A couple has a tense conversation representing things that sabotage marriage counseling

People enter couples counseling hopeful it will help strengthen their relationships. Unfortunately, many couples stumble because they are unknowingly doing things that sabotage marriage counseling. By learning what they are, and how to avoid them, you can have a truly productive experience in marriage counseling.

Counseling is not a magic pill. It’s a process that you have to engage with intentionally, and many couples aren’t sure how to do that. To begin with, they don’t know how to find a marriage counselor who is actually qualified to help them (because, unfortunately, many are not!), or the mindsets they need to embrace in order for couples counseling to work. If their relationship doesn’t improve, they may believe it’s beyond repair, when in reality they didn’t get the right help, or they didn’t know how to use it. 

When your relationship is in trouble, the stakes are high. Whether you need counseling now or someday in the future, I don’t want you to believe your only option is to file for divorce and tear apart your family simply because you don’t know what you don’t know. I hope this article will help you avoid that outcome, and get the help for your relationship you need and deserve. 

I’ve also created an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast on this topic. It’s a conversation between myself and my colleague Jenna P., MA, LPC, MFTC. Jenna is a marriage counselor and relationship coach on our team at Growing Self, and together, we’re discussing the seven most common mistakes that couples make in marriage counseling. You can tune in on this page, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. 

Things that Sabotage Marriage Counseling #1 — Not Working with an MFT

If you do a quick Google search for “marriage counselors near me,” you’ll get a list of professionals with different letters after their names. If you live in the United States, you’ll probably see some PhDs, LPCS, PsyDs, and LCSWs appearing alongside the MFTs. They all advertise couples counseling, but they aren’t all qualified to provide it. 

Marriage and Family Therapists or MFTs are required to have years of education and training that is focused specifically on relationship systems. They are trained to approach couples counseling from a systemic lens, which means they can identify the roles each partner is playing in creating their relationship dynamic, and the things they can each do differently to create positive change. For an MFT, the client is the relationship itself, not either one of the individuals who are participating in it. 

This is actually very different from the kind of training that individual therapists receive, and that includes those with doctorate-level degrees. Individual therapists are trained to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. They are focused on rooting out the source of dysfunction and then fixing it. This is a helpful model for individuals, but it’s not a good way to repair relationship systems. 

If you see an individual therapist for couples counseling, it’s likely that your sessions will start to feel like a quest to uncover “which partner has the problem.” Do you want to be the partner with the problem? Does your partner? I doubt it! 

Individually trained therapists are also often unaware of ethical boundaries when working with couples, such as not transitioning into couples therapy with a client they had been seeing solo, or not keeping secrets between partners. They may unwittingly cause harm to your relationship, just because they aren’t aware of these concerns. 

Sadly, many couples call it quits in their marriages after just one failed attempt at counseling, because they believe they’ve tried everything and their relationship couldn’t be saved. You may only get one shot at couples counseling. Make sure you choose someone who is actually qualified to help you.

Are there some exceptions to these rules? Of course — some individual counselors have done continued education beyond their degrees so they can provide couples counseling effectively. Some of the LPCs and PhDs on your list might have the skills to approach your relationship in a helpful, healing way. But if you choose an MFT, you can be certain they do. 

Marriage Counseling Mistake #2 — Waiting Too Long to Seek Help

It is so much easier to help clients improve their relationships when things are still fundamentally good. But only the most proactive couples seek counseling under these circumstances (not coincidentally, they also tend to be the happiest couples). 

Many people buy into the myth that counseling is only for couples who have serious problems. But working on your relationship intentionally is how you prevent problems from becoming serious. As communication problems are left unchecked, conflict becomes nastier and more frequent. People begin to develop negative narratives about each other’s character, and lose trust that they’re on each other’s side. They begin emotionally disconnecting, until they’re in a lonely relationship that feels empty and unsatisfying. Their commitment to each other wanes. One person may eventually leave the relationship, or they both may trudge along unhappily for a few more decades. It’s a loss for everyone, and an unnecessary one. 

A good couples counselor could have easily intervened early on in this process, and helped the couple communicate more effectively, repair trust, and reconnect emotionally. But this is much more difficult when things have been bad for a long time. If one partner has already reached the “emotional point of no return,” there’s nothing the best marriage counselor in the world can do. The relationship will fail

If you’re wondering when to get marriage counseling, the answer is sooner rather than later. Start the conversation with your partner about couples counseling now. The worst thing that could happen if you seek help too soon is that you will have gotten everything you needed out of counseling after two or three sessions and then you can be done. But if you seek help too late, you stand to lose a lot. 

