Advice on Counseling


So after returning from vacation, I decided to catch up on a few of my favorite blogs. I’m still working on catching up on my reading, but I also have some catching up to do on my writing and posting. This is going to involve all 4 blogs, one way or another.

Check out RR Blogspot for a video/podcast. R&R WordPress has a bit of an update. And UA Blogspot might even have something new.

But this entry is a bit of unsolicited advice for FTN, after reading of his frustrations with Autumn. A lot of folks really glommed on to the idea that he should see about getting some counseling for the two of them. It was like deja vu all over again from a short time ago only it was FTN pounding out the steady drum beat of how I really needed to get us into counseling. Now he’s on the receiving end of his own advice and he doesn’t like it so very much. He raises all the same objections that I did:

– Money/cost

-work schedule

-The qualifications of available counselors

– child care

– Autumn wouldn’t be too thrilled about going

I might be missing a few excuses, but these are all valid while being a bit of a smoke screen. So let’s look at these objections, one at a time.

Money: this is no small concern. The going rate for counselors is about $100 per hour per week, which is an additional expense of $400 per month. It’s like having another car payment! But it is still cheaper than an attorney. In a minute I’ll discuss what you’re getting for your money, but first you have to dig around for the cash to make it work.

Most insurance will not cover marriage therapy, or if they do, they cover only a certain number of sessions and only if one or both people have a diagnosis of some sort. It is not a sure thing by a long stretch. I recall FTN might have given me some cost cutting advice to come up with the money, and he might want to consider giving up the cable, cutting back on the pizza or other nonessentials. For me, the opportunity arose as I got out of debt and had less going towards payments. Some counselors will have a sliding fee scale which might also help reduce the cost. Also there may be a cost of childcare to consider, which I’ll address later.

Work Schedule: Most people have fairly rigid work schedules, except self-employed and people like therapists. Evening and weekend hours are not uncommon for these folks. Let’s face it, if you want to go into therapy or counseling as a profession you’re going to have to work when other people have disposable time because counseling is not a top priority like food and shelter. Even though people going through a foreclosure might benefit enormously from marriage counseling, they are not going to do it. Convenience = clients and counselors try to make it as painless as possible. Most will take appointments up until 6:30-7:00 P.M. during the week. Most employers will be fairly flexible about taking one hour off early for physical therapy and the like, as long as you can make up the work. This is one of the weakest excuses of the bunch.

Qualifications of available counselors: I made kind of a big deal out of this one when voicing my own objections. I wasn’t interested in a lot of pop psychology, Mar/Venus stuff or psychotherapy where we talk about our parents. What we got was a counselor who seems to be totally into Mars/Venus, pop psychology and talking about our parents. While he’s familiar with Schnarch, he’s not familiar enough to use it. He’s also not at all skilled with Rational Emotive Therapy. So sometimes I feel like I’m flushing $75 per week down the toilet. However, anyone reading my blog over the past year will be able to see that some progress has been made. And I’m not sure it has anything to do with the skill or qualifications of this therapist.

So what do I get for 75 bucks per hour? Accountability. Arwyn is keenly aware of this other person who will want to know how we are doing. I’m aware of it, too. I think that one small thing has made more difference than anything else. Arwyn has bought into it, which totally helps. What if she didn’t buy into it? I’ll get into that in a moment. But suffice it to say that so far I’m game to keep it up just on that basis alone. Progress is progress, even if it is at a glacial rate. So qualifications are important, but just making the move is important in its own right, no matter how much of a nOOb the therapist might be.

Childcare: This was a real concern of ours, and it still is. We have one child who has high functioning autism, so finding willing and able people who work out is not always easy. Then there is the business of how much to let other people into your business. Tricky thing, but Arwyn has managed to find a good-hearted person who is willing and able to step up and who also knows the score. Otherwise, I might palm it off as some sort of parent support meeting, which is sort of true but doesn’t carry the stigma of marriage counseling. Make it a part of a regular date night, and it isn’t a bad deal. Arwyn and I often go out to eat after our sessions, just to make it more worthwhile. Childcare is doable. Plus, we have twice as many individual sessions as joint sessions, so that takes care of that issue most of the time. Again, this is about making our marriage more stable and enjoyablle which pays dividends for the development of our kids.

