Why Timing is Everything When it Comes to Marriage Counseling

Seeking help from a marriage counselor is not unlike seeking help from a mechanic. It makes little sense to take your car into the shop a month after it started making a horrific noise. By that time, too much damage may have been done and your engine may be beyond repair.

By the same token, the effectiveness of marriage counseling is directly related not only to the willingness and motivation of both parties to put in the effort, but also to the timing. The time to consider marriage counseling is not when one (or both) people have already thrown in the towel.

For instance, in some relationships, when one or both partners have already decided to end the marriage, they may use counseling as a “safe space” to drop the news on their spouse. This is obviously not the best timing to attempt counseling.

Sometimes issues are too ingrained and longstanding for counseling to be truly effective. If a couple has been building up resentment toward one another for five or more years before seeking help, it may be too late. While counseling is a wonderful way to help couples reconnect and heal, it is not a miracle cure.

When and How Marriage Counseling Can Help

It’s important that both individuals truly want the relationship to work. When both parties are willing to invest time and energy, marriage counseling can be the catalyst for real and lasting change.

It is also important that couples choose a therapist who’s a good fit. Both spouses must feel comfortable with the therapist for any progress to be made.

So, how exactly can marriage counseling help? In a number of ways:

  • Counselors help couples identify toxic behavioral patterns and give them tools to make adjustments.
  • Each partner can gain new insights and perspective into the relationship.
  • Tools help couples resolve conflicts with grace and respect so escalation can be avoided.
  • Partners can begin to build trust and improve communication.

If you and your spouse decide to try marriage counseling, here are some tips for success:

  • Take it seriously. Commit to the work and do it.
  • Be open. If you’ve chosen the right therapist, you should feel free and safe to discuss your true feelings and needs. Don’t hold back. In order for therapy to work, both people have to have the courage to be vulnerable.
  • Avoid the blame game. Each person must take responsibility for their part.
  • Be realistic about how long it will take before real change begins. While you can begin using tools immediately, healing won’t happen overnight.


If you and your partner are experiencing marital problems, don’t wait to get help. The sooner you do, the more likely your issues can be resolved. If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

When a Family Member Becomes an Addict

Addiction doesn’t just affect those who are abusing drugs or alcohol, it affects everyone around them as well. When a family member becomes an addict, it is often hard to know the right thing to say or how to act around them.

But there are things you can do to help your loved one and yourself during this critical time.

Take Care of Yourself

When a loved one is an addict, much focus and attention is given to their disease and their recovery. But it’s important that YOU take time for your self-care, too.

Allow yourself to feel your feelings. It is your right to feel anger, sadness and even resentment toward your loved one. This is a natural, human response to stress and chaos. And never feel guilty about living your own life and enjoying hobbies and time spent with friends.

Get Support

Peer support groups like Al-Anon will put you in touch with others who know exactly what you’re going through. Attending group meetings can help you understand the disease of addiction and the challenges that your family faces, as well as give you hope that things can get better.

Don’t Make Excuses for Their Behavior

Addiction to drugs or alcohol results in two things: poor behavior and memory loss. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol can cause discernable memory changes after just one or two drinks. The more people drink, the more they forget. Some drugs work in the same way. This memory loss makes it difficult for the addict to know and feel the consequences of their behavior.

Addiction often causes problems for the addict. You might be tempted to fix these problems, but doing so can hinder your loved one’s recovery.

Don’t Offer Drugs or Alcohol to Your Loved One

This seems obvious, but people who have substance abuse issues often use language that confuses their loved ones. For instance, someone with an alcohol addiction is celebrating their birthday and thinks it’s okay for them to have one beer to “celebrate.” “Come on, just one beer… it’s my birthday!” An addict with a “splitting headache” may insist they be given a Vicodin instead of Tylenol.

Family members must understand that addictions are brain disorders and the addict is incapable of moderating their use. When they have access to their substance of choice, they will take full advantage. Part of your job is to not enable them.

Get Professional Help

Substance abuse is, without question, a disease, and without professional help, your loved one may not recover. While there are things you can do to support your loved one on their road to recovery, your family will need counseling from a trained therapist.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment for substance abuse, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.