • Minimizing? Does your counselor dismiss the pain of the distress partner, insisting that he/she move on? Are emotional problems viewed as over­reactions?
  • Unwilling to focus on the affair? Is your counselor uncomfortable with the betrayed partner asking questions about the affair? Are they willing to walk with you through the processing of information, or do they want to move on to “working on the marriage” instead of focusing on the affair?
  • Blaming? Does your counselor focus on either partner as being the cause of the affair, blaming them for what happened? Does she/he attack rather than encourage insight by exploring the reasons for the affair?
  • Impatient? It takes many months to rebuild a relationship after an affair. Your counselor should not be encouraging you to quit the process early on just because you don’t feel in love, or aren’t happy, or your needs aren’t being met, or because you’re only doing it for the sake of the children. These are all common feelings, but a good counselor knows that their permanence cannot be determined until enough work is done over time.
See also  Discussion: Finding Strength After the Affair

affair recovery specialist

Finding an Affair Recovery Specialist: Questions to Ask

If you need help with affair recovery, here are some important questions to ask a potential counselor:

  • How long have you been counseling?
  • Faith-­based or faith-­independent counseling?  ​If either of these is important to you, ask the counselor if he/she brings any particular faith­-based perspective into their counseling.
  • What are your areas of focus?​  Ask this before you tell them what you need. That way, you’ll get a more realistic perspective of their expertise.
  • Do you do counseling for affair recovery? If so, can you give me an idea of your approach to helping clients work through affair recovery? ​Pay attention here. If a counselor spends 1 or 2 sessions on the affair and then wants to move on to “regular” marriage or individual counseling, you likely will be frustrated with them.

Please share your experiences with finding an affair recovery specialist.  Did counseling eventually help you and your spouse properly address the affair issues?  Why or why not?

 Tim TedderTim Tedder, LMHC, NCC

Tim is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a Nationally Certified Counselor with a passion for helping couples in crisis




    15 replies to "Finding an Affair Recovery Specialist"

    • CBb

      Lucky for me I knew of a wonderful therapist that helped us through ALL aspects of recovery. I kept saying I want to stay married but we had huge hurdles to overcome.

      My therapist was kind but tough when needed, practical and helpful. We discussed divorce mediation and he had referrals for me. We discussed success of marriages after an affair and being “all in”. Being vulnerable does not mean you are stupid. Being vulnerable and open yet smart and aware.

      My H’s therapist, whom I met, was okay but had a different approach. I doubt it would work for me. My H only saw him a few times and then stopped (not b/c of the therapist but was not interested in helping us at that time).

      A good therapist can make or break a relationship, in my opinion. My therapist never told me to stay and when I believed the marriage was over and beyond repair, helped me to see there was hope and potential for us.

      Still together (almost 2 yrs since D-day) and things are better and moving in the right direction. We are both happier in many ways and look at this as a big mistake, mid life crisis and with regrets. We are lucky to have a second chance, thanks to my fabulous therapist (who is a guy in case you are wondering).

    • TheFirstWife

      Ok this may be a bit off topic but could potentially help the Cheating Spouse. So many times they are unwilling to admit things that went on during the affair. Fear, denial etc. prevents full disclosure.

      Last nite having a chat with my H as we approach the 2 year mark of DDay1. They did reunite which resulted in DDay2 but by then it was over for good.

      Anyway I mentioned or asked how many times did you drive places together. He answered just once and it was something I knew about. How many times did you physically see her was the next ? His answer was shocking. All total it was 8 times over 4 months.

      In my mind they were together 3-4 times/week. Not having some important details made me conjure up a much different perspective of the relationship. That one single piece of info could have prevented me from making this situation overblown at times.

      In any event the lesson here is that some details, if given freely and truthfully, could actually help the situation instead of adding to the problem. The CS needs to wake up!

    • Tabs


      My CH was in denial over many things. For instance, not once have I heard his reason to sext a young girl two years older than our daughter. But you’re probably right, the denial is the reason my CH wouldn’t go to therapy. I ended going by myself. And my CH acted so shocked when I told him our sessions were all about him. I did tell him to come to the sessions so he could hear what was discussed. But he flatly declined. Oh well.

