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I personally go to a counselor about once a month, because I appreciate having a sounding board who is objective.
My friends and my husband are awesome support, but there also is value in hearing the wisdom and insights from someone who does not have a personal relationship with me.
She helps me "think out loud," particularly about some of my goals and angst. Counseling simply offers a lot to life's journey, whether it is for personal reasons or marriage struggles.
Honestly, I think the world would be a kinder and better place if everyone sat across from a counselor on a regular basis.
Obviously, I think it's best to find a professional counselor who is the right fit for you and shares your values.
I know that professional counseling can be expensive, especially if you don't have insurance that will cover all or part of the charges.
Some counselors do offer sliding fee scales, on a case-by-case basis, based on your situation or income level, but not all do. You have to ask if such sliding scales are available.
I realize you may feel trepidation to talk to your pastor or another person on a church staff about your marriage.
Sometimes that trepidation is well founded. Just because pastors have been to seminary, it doesn't necessarily mean they are equipped to counsel on some of the more difficult aspects of marriage (including sex). Even some pastors would agree with what I just wrote.
But if you can't afford a professional marriage counselor, don't rule out courageously approaching your pastor, someone else on the church staff who you trust, or even someone at another church.
Tell them you and/or your spouse need to talk to someone about some struggles in your marriage, but you are limited on funds.
They may indeed be equipped to talk with you and your spouse OR they may know of other community resources OR they may have a line in the church budget specifically for subsidizing counseling needs of church members.
And even if they can't help you find one-on-one counseling, they may know of marriage classes, DVD series, workshops and seminars that offer specific and sound marital wisdom to heal and grow your marriage.
Discouraged to have to ask? I get that.
But it's also discouraging to have your marriage suffer without any effort to move it in a healthier direction.
When people are studying to be counselors, they often have to complete internship hours or practical hours. In other words, they are still students, but they need to get experience counseling people.
Sometimes they do these hours at an office set up at the school. And sometimes they work under a local licensed counselor.
These services are often offered free or for a reduced charge.
If you want counseling, this is a route to at least explore in your own community or neighboring communities.
Do you know of a couple who has been married longer than you and your spouse who seem to be wise and compassionate?
There is a lot to be said for marriage mentoring, where more experienced couples speak into couples who have been married for a shorter period of time.
Certainly I think it is wise to make sure such a couple shares your values.
Not sure where to find a couple like this? What about at your church or in your neighborhood or through other connections you have? Some churches even have mentoring ministries specifically for marriage.
Even if you can't find another couple who fits what you need, consider you and your spouse each having your own mentors. As a woman, you should have a female mentor, and your husband should have a male mentor.
What you are looking for is someone who is a mature Christian, will pray for you and your spouse, will listen non-judgmentally, will keep all conversations in confidence, and will encourage you biblically.
If you can't immediately think of mentors of this sort, pray that the Lord would reveal someone to you.
When it comes to counseling, all of the above options are worth exploring.
And even if you can afford a professional counselor, the above options could be amazing supplemental ways to also strengthen your marriage.
The old cliche that "You'll never know unless you ask" has a lot of truth behind it.
The older I get, the more I discover resources and insights right at my finger tips, all because I asked.
Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.