Marriage Counseling Mistake #3 — Mixed Agendas

It’s a myth that everyone comes into couples counseling with the goal of improving their relationship. 

Some people come because they want to be able to say they tried before pulling the plug. Some come because they believe their partner needs help and this is the only way they’ll get it. Some don’t really want their relationship to change, they just want their partner to get off their back. Many others feel ambivalent about working on their relationship and they come to counseling to see if it sways them one way or the other. 

The person coming into counseling with one of these “alternative” agendas may not even realize it themselves. But the sessions will feel like you’re spinning your wheels. Change will be glacial or non-existent, and the reasons won’t make sense (except to an experienced couples counselor who can spot a mixed-agenda couple). 

In order for couples therapy to work, both members need to be there for the purpose of improving the relationship. If that isn’t the case for you yet, that doesn’t mean your relationship is beyond help. It just means you may need to spend a few sessions in discernment counseling getting clear about what you want for the future of your relationship, and what the process would look like for making things better. Once you’re both clear about that, then couples therapy can be effective.  

Mistake #4 — Coming to Counseling to ‘Fix’ Your Partner

When couples have conflict, it’s normal for both people to believe that their way of being is right and their partner’s is wrong, and if they could just get their partner to change, then things would be better. Many people have the expectation that their couples counselor will see the situation from their point of view and that the focus of the work will be on fixing their partner’s “issues.”

These clients are often a little taken aback to learn that they have a role to play in their relationship’s problems, and that to create change, they have to make some changes themselves. This can be tough to swallow when you have genuinely been hurt or let down by your partner. It’s very human to want some external validation from a third party who can take your “side” — but every good couples counselor knows that they have to maintain a neutral, supportive relationship with both of you, otherwise they won’t be able to help your relationship. 

This is a positive thing. If we don’t understand our own impact on our relationship, we have no power to create change. We’re just at the mercy of other people’s misdeeds. When we begin to see and take responsibility for the relationship we’re both creating together every day, we become empowered to create the relationship we want. 

Mistake #5 — Not Following Through Outside of Sessions

The real work of couples counseling happens at home. In sessions, you will have important conversations that will help you understand each other on a deeper level, but if you go home and don’t say much to each other besides “pass the salt,” it won’t make a difference. You’ll learn new skills, but they won’t change how your relationship feels until you’ve practiced them outside of your sessions until they become second nature. 

In between sessions, you’re doing the real work of counseling. When you meet with your counselor, you will reflect on how it’s going, where you’re making progress and where you’re getting stuck, and what else you can try. If you’re expecting progress to happen on your therapist’s couch, then your sessions will start to feel like you’re “just talking” with no tangible change. 

Mistake #6 — Going Too Long In Between Sessions

To create changes that stick in couples counseling, it’s important to go regularly, especially in the beginning.  

When couples start counseling on a bi-weekly or monthly schedule, a lot of the time with their counselor becomes devoted to catching up on what happened since the last session, leaving less room to go more deeply into things. 

They’ll also be more prone to “relapse” or losing progress. Relationship systems are hard to change, and when change is new, it’s fragile. It’s one thing to learn better communication skills, and another thing to use them consistently when you’re feeling emotionally flooded or triggered by your partner. We have to practice new skills for a while before they become part of the fabric of our relationships, especially if we’ve been doing things differently for years. 

Couples counseling works best when you’re learning, applying, reflecting, discussing, learning, applying, and so on. Attending sessions weekly in the beginning makes it much easier to stay on track. Once the changes become ingrained, then it makes sense to see your counselor less frequently. 

Mistake #7 — Using Health Insurance for Couples Counseling

Many couples want to know whether or not health insurance will pay for marriage counseling

Sometimes it will, but before you use health insurance to pay for couples counseling (or *shudder* choosing a marriage counselor on the basis of whether or not they accept your insurance), you should know what using insurance in this situation means. 

In order for health insurance to cover counseling, one of you needs to have a diagnosis, and your sessions are supposed to be for the purpose of treating the diagnosis. Otherwise, it’s illegal for your therapist to bill the health insurance company. This medical model sometimes (but not always) makes sense for individuals using health insurance to pay for therapy to treat a mental health condition, but it usually doesn’t fit what couples need. 