      Looking back, my therapist wasn’t particularly good, but at least he listened. I was in such pain. My therapist went on to say that no one but my CH will ever know the reason of the affairs. I took that as gospel, but realize now that I should have demanded some kind of reason. As far as I know, my CH’s affairs were caused my mother’s death and my “wonky” reaction.

      And yes, all CHs should just spit out the truth. As a BS, I would question the details if I felt there was still a cover up or lie. You would think that after 4 years, my CH would figure this out. We are still married and I have “forgiven” his sins. So, could the CH just once answer with the straight truth. I couldn’t argue with him telling the truth.

    • TheFirstWife

      Tabs, sorry after 4 years you still are faced with those issues. If he just had an EA via text or no physical contact he may have been trying to see what he could get way with. If it was more than that he was probably having a mid life crisis sparked by the death in your family.

      Men are interesting human beings. You have no idea what will set them off. For me it was his 50th birthday and unhappiness career wise that sent him down this path. All his own doing since he did not come to me with any discussion about his unhappiness or situation. Just go out and find a 30 year old to pal around with.

      I once read an interesting quote. People won’t tell you what is wrong in the relationship. They just cheat to try and make themselves feel better. So true based on this blog.

      Tabs, where do you go from here?

    • Tabs

      One affair was very physical, the other was emotional and on verge of becoming physical. Something he won’t admit. I believe that my CH would have made it a PA if I didn’t find out.

      However, I think your assessment about the mid life crisis is spot on. My mom was given 12-18 months to live after her diagnosis. She fought the ovarian cancer for 5½ years. It felt like I was given extra time to spend with her. At the same time, our business went through rough times. So instead of talking through the problems with me, he got irritable and grouchy. That’s an issue that still really bothers me. I got treated like an idiot and the 20 year old got treated as a godess. I’ve tried to talk with my CH about it, but I get silence; no reply, no acknowledgement, nothing.

      From here, I don’t truly know. I’m not 100% healed yet, so I just carry on. My CH has been trying to make amends. But I know it’s up to me to forgive. I also quit therapy. The guy wasn’t helping any more. I keep a journal, write constantly, and follow this blog.

    • Jenny

      I was in therapy on my own prior to the affair. I continued to see her, and then we added marital therapy with another person on board.

      I am glad I had both. I needed both. I needed the space to process my hurt etc in a safe environment with my individual therapist so I was in a place that I COULD practice what was there in my marriage counseling (and be more open to whatever came up).

      I also tend to be slow in processing so when all the info dump was flying at me I could take my time and make decisions in my individual appt.

      I should be clear my individual appt was not a place that I was keeping secrets it was a place for me to process and not “worry” about my spouse.

      We did not do a “ton” of marriage counseling appts prior to me finding out about DDay2 and being “done.” I continued to see the marriage counselor on my own for a number of months afterwards though.

      I view the two types of counseling (individual/marriage) a little differently and they serve different purposes. One was like a pair of reading glasses, the other person distance, but both important for me to see the world and the whole picture.

    • szsvatek

      We are in individual counseling. I’ve been thru 3 counselors. Have not found a good Affair therapist. CH therapist says to “just put it behind us and move on”. I got very angry and found another therapist. I think she is helping. But CH continues to see other therapist. Wish We could find a good Affair specialist. I am getting over some of my anger. It is 14 mos since D Day. I “got even” with the OW by posting the story with her name on several “cheaters” blogs. She called my husband and threatened lawsuit. Checked with my Attorney and he said if it was the truth there was nothing she could do and my husband is a willing witness. When you input her name or “21 year emotional affair” she is on page 1 of Google. If you input her name in quotes she is also on page 1, 3 times. She used to be a High School Guidance Counselor in Kiel, WI. CH and OW were High School sweethearts. She initiated the contact on his 50th birthday. We lived in different states and they never physically got together. Just exchanges of phone calls all secret and cards with “I love you”. I feel empowered somewhat. So beginning to heal. Working on myself right now.

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