How to Talk with your Spouse about Counseling
How Much do I want to Help My Wife
and our Relationship to Get Healthy too?
_____ Do I want my wife to receive the guidance and support that she needs to become my partner in recovery?
______ If I am interacting with my wife in ways that are not healthy for either of us, do I want to learn to stop and disengage,
so I can learn new and healthier ways to connect?
______ Do I want my wife to have input to Dr. Schmidt, so he can see how she thinks I am doing, or would I rather that he gets all of his
information through me?
______ Would I want my wife to receive input from Dr. Schmidt, so she doesn’t have to just take my word for how I am doing
______Marriage counseling will not do much good until after you have taken inventory and made amends, in step nine. In the meantime, about all that might be cost-effective would be a brief session of crisis intervention here and there. When that need does arise, would you be open to Dr. Schmidt wearing that hat, and serving as your marriage counselor for that time?
______ If she should need some counseling in the coming months, do I want to include this in our budget alongside the money we spend for mine?
Questions to Consider Asking about each other’s Counselors
(and maybe to ask a prospective counselor)
______ Do you believe that a sex addict can fully recover from denial of and bondage to his bad habits and character flaws?
______ Do you believe that the wife of a sex addict can fully recover from her trauma, loss, betrayal, and bitterness?
______ Do you believe that both a sex addict and his wife can become healthier than they might have ever become if addiction/betrayal had never happened?
______ Do you believe that the healing process is independent of the spouse, so that neither can prevent their mate’s recovery?
______ Will the homework you give your client connect him/her with a supportive, healing community of same-sex people in recovery?
______ Will you expect your client to set target dates for his/her recovery, for the completion of your counseling, and to share these timetables with spouse?
______ Will you help your client to prepare to partner with his/her spouse in either reconciliation or divorce, whichever happens?
______ Do you believe that what’s good for the wife is also good for the husband, for their relationship, and for their children (if any)?
______ Will you encourage your client to release you to communicate back and forth with the therapist of his/her spouse, so that you can all be sure you are working toward compatible goals and using a full pool of information?
______ If you and your spouse both say yes to all the questions above, and can’t find another therapist who agrees with you, will you think through the pros and cons for both of you to work with Dr. Schmidt (see next page)?
______ If you do both decide to work with Dr. Schmidt, will you send or give him that signed agreement which says that you have decided the pros outweigh the cons, and that you will not sabotage each other’s work with Dr. Schmidt?
Is it a good idea if Dr. Schmidt sees both of us?
It won’t happen unless the goals of all counseling are consistent with each other, and with his values. Also, it won’t happen unless both of us have read this page and given our informed consent with our signatures below:
Pros: 1. He knows the background already.
- He gets added perspective on each from the other’s point of view.
- He is perhaps more easily trusted than a stranger to work with the spouse.
- There’s no need to call another therapist to stay up with what’s going on.
- He is more knowledgeable and more easily trusted to be the marriage counselor.
- It’s easier to know that the other’s counselor knows and cares about our relationship.
Cons: 1. We will usually be tempted to use our own sessions more to set Dr. Schmidt up to change the other than to work on ourselves.
- We are more likely to undermine each other’s confidence in him by quoting him inaccurately as an endorser of our own actions and point of view.
- Worst of all, if our goals or personalities become incompatible, this will inevitably sabotage or undermine each other’s therapies, and if we are seeing the same therapist, we would be in an ideal position to do so. Therefore,
- He may end up having to transfer two of the three clients out (husband, wife, marriage).If Dr. Schmidt works with both of us at the same time, we agree to follow these guidelines for our communications about parties in this triangle that aren’t present:
- Within 24-48 hours, each of us will give the other a report of our individual counseling session according to guidelines on the document below, “What to Share…”
- In our individual sessions, we will confine our reports of the other’s behavior to the first 5 minutes of the session. After this, any such mention will be brief, followed immediately by exploring how the spouse’s behavior makes us feel, think, or act.
- Beyond item a. above, any mention of Dr. Schmidt will be minimized in marriage conversations. The marriage and the counseling relationships all need this.
- Any marital sessions will be goal-oriented, with goals agreed on in advance. Another counselor can be used for this anytime both spouses agree to do so.
If and when he is asked to choose which client he will stay with, priority goes to (starting with the most important factor):
The one who first came to see him individually
The one whose agenda is more pro-marital
The one who is working harder at change and personal growth
The one who would find it harder to start up with someone else
_________________________________ date: _________ ________________________________
What to Share with Spouse about Your Counseling
When your loved one asks about how your session went, it is best to avoid two extremes—saying nothing and answering whatever questions are asked. I hope you will choose only by mutual agreement to change what I suggest below:
- How it went in general in just a few words: “a tough session”, “I got a lot out of it”, “I leaned a lot”, “I’m still learning to trust him with my feelings”, “mentally enlightening and yet emotionally heavy”, etc.
- Two or three specific things you got out of it as take-home value: “I realize that when we fight I am feeling down deep a lot of _____”, “I see more of my father’s faults/assets now”, “I have new ways to avoid/handle ________”, “I’m learning to understand, accept, and forgive the way you/I have been ________”, etc.
- Any behavior changes you will be trying to make.
- When your next session is scheduled.
If you are in doubt about whether/how to respond, it is always a good idea to say, “Let me think about that, and I’ll get back to you about it.” It is best for both parties to be able to avoid or at least minimize questions asked about the counseling. Beyond items 1 through 4 above, the other constructive questions that may be asked are general ones:
- Anything else you want to tell me?
- Anything else I need to know?
- Any advice for me from your counselor?
- Have you talked with your counselor enough about ______ that you and I could talk about it as two adults?If I wanted input to your counselor, how could I be heard without messing up the trust you have started to build with him? Have you two discussed having me join you for a session?
In general, it’s best to keep this sharing brief, positive, and with a minimum of questioning. A play-by-play account does more harm than good to you both. It’s better to avoid specific questions such as, “Did you tell him about your _____?” or “What did he say about ________?” A better approach would be, “In light of your counseling, what do you think now about _______?” As a general rule, information shared freely without being provoked by a question will feel better for you both.