Repairing trust, restoring your strong emotional bond, deepening your commitment, working through conflict, and improving communication are valuable relationship goals, but they are not treatments for a mental health condition. Unless your counselor is willing to commit insurance fraud (in which case you have other things to worry about), those shouldn’t be the goals of couples counseling if it’s being paid for by health insurance. And if your counselor accepts your insurance and then creates a “treatment plan” focused on treating you or your partner’s depression, anxiety, or other “issues,” then that will compromise the growth-focused work that makes couples counseling valuable. 

It’s true that some couples really do need marriage counseling for the purpose of treating one partner’s mental health condition. In those cases, using health insurance is appropriate. Otherwise, it’s better to find other ways to cover the cost of your sessions. Which probably won’t be as difficult as you may think — couples counseling can be affordable, and there are many highly qualified counselors who accept clients at sliding scale rates. 

Effective Help for Your Relationship

I hope this article gave you some helpful information about the things that sabotage marriage counseling. If you haven’t already, check out the Love, Happiness and Success podcast episode on this topic for a deeper dive into each of these common mistakes. 

If it’s time to get help for your relationship, do it right. You deserve to work with the best, and to get the most out of your experience in couples counseling. If you’d like to meet with a talented clinician on our team, I invite you to schedule a free consultation

With love, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. — For more advice on improving your relationship, check out our “Relationship Repair” collection of articles and podcasts. 

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7 Things that Sabotage Couples Counseling

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Music in this episode is Justin Strauss’s remix of Marc Almond’s song “Tears Run Rings.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://bandcamp.com/tag/justin-strauss. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.

Lisa Marie Bobby: Hi, this is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness and Success podcast. Getting into couples counseling is one of the best things you can do to make your relationship stronger, happier and healthier. But it is really easy to make unintentional unknowing mistakes about the way you approach couples counseling, that can make a huge difference in outcomes and lead to a unsuccessful experience and many couples do this.

So today on the show, we’re talking about the most common mistakes that couples make that can and will sabotage couples counseling, so that you can avoid them and get real and effective help for your relationship.

We are listening to the late great Mark Almond with a song Tears Run Rings, this version is remixed by Justin Strauss and I chose it because, the song that kind of reminds me of, I don’t know, the theme of like two people kind of unintentionally torturing each other, but also coming into it like with the best of intentions and wanting to get better results. So I thought it was appropriate for our topic today. And it’s also a fun song. So there you go.

But I’m really glad that you’re here for this conversation today, particularly if you have been thinking about getting help for your relationship. Because we talk about love, happiness and success on this show. And because of my background, I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist, I’m a licensed psychologist, and I really specialize in couples counseling. That’s one of the specialties in my practice Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. We talk a lot about communication strategies and relationship advice. I always make these podcasts with the intention of helping you get a benefit from them, trying to sprinkle things in that you can use today to get better results in your relationship or your career.

But it’s also true, I mean, there’s really a time and a place for getting professional help. I mean, there are things that are just difficult, if not impossible, for individuals or couples to do on their own in terms of creating change, because it’s like, there are just so many blind spots. You can only change what you’re aware of. And so one of the biggest benefits of counseling or coaching is helping you understand, like, what the problem really is, and the problem may be different than the way that you have been conceptualizing it, but once you understand it differently, then you can begin learning how to deal with that in a much more effective way.

So, prior to that, you’re gonna kind of spinning your wheels a lot of times. And furthermore, particularly with couples counseling, and because the things happening in relationships are so systemic in nature like we are, we’re not just sort of being ourselves, we are reacting to things that are happening in our relationship. And so it can be very difficult for couples who are in a tense situation when that system is developing negative patterns and responses, it is hard to have the kind of emotionally safe and productive and insight-oriented kinds of conversations that will lead to real and lasting change. It just sort of disintegrates into a fight sometimes. You know what I’m talking about, we’ve all been there, I have too.

But you need to be connected with a really good couples counselor who knows what they’re doing can be absolutely transformational, because it turns the same old fight into a, a productive exchange that helps you understand each other differently, learn new things about yourselves, of learning things about your partner kind of connect all these dots, but also then really learning specific ways to handle things differently that will feel better for both of you help you get better results. And so it’s really like a self awareness process, but also an educational process. Right.

So there’s a lot that happens there. And again, very difficult to do this on your own because you don’t know what you don’t know, you know? Anyway, so all good things related to couples counseling, and it is also true that many couples, again, simply with all the best intention, but simply because they don’t know what they don’t know about couples counseling, how to approach it, how to find a good counselor, do’s and don’ts to have a successful experience is that even if they do show up for the couples counseling appointments, and if they are, again, coming into it with ideas or, or not knowing how to find a good couples counselor with the most sincere intentions and the best hopes, they will not have a productive experience, and will also not know why.

