There is no denying that working as a marriage counselor can be a challenge. Not only are you seeing married couples who are on the verge of splitting up, but you often have to get them to confront uncomfortable truths that they may or may not be willing to address. It’s a lot of hard, emotionally draining work, but it can also be very rewarding when you help a couple work through their differences and stay together.
You need to work hard to be successful as a marriage counselor, just as your clients need to work to stay together. With that being said, here are five tips that will help you find success on this career path.
1. Never Stop Learning
No matter how much you think you know about marriage counseling, there will always be more to learn. While this does include going back to school to continue your own formal education, it isn’t limited to that. Every couple you see will have their own unique issues, and you will have to keep learning to find the best ways to confront them. Read articles on psychology and relationships, attend workshops, and ask colleagues for advice. No matter how much you know, you will never know everything.
2. Keep an Open Mind
You will see all types of people during your career as a marriage counselor, so you cannot assume that all of your clients will fit into your definition of a “traditional” marriage. Unless your practice is specifically geared towards a certain kind of relationship, expect to see things that will be outside of “the norm.” This might mean same-sex couples, people in open marriages, or people with “unusual” sexual practices. We’re using a lot of quotation marks in this paragraph for a reason. None of these things should be treated as strange and deviant; as long as everything is consensual and nobody is getting hurt, it should be treated with respect. Keep and open mind, and understand that everyone you treat is in need of your advice and expertise. Treat them no differently than you would anybody else.
3. Have Referrals Handy
Even though you should keep an open mind when it comes to different kinds of relationships, you should also know when you lack the knowledge to property counsel a couple. If you feel that you cannot properly serve any of your clients, don’t hesitate to refer them to someone who may be of more help to them.
4. Don’t Tie Yourself Down to a Theory Too Early
You will probably develop your own counseling theories in school or while you are practicing if you haven’t already. While it’s perfectly fine to develop your own theories about how things work, tying yourself down to one theory is a very bad idea. No two people or couples are alike, and what works perfectly for one couple might not work for another. Develop your own theories and test them out if you must, but remember that they are just theories. There are no absolutes in this line of work.
5. Take Care of Yourself
Finally, remember to take care of yourself. Working as a therapist of any kind is emotionally draining, and it is very easy to burn out of you aren’t careful. Focus on self-care when you aren’t working with clients or furthering your own education, and don’t be afraid to take a vacation if it all becomes too much for you.
Related Resource: The Top 10 Online Counseling Degree Programs
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about working as a marriage counselor is that there are no absolutes. Every counselor is different and has their own strategies and theories, and every couple you see will present their own challenges. Keep these tips in mind as you move forward in a successful career as a marriage counselor.