What if your spouse won’t go? First off, that takes care of the childcare issue as long as you can do it after work. But my advice is to do what I did. Tell her that your’re going to set this up. Do not ask permission. She can either buy-in or not. If she doesn’t that will say volumes in and of itself. It will also give you something to work on by yourself. Facing rejection and dealing with it constructively is a big part of this. Be prepared to follow through and go it alone, if necessary. I was already lonely and anxious enough as it was, Arwyn not going would simply be par for the course. The same applies to Autumn. By setting up the counseling session, you force her into a two choice dilemma that does not involve divorce. She may feel threatened by this move, but the purpose is to overcome the gridlock. In this case, feeling threatened is sort of what is needed to overcome the avoidance instinct. If she refuses to go, you still have a basis on which to work with a therapist. Even an incompetent one.

Now I’m going to throw out one more option that knocks down all of the above objections, except the first one. I looked into this while pursuing what turned out to be our present set up. This fellow by the name of Mort Fertel runs a sort of marital boot camp and does it all online and over the phone. I registered for his email newsletter and got little pearls of wisdom several times a week over a period of months. Of course, he pitched his tele boot camp every time, but he also said things consistent with what I already knew and had read in Schnarch’s book. There is a “Lone Ranger” option that allows a person to go it alone when the spouse refuses to participate. It is not specific to sex therapy, unfortunately, but we all know that it is pretty much impossible to separate sex problems from other marital conflicts no matter how we try.

FTN and most other people going through marital conflict have to ask themselves: how hard am I willing to work to make this the sort of marriage that I want? Marriage is not an easy thing to maintain let alone improve. It’s going to take a serious investment of time, cash and sweat. This why most marriages don’t even go into counseling until they are on the brink of disaster. This is also one reason why marriage counseling has such a poor track record.

One more thing I’ve discussed with FTN before. He regards their sexual conflicts as mostly Autumn’s fault or because of her issues. This is because he does everything he possibly can to accommodate her limitations, boundaries and issues. He’s a pretty easy going and flexible guy. Why should he see a therapist?

For a couple of reasons. First of all, anyone who reads him knows he is frustrated with Autumn’s seeming inflexibility. Job #1 is to get guidance on how to deal with his own feelings on this. I feel his pain and it is real and valid. Forgetting about it, avoiding and moving on are all ways to deal. So is escape. But are those the most productive ways that he has available? I don’t know, but learning the truth isn’t a bad goal.

Secondly, there is no possible way that Autumn can be so rigid and dysfunctional without affecting the sanity of everyone else in the house. Job #2 is making sure that he can hold on to his own sanity in light of being around someone who seems so obsessive about things all having to do with her own body or sex. Most dysfunctions in one married person has some sort of companion dysfunction in the other. Just like any addiction, it gets to everyone around; especially those they love most.



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6 Responses to “Advice on Counseling”

  1. Vacation Blogs « Reality & Redemption Says:

    […] Reality & Redemption A struggle for freedom « I’ll be back in a few weeks! Enjoy this retro video tribute… Vacation Blogs July 20, 2008 This is just a bit of blogging I did on our vacation to get you all caught up.  But first, look at the earlier video/podcast on my other blog.  Also check out some Unsolicited Advice for FTN. […]

  2. thereseinheaven Says:

    This post makes me appreciate all the more that our insurance covered counseling. Every week was a $15 co-pay. That’s all. We couldn’t even get dinner with that.

    Its a shame that people wait until a crisis to go to counseling. Taking care of problems before they happen can usually prevent the crisis altogether.

  3. Jennifer B Baxt, DCC, NCC Says:

    I think you make an excellent point about why online counseling has become so popular. It is easier, less expensive and in your home. I own and operate an online therapy site htt:// and we do not just offer online therapy. Our online therapists take the time to answer questions for free and get to know you before they start taking your money. The whole idea of therapy whether it is in person or online counseling is to get help and find someone who is ready and able to listen to your problems and concerns.