It always breaks my heart when this happens, because a natural conclusion to this kind of experience is to say to oneself, well, we tried couples counseling, and it didn’t work. Therefore, that must mean something really bad about our relationship. Our problems are not solvable, we are fundamentally incompatible, it can’t get better. When you go into that place, I mean that the next logical conclusion is, well, should we end this?

That is so regrettable to me, because many times that is actually not true. What has happened is that you got connected with the wrong person, or that you went into couples counseling with ideas or things that were unknown, that derailed it, that sabotaged it, and that you didn’t even know were happening.

So that’s what we’re talking about today. And I want to also normalize this, I mean, people who care about their relationships and who want to have good relationships are the ones who seek out couples counseling proactively. We also know that about half of married couples will go to counseling at some point in their relationships, not necessarily because something is fundamentally wrong, but because that is what responsible and proactive people who have good relationships, that is what they do, that is why their relationships are as good as they are is because they’re investing in them. So I just want to say that out loud.

But again, the experiences that they have in this will be variable, depending on how they’re engaging with it. And again, it makes sense because we get zero education around how to do this. We are told that counseling is a good thing. Therapy is positive. But how do you learn how to choose a counselor, what kind of couples counseling you need, or how you’re supposed to engage with the process of relationship therapy in order to have a positive experience.

And so again, really important to be talking about this, because couples counseling can be such a transformative experience, I mean, truly, the best money you and your partner will ever spend on anything. I mean, right up there with your education, your house, I mean, like when we think about what matters, this is it right?

And I speak about this from personal experience. I feel that way, my husband and I did some marriage counseling fairly early on in our marriage, and it was transformational. We’re coming up on thirty years of being together and usually have a pretty good time together, and I think have a strong positive relationship. But a lot of that, I think, is due to the fact that fairly early on, when things were feeling difficult, we went and got help and learned how to do things differently.

It taught me things about myself, I think it taught my husband things about himself. And to this day, we’re still using some of the skills and strategies and that was, that was a long time ago. And so the benefits of doing that have been just extraordinary for us so much so that I turned it into a career because I was so impressed by it and it was something that I really wanted to be part of in the lives of other people

But, I also know because of the experiences and because of the education and the training that I’ve had, and also just working with a lot of people and hearing their stories and understanding what can happen is that the wrong kinds of couples counseling and same for the wrong kinds of therapy. I should probably do a podcast on that topic at some point as well.

Just because you’re showing up and talking to a helper or a therapist, it can still be a huge waste of time, of money. And particularly with the wrong approach to couples counseling, it can actually be detrimental to a relationship and can lead to some bad outcomes including hopelessness, helplessness, and divorce and we’ll be talking about why that is and what you can do to avoid that later in the show today.

So anyway, this this topic was very important to me because I really feel sad for people who have that experience and that sometimes by the time they get to me they’re here for divorce recovery or breakup recovery, which we also talk about on the show on, which is great, but it’s not uncommon for me to listen to their stories and hear the missed opportunities that could have potentially been different for them if there had been different kinds of intervention early on.

So to protect you from having this experience, and to help you avoid a similar fate, in your own relationship whether you’re interested in doing couples counseling now, or if you might be in the future, I want you to when when you decide to seek out help going into it armed with good information, so that you can make informed decisions, get the right kind of help and get the most out of this process.

So to talk about this with me, I have actually invited one of my colleagues here at Growing Self, Jenna, who I’ve worked with for years. Jenna is a marriage counselor on our team here. And she has a ton of experience doing really high quality relationship work and helping couples avoid these common mistakes. So I thought that she would be the perfect person to speak with about this topic. Jenna, thank you so much for joining me today. I appreciate you doing this with me.

Jenna: Absolutely. I’m very happy to be here.

Lisa: Hey! I’m so glad because I’ve been in a number of consultation groups with you, and you are so insightful around couples dynamics, and I know you have a lot of experience and working with couples. To be able to share your insight and perspective with our listeners, because it is easy for any of us, but I think it’s different because of our training and the things that we know, but like, for civilians, to really have the best of intentions, like they’re trying to get help for their relationship. And it’s like, they don’t know what they don’t know and then get really poor results sometimes. And it can be too late after a certain point. You don’t get certain chances.

Jenna: Absolutely.

Lisa: I’m glad we’re talking about this.

Jenna: Yeah, me too. I think that this is important and good information for people to have that they might not otherwise know.

