Finding a Good Couple Therapist

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I Make Referrals To Couple Therapists Who Make Working With Couples Their Specialty And Those Are The Ones You Should Seek

These Are Examples Of How I Think About The Strengths Of My Colleagues

I have been making referrals to good couple therapist colleagues for 35 years. Just last night I received an email looking for a referral in Southern California from my first marriage and family co-therapist, Sharon Thompson Wilson, M.S.. Sharon and I learned and worked together from our early days at Yolo Family Service Agency in Davis, California beginning in 1982, and continued to work together as co-therapists for many many years. I know Sharon’s work intimately; the graceful, warm and caring ways she stays with each partner’s experience, her sense of humor and delight, her deep commitment to helping couples. At least half of her practice, like my own, has been with couples for all of those years.

I also worked for many years in co-therapist pairs with my colleague, Orin Border, PhD in Sacramento. His buoyant, friendly, intelligent, deeply caring way of being with our shared couples was a sight to behold. I learned so much from him. I worked as co-therapist, from my early years, with my wonderful colleague Sally Weiler, LCSW in Sacramento as well. The safety she made for the couples we saw together spread to me as well; giving me the freedom to stretch in my efforts as couple therapist. And Nancy Aikin PhD in Davis, California, my oldest friend and most constant co-therapist colleague over twenty-years, was always, and remains, a source for my learning. I witnessed her steady warmth, caring involvement and wise interventions with the couples we saw together. There were several other close co-therapists in my early and enduring cohort of colleague couple therapists.  I was lucky to learn from my friends and very lucky to have them to refer to. It is thrilling to witness how they all continue to learn and grow and achieve as couple therapists. I still do make referrals to my Davis and Sacramento colleagues from way down here in Southern California.

Essential Criteria For Choosing A Couple Therapist

All of my co-therapists colleagues, the ones mentioned and the several others not mentioned in Northern California, had a deep commitment to helping couples. They spent and continue to spend, after three or four decades of practice, much time learning how to better help their couples. At least half of their practice is in working with couples. These are two of the most important criteria in finding a good couple therapist or marriage counselor: 1) That they have a proven record of consistent learning in the specialization of helping couples and 2) That they see a large proportion–nearing half of clients–who are couples. 

Lost Without Close Couple Therapist Colleagues

I transitioned my practice from Northern California to Westlake Village and Encino between 2001 and 2006. During that time and for a while afterward I was quite lonely for the nearness and accessibility of my close colleagues. (Let me tell you something that non-therapists do not usually know: psychotherapists need close relationships with colleagues to continue to learn and for help in relation to the experience of isolation that this work can create.)  I met therapists in Southern California who I liked, but with who I did not find real kinship in how we thought about our work.

Finding Soulful And Big Hearted Couple Therapist Colleagues

I began to be lucky again when I met colleagues who were Emotionally Focused Couple Therapists. I became increasingly involved in formally learning to practice in the Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy model.  Though I had been reading articles and books by Sue Johnson about Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy since 1985, it is quite a different thing to learn this very intricate and beautiful model of therapy for couples. Now that I have become profoundly woven into the Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy community, mostly through my membership and involvement on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Center For Emotionally Focused Therapy, LACEFT, I am surrounded by couple therapist colleagues for who I have profound regard and trust. I can give you very good referrals to couple therapists throughout the Los Angeles area. I won’t name them all individually here, but I can lead you toward very good referrals.

A Good Source Of Referrals For Experienced and Committed Emotionally Focused Couple Therapists

Another valuable, and reliable criteria, for finding a good couple therapist is to choose a person trained in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy. One approach is to look through the Therapist Directory of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist members of LACEFT. You can search by geographic region and you can search by level of training in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy. When you call members from the directory I suggest you ask this question: “Please tell me who you, yourself, would see if your marriage was in trouble?” In this way you should be able to put together a list of therapists who are held in high regard and who are trusted as caring and effective in their work with couples. This model of couple therapy pulls for among the most human, collaborative, caring and committed couple therapists that I have had the pleasure to know.

Note Of Warning

A note of warning: Because Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy has become very popular and well known as effective, many therapists are claiming through their websites to work in this model who have not taken on learning this model formally. Reading books about the model is not the same as really learning to work in the model. I know this because for many years I thought I worked in a way that was close to the model. This model is intricate and complex, requires serious supervision, viewing of video-recorded sessions and many hours of courses and continuing education and consultation.  As someone who has specialized in this work for 35 years I want to know that in effectiveness of helping couples strengthen their bond, this EFT is the real deal. Don’t just accept that someone works in this model. Ask for specifics.

Meeting And Learning About Your Potential Couple Therapist

When meeting your therapist, whoever you choose, ask what he feels to be his strengths and limitations when working with a couple. It is his openhearted transparency that you should look for in response, rather than any specific answer. Ask how he will handle it if you feel dissatisfied with how therapy is going. Look for enough humility and wisdom that your potential therapist recognizes his or her own limitations. Look for his wish to build his helping relationship with you. Look for clear signs that your therapist knows the territory of relationships. Look for a high level of activity on his part. Experienced and committed couple therapists, whether working in the EFT model or not, are very busy inquiring about and working with interactions and patterns between you. Look for someone who conveys empathy toward each of you. Look for someone who you sense will be invested in each of you and your relationship. Look for someone who you believe will know how to be in a positive relationship with you.

Meet with a few couple therapists you are considering. Look for what feels like the best match for both of you. This is standard and wise operating procedure in choosing a therapist.

And please feel free to call me for a referral,

Robert Ogner, Originally uploaded to my website in January, 2008. Updated September 6th, 2016.