    Online counseling is by far less expensive than divorce so why not. Times are tough right now for everyone and the pressure of those times are creating rifts in our lives. If you cannot afford therapy, then you can join our free online therapy forum where an online therapist will answer your questions at no charge at all. Thats all for now

    Jennifer Baxt

  4. Mark J. Says:

    i actually know someone who did Mort Fertel’s Marriage Fitness Tele Boot Camp and it worked for them. He started in the lone ranger track and was able to bring his wife into the fold. They ended up saving a lot of money too as marriage counseling would have been much more expensive. And divorce? Well that would have been more expensive too.

  5. FTN Says:

    Of course, I’m not *really* considering divorce, so there’s no need to do a cost comparison against it. Plus, one factor is that we’ve spent quite a bit of time in counseling before… It’s not like we’ve avoided it the whole time.

    I won’t make a bunch more excuses. I’m aware that childcare, work, even money could be managed somehow. Right now, it’s A) whether or not I think it’s truly needed at this point, and B) finding the right therapist.

    I’ve discovered B is a lot of work. I need to find another way to go about it.

    As for “A”, although it may appear things are abyssmal from my one blog post, they aren’t. I’m not frustrated on a daily basis — that was one difficult occurrence. There is a large difference between daily frustration because there is absolutely no sexual intimacy in a marriage, and a guy like me who is having fairly regular sex with his wife, yet is still occasionally feeling a lack of intimacy due to a number of factors.

    So yes, much of the counseling WOULD be for me. Because I’m worried I would spend a good amount of time just trying to convince the therapist that there’s any problem at all.

  6. diggerjones Says:

    I remember when I had insurance that covered counseling. It was the only time I even used that insurance and I felt a bit guilty about it! There’s lots of reasons peopl edon’t go to counseling, Therese. As to whether any of them are good reasons remain to be seen. Especially for us guys, we have a tendency not to be as tied in with our doctors, dentists and other health care professionals as we are to our barber or bartender. I’m not sure whether my wife will ever fully appreciate the level of pain and dissatisfaction I must have been feeling in order to initiate counseling. Me, who hasn’t been to a dentist in over 15 years since dating that hygienist.

    Word to the wise, ladies– if your man initiates counseling, this could be a sign of HUGE pain. Remember, this is the guy who won’t even ask for directions when hopelessly lost or read the directions on putting together a toy. Getting instruction his relationship is akin to going in for colonoscopy and prostate exam at the exact same time.

    I suppose I’ll let you spam me this once, Jennifer, seeing as it is at least somewhat related to the post. Generally, it’s nice when a spammer actually responds to the actual post, which I don’t think this qualifies. You could help your cause by gushing over my writing more and generally flirting with me. Tell me what you’re wearing.

    Mark, thanks for stopping by. You can skip telling me what you’re wearing and the flirting. Cash might be nice. I checked out Mort’s program back in January, but refrained from blogging it precisely because I knew I would probably get spammed in the process.

    FTN, you’re obviously not in enough pain at the moment. See my comment to Therese above, as us guys have to be pretty bad off to seek any sort of help. This is not always bad, as I think we are less apt to go in for every little thing as much as women sometimes do. And we are less apt to complain because we know we’ll get a ton of unsolicited advice telling us what we need to do. Except for anonymous blogs, of course!

    I get the impression that previous counseling sessions focused more on Autumn’s problems or identified her as the one with all the issues and focused on changing her. In a way, it makes you feel secure that you’re alright but OTOH you’re getting a short shrift. If Autumn don’t EVER open up or change, how will you deal with that? It’s not about a problem of change so much as dealing with the reality that a lot of Autumn is closed off from you. You enjoy the parts you have access to, but is it wrong to want access to more intimacy? And you make a good point; it might not be worth putting a lot of money or time into answering those questions right now.

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