Lisa: Yeah. Well, let’s just dive right in. You know, as we were preparing to talk about this today, we put together a list of like the usual suspects when it comes to things that will impact the trajectory of couples counseling, and we may talk about others, but we have seven of them and we can just dive right in.

I believe that one of the first and biggest and most important things to know is that most counselors — so even licensed therapists — who are providing couples counseling services to the general public, are not marriage and family therapists. They are LPCs. They’re licensed psychologists, they’re LCSWs. What I think many people don’t understand is the difference in the training, education, supervision, licensure experiences that marriage and family therapists have compared to other flavors of therapists and that the difference in education training can make just a huge impact on people coming in for relationship counseling.

I don’t know how to measure this. But I would say probably 95% of “couples counselors” are not marriage and family therapists, and it has a huge impact. And I know, I know that you have some insight around this. And in our practice at Growing Self we have three specialties, we’re doing love, happiness and success.

So basically everybody on our team is either a marriage and family therapist or a career development specialist because marriage counselors can do individual therapy. Career specialists can also do individual stuff, but most individually trained counselors don’t have that specialization in career or relationships. So I mean, from your perspective, what is the difference in the education training professional experience of an MFT compared to an LPC? What difference do you see that making on outcomes for couples.

Jenna: There is such a variety and range within education, training and requirements for licensure. I was really surprised. I remember learning in my internship that there are some licenses that don’t even have client contact hour requirements, meaning they can become licensed without actually even talking to another client.

Lisa: Wait. What license would this be?

Jenna: That would be social workers. Yeah, that they don’t- there’s in at least in Colorado, they don’t have to have, they can have zero client contact hours and they can get licensed, meaning they don’t actually talk to clients or have any experience in working with clients, hopefully they work with an internship that still gives them hours, but it’s not a requirement. So you could be working with a counselor that had zero contact with any kind of plan or practice and counseling before they actually were a counselor.

Lisa: Oh my gosh. I didn’t even know that about LCSWs. Okay, but what I’m also aware of, we should probably just do a quick like sixty second, here’s how this works for our listeners, because they might.

Okay, so in order to become licensed as a mental health professional, it requires a master’s degree in counseling, clinical social work, some kind of related field. And as part of that graduate program, there is typically an internship that provides some experience. So you are counseling clients under the supervision of an instructor who’s there to give you feedback and prove your process.

So you complete the education, you complete the hours and then you graduate. And then upon graduation, you move into a period of time, which is like a post graduate training and supervision experience, where you are actively seeing clients, you are like a pre-licensed therapist who is working with clients, but you are working under the license and the supervision of a licensed marriage and family therapist or licensed psychologist, or somebody who has the licensure that you’re seeking. And part of that process is that you’re talking to them about your cases, you’re getting feedback coaching around to improve your process.

When you attain the number of hours that you need, and the number of supervision hours that you need, and it can vary a little bit by license, I think for MFTs, it’s what, 1500 client contact hours at this point, and probably 100 and some supervision hours. But that’s when you become a licensed candidate. So like the licensure requirements, I’m licensed as a psychologist and as a marriage and family therapist. So I had to do that twice. But the requirements were different.

One of the things with marriage and family therapists is that it’s required that a certain percentage, a significant percentage of those pre licensure, client contact hours are with couples and families specifically, and that you are working with a marriage and family therapist who is coaching you, supervising you, mentoring you to develop those skills and awareness around systems theory and techniques of couples and family therapy. So it’s really fairly intensive.

But Jenna, what you’re saying is that you can become a licensed clinical social worker in Colorado, doing it sounds like probably some of the other things that an LCSW might do, which is case management, helping people getting connected with services, so not actually providing counseling, which is a disturbing because many people not knowing that will engage with an LCSW for psychotherapy for marriage and family therapy, not knowing that this person literally does not have an equivalent training or educational experience as an MFT licensed psychologist.

That was longer than 60 seconds.

Jenna: That’s okay. That’s a good explanation though.

Lisa: But it’s important to know I mean.

Jenna: It is! That there isn’t an understanding, because why would there be necessarily around what it takes, all of the requirements that it takes for us to get licensure and it is a lot. LMFT is one of the most rigorous most difficult licenses to get, because it is. It’s 1500 I think couples hours and then 500 individual hours, and an LPC I think is 1500 hours total. So there’s 500 more hours to get an LMFT then Licensed Professional Counselor license and yeah, it adds up.

At my grad school as well. If you weren’t a couples and family counselor, if you weren’t on track to become one, you couldn’t even take a couples class. They couldn’t offer it. There wasn’t room to. The education, the training the hours it varies substantially between an LM ft versus the others.

Lisa: Oh, yeah. As a licensed psychologist, it was much easier for me to attain that licensure than it was as a marriage and family therapist. The education process was more rigorous. It was four years instead of a three year plan and there were different things going on. But in terms of licensure, it was less difficult and with the doctorate in counseling psychology, almost no specific training in couples and family therapy. Like if I was just a licensed psychologist, I would not be qualified to do the kind of work that I want to do with couples.

But what do you perceive as the impact of that, I mean, if somebody’s like, we need to get help for our relationship, and oh, here’s a psychologist who offers couples counseling on their website, they have a doctor in front of their name. So must, must be good.

What is the impact on the trajectory of that work, in your experience, when somebody chooses a professional that does not actually have training, mentorship experience in couples and family therapy?

Jenna: I think that if you don’t have the training as a counselor, and you start working with a couple, you’re gonna adapt what you know, to the couple. Meaning the individual models, the things that you know, work with individuals, you might start using that. And we know that the techniques and the tools for couples are very different than we use for individuals.

If you don’t know the techniques and the tools to use with couples, and you’re not going to be educating them, you’re not going to be talking about these concepts with them, you’re going to talk about what you know as a counselor, which is what you’ve been taught and what your training is already. And so there could be some things that are very missed that are not seen, that are things that an MFT or a couples counselor is very familiar with. So I think that could be something where you’re not getting the specialized work that you would need to as a client.

Lisa: And that’s great because somebody who is trained in individual psychotherapy, it’s centered on the diagnosis and treatment of an individual’s issues. So you’re absolutely right, what when a couple shows up, but very quickly devolves usually into which partner has the problem, right?

Whereas the MFT orientation is that we are looking at the system, how are people reacting to each other? How it makes sense, and it is not focused on individual psychopathology, it is, what are people doing together, the relationship is the client rather than either of the individual partners. So that is very different.

Another thing that I’ve experienced with that, that is unhelpful, is that an individually trained counselor will often not understand the boundaries, so that like, might be very happy to work with a client in an individual capacity.

Like I’m Susan’s therapist, we’ve been working together for a year and a half. But now Susan wants to bring her husband, John, and Yeah, no problem. Let’s do that. And so now you’re trying to be Susan’s individual therapist, but also the couples therapist, which is so deeply disturbing to us MFTs.

What comes up for you, when you hear about that? Like, what, what are the consequences you would imagine for Susan and John?

Jenna: Yeah, because if, if you’re working with a couple, and you’re seeing one person more, if you’re having individual therapy with one of them, it creates, and there’s a potential to create imbalance in the work that you’re doing. Where then the person who you’re working with less, if you’re working with Susan, and not John, individually. John could say, “Well, you’re only saying that because you work with Susan all the time, and you have a relationship built up with her.” And so that’s why this is happening. As opposed to an MFT.

Lisa: Exactly.

Jenna: And it’s true, because there is there’s an imbalance then, and that’s why if we’re usually, as MFTs, if we’re meeting with one person individually, we meet with the other person an equal amount of time, because that’s necessary, in order to make sure that you have consistent balance, and no one feels like it’s unfair.

Lisa: Yeah, yeah. There are relational dynamics where, if it isn’t balanced, it won’t be successful, because one person will be less engaged. There’s also like confidentiality stuff, like if you’ve been Susan’s therapist for a year, and Susan has told you all about the affair that she’s been having with a guy in the office, but then she decides that she wants to do couples counseling with John, you’re not allowed to keep secrets between two partners in a couples counseling situation, and there are all kinds of ethical and boundary issues that happen there.

So it’s really setting people up for failure in a lot of different ways. But there are also some situations where counselors who have originally been trained in individual modalities — a licensed psychologist, LPCs — where they do pursue additional postgraduate training and experience in couples and family therapy, so additional certifications, so that their licensure may not be reflective of the actual training and experience they they did get kind of post graduation, post licensure. I mean that that’s a thing.

Jenna: Absolutely, yeah. You can go to trainings and conferences and build that knowledge up for yourself and learn the methodologies, learn the tools and techniques. So that can be learned. It’s just you don’t know when you’re not working with an MFT if they’ve done that work, it’s just it’s I don’t want necessarily say a risk, but it’s it’s a it’s a crapshoot. Have they done that work? Or not? Where an MFT, you know, they have. They had to in order to get their license.

