3 Things We’re Missing in Marriage Counseling


Marriage counseling often fails – simply because it is founded upon the wrong principles. In other words, the real problem is how we see the problem. Because how you see the problem determines how you believe you should solve the problem.

I love psychology. Dedicated a lot of my life to its study. Time. Money. Energy. And I’ve been counseling couples and individuals for more than 18 years. Despite my extensive training, I eventually began to notice that something Important was missing.

Prepare-Enrich: A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach

Prepare-EnrichAs a Seminar Director for Prepare-Enrich, I’ve helped launch marriage programs with a lot of other therapists, pastors, and lay counselors.

If you’ve never heard of Prepare-Enrich, you should check it out. The company that developed this excellent couples inventory (of strengths and growth areasOpens in a new tab.) and skill-building program celebrated their 35th Anniversary in 2015.

The beauty of it: You don’t need a psychology degree! Completing a one-day workshop is the only requirement to become a Certified Facilitator – for life. And you can search their online database to find a FacilitatorOpens in a new tab. (or a Training WorkshopOpens in a new tab. to become a Facilitator) near wherever you live. Pretty cool, eh?

Emotionally-Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT)

hold_me_tightIf you have complicated issues or just want to go deeper and achieve more lasting change, check out EFT.

My graduate training at Biola UniversityOpens in a new tab. included an introduction to this approach. And after becoming a Licensed Psychologist, I went on to complete a 4-day externship in Houston, Texas, on this amazing approach to building a lasting connection between husband and wife. And I’ve incorporated this training to help couples connect for more than 8 years.

If you’d like to learn more about EFT, order a copy of Hold Me TightOpens in a new tab. by Dr. Sue Johnson.

[callout]Both Prepare-Enrich (cognitive-behavioral) and EFT (emotionally-focused) are good approaches to marriage counseling.[/callout]

So what is missing?

1. The first thing I noticed was the absence of a clear understanding of the Psychology of Men and their relationships with women. I’m talking about Traditional Men. As therapists, we were taught to treat everyone as if they had the same needs and desires.

Kinda crazy since there is so much research on gender differences, ya?

I guess we were all giving into “political correctness.” But I suspect that feminism has had a larger role – and for a longer time – in trying to make men and women “gender-less.”

2. The second thing I noticed – and given my faith, it could have been the first – was the absence of an understanding of the Ephesians 5 model for Christian Marriage. Yes, there is such a thing as Healthy Submission in the 21st Century. And it’s really fun. Like dancing. I go into great detail in my book Ephesians 5 Romance: the Truth about LoveOpens in a new tab.. (You can get a pink-spoon taste in this FREE SAMPLEOpens in a new tab..)

3. But the Most Important Thing I noticed was the absence of Heaven’s viewpoint. Relationships are – first and foremost – spiritual endeavors. So – especially as Christians – shouldn’t we be giving more than a nod to God’s approach? Instead we focus marriage counseling on what we can do in the flesh.

If that’s all you’ve got, then go for it! You may achieve a measure of success.
And if it doesn’t work out, you always can say “I did everything I could.”
(NOTE: Even when you do everything, the other person has a choice.)

So if you’re seeking Abundant Life in your Marriage …

… you’ll want to consider these oft-quoted Bible verses:

  • I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20Opens in a new tab.)
  • For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:5-7Opens in a new tab.)
  • The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10Opens in a new tab.)

A New Way of Addressing the Issues in Marriage Counseling

We’re not going to throw the baby (psychology) out with the bathwater. We can learn a lot from the psychology of relationships. Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are very informative.

However, as we look at the problems of marriage in future posts, we’re also going to consider the possibilities.

To do that, we’ll take a look at the psychological perspective, then the spiritual perspective so that we can make informed choices about how we address the issues at hand. (ALWAYS REMEMBER: Even when you do everything you can, the other person still has a choice! You cannot make someone love you. And you shouldn’t even try.)

QUESTION: What problem are you facing now that you would like help viewing from multiple angles?

DrDebiSmith

Dr. Debi is passionate about helping Christian couples & single adults learn more effective ways to apply Biblical principles & the findings of psychological research to everyday life. She is an author & former professor, as well as a California Licensed Psychologist (21711) & a Texas Licensed Psychologist with Provisional Status (38600). She earned her Doctor of Psychology degree (PsyD) at Rosemead School of Psychology-Biola University, and has taught psychology courses at MidAmerica Nazarene University, Azusa Pacific University, & Biola University. * Dr. Debi has taught psychology courses at MidAmerica Nazarene University, Azusa Pacific University, & Biola University.

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