Lisa: Definitely. So that’s kind of tip number one is to be a really educated consumer. If somebody isn’t an MFT, be asking a lot of questions about their training and experience in couples and family therapy specifically, because otherwise, there’s not often the understanding.

I will though, it’s interesting, one thing that is, I feel like I should say, I think this might be unique to California. And I don’t know why, but a lot of MFTs in California, they actually have not been required to have couples-specific experience hours to get their licensure. Yeah, so for our group, like, we’ll have MFTs from California apply to join our practice. And then like, when we look at their experience, they’ve been working in a substance abuse treatment center. And they’re actually like, no, I haven’t really worked with couples.

Nevermind, but so that’s one situation where the license doesn’t mean what it means in other states. Isn’t that interesting?

Jenna: Oh, it’s very interesting. It’s by state, so you have to look it up. It’s not that this burden shouldn’t be on any clients to have to look these things up. If you can ask questions of your therapist, at least when you first meet them, like, give you a better idea of what you’re signing up for? 

Lisa: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So that’s one big thing to be thinking about, to just kind of set the stage for having a successful experience in couples counseling.

Another huge obstacle and factor that will negatively impact whether or not couples counseling can be successful, are situations, relationships, where people have waited until the relationship is basically over before they seek help.

So they have postponed, they’ve waited, they’re like, well, it’s not that bad. But they haven’t done this growth work for their relationship until it is like so far gone, and then somebody freaks out. They make the appointment, they show up for couples counseling, but it’s not going to be effective at that point.

Can you speak — I know you’ve had this experience — can you speak a little bit about why that is, when people wait too long, like, it can be too late.

Jenna: And I call that past the point of no return? Where you are, it’s just too late for any change to happen. I think one of the necessary factors for couples counseling to be effective is to believe change can happen. If you don’t believe change can happen, it probably won’t happen.

If you’re letting the relationship and the conflicts go on for too long, before anything is changing around it, it’s going to feel like, well, we’ve been fighting for seven years. You know, it’s been this way for so long this pattern has existed. And it’s just a part of our dynamic now, I can’t possibly see it being any different.

If that belief gets solidified, I think that it gets to a point where it doesn’t matter, necessarily the conversations you’re gonna have in therapy, it’s you already are set that this isn’t, I’m not going to get what I need for my partner. They can’t be who I need, they’re not going to meet my needs. And then, sadly, I think that usually the relationship ends.

Lisa: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Like there just been so many layers of regrettable things, so many disappointments, that, yes, fine. I’m here sitting on the couch. I’m here, I’m in couples counseling, but in terms of that willingness to even believe, give your partner the opportunity to be different, trust that they can, and certainly to put that energy and effort into changing yourself in order to be a better partner that there’s just no motivation. There’s no will to do it. And so it’s like, yeah, that’s sad.

Jenna: It is. And I think for a lot of people, it feels like I should only go to counseling when things are really really bad. Like when I’m at this, like, I don’t know what to do point. But unfortunately, sometimes then that is actually too late. That the best work that we can do is when the problems are- there’s a possibility out of it, and that becomes more difficult to get out of it the longer a problem exists without change.

Lisa: Yeah. Thank you so much for saying that. And it makes sense. I mean, when two people come in and they say we love each other, we want to work on our relationship. We care about each other. I want to be a better partner for you. Here’s what my hopes are. It’s like there’s a lot of engagement investment.

My favorite are premarital couples when they come in, and they’re like, we just want to have a really amazing marriage. I’m like, yay, because there’s this love, and there’s goodwill, and it’s easy to work with. And there’s like motivation for change and giving each other the benefit of the doubt, noble intent, like it’s growth promoting. Whereas when people come in, and they’re like, Yeah, I don’t want to do this anymore.

Jenna: Yeah, then you won’t.

Lisa: Then there’s not really anything I can say that’s going to make that be different right? Now, so what would your advice be to somebody listening to this? I mean, is it just come in sooner rather than later? Or is there something more specific there?

Jenna: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think it is. Don’t wait, don’t think that maybe things will change if, like, what am I trying to say here? If I try something different, I read this book, maybe it’ll change. And it’s possible that it might, but getting some support and getting some guidance around it sooner rather than later, I think is helpful.

I think that it can start conversations that are difficult to have, and that sometimes I think people might not want to have and it can be scary to even start that process. But starting it sooner rather than later means that you’re not going to hit the point of no return.

Lisa: Yeah, definitely. Can I put you on the spot? I don’t know if this is going to be a fair question. But in your mind, because I mean, I think legitimately, it can be difficult for people to know, like, do we need couples counseling? When do you actually call and make the appointment? Do you know what I mean? Versus is this kind of garden variety relationship stuff that will blow over?

I mean, do you have one or two things that would be in your mind? Like, mo, you need to make the call? What are signs that somebody could really benefit from it, but that might be easy to blow off or ignore?

Jenna: That’s a good one. I think when you consistently think you’re on the same page, but you’re not. That might be an easy one to overlook, is that, I thought that you thought this with my partner or I’m surprised to hear your perspective around this. The more a division exists, and it’s on talked about untreated, it’s not being discussed within the relationship, the more the divide between the couple grows. And so when you’re here versus I don’t know how to do this over-

Lisa: Close together versus far apart.

Jenna: My hands are close together, and as you go along, and that division grows, that’s going to affect and at what point in this do you need therapy can be hard to even tell. So when you notice that division, I think is a good time to say we need to take some inventory here of how things are going.

Do I need to read a book? Do we need to reach out to someone? I think that when there are couples that have problems that are easily solvable, and they come into therapy, they usually just aren’t in therapy very long. They’re in for a few sessions, they figure it out and they go, so even if they don’t like the idea of starting therapy too soon, just means you won’t be in therapy very long is that?

Lisa: That’s right. That’s a really good point, that there’s no, there aren’t negative consequences for coming in sooner rather than later putting it that way. Whereas there are very negative consequences for not taking action. Yeah, okay.

Jenna: You can always stop therapy at any point in time, if it doesn’t feel like it’s being effective, where again, it can happen where it’s too late to actually make change. So why not? Why not sooner rather than later in my opinion?

Lisa: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Another interesting thing that can sabotage couples counseling that is more common than you might think, is when couples come into couples counseling with mixed agendas for the relationship.

So again, going back to our original point, like it is important that you are working with a marriage and family therapist. I think somebody who doesn’t have training and couples and family therapy, these kinds of systemic factors and mixed agendas would probably not even be a thought in their head like because even experienced couples counselors can still be surprised by this dynamic, but tell me what you know about people coming into this with mixed agendas and how those can be hidden and what it does to the work if this isn’t flushed out into the open.

Jenna: Yeah, and an example of a mixed agenda usually is one person wants to work on the relationship, and the other person isn’t sure if they want to work on the relationship. So you have someone who sometimes we call leaning into the relationship or some, someone else’s leaning out, they’re starting to think about exiting the relationship.

If you’re at a different starting point with two different individuals in a couple, you’re not going to be able to have shared goals that are headed in the right direction. I think shared goals are an absolutely necessary part of being able to make couples work successful. If one person has a goal of fixing the relationship, the other has the goal of maybe leaving the relationship. I mean, you’re already in two different starting points to begin with. And I think that that can make the work very difficult.

So getting on the same page discussing, and we call this usually discernment counseling, is to talk about what is it around staying in this relationship that you want? What is it around possibly leaving this relationship that you want? Is there a possibility of a commitment to a certain number of months of counseling, which you can devote to seeing if this relationship has the potential of changing

That work has to be done before you can actually start any couples work? It’s just getting the information and finding what path do these clients actually want to go down? And are they on the same path? Because if they’re not, then that, from the very get-go, will not be very successful.

Lisa: Absolutely, yeah. And people can have the experience like, well, we did counseling, but it didn’t work. Not even knowing what was really going on. Because this ambivalence can be hidden. You know, sometimes I think people aren’t even fully aware of it themselves. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been working with a couple and we can’t even get fairly into it because the default assumption is that, well, people are here because they want to work on the relationship, they’re committed to making it better. And that is not true.

Like, or maybe part of them wants to, but a part of them doesn’t. And they don’t know how to talk about that. But it’s like, I’ve been in that situation, we start going down that path. And it’s like, just so it’s stuck, though, it’s not working, and then be like, Okay, why is that and sort of going back and doing a deeper assessment? And that’s when it comes out. But it can be very, like, no growth is really possible. Until that is resolved?

Jenna: Well, it is logical, if you think about it. If I teach a couple of communication skill. And again, the leaning in partner is actively trying to work on it do the homework, and the leaning out partner isn’t because they’re not as invested in it, that’s immediately going to make the skill seem like it doesn’t work like oh, this, this tool just doesn’t work like I or maybe this whole process doesn’t work.

When it’s really that you’re on again, these different starting points. So you’re in these different mindsets of what is needed around this work. So doing, giving tools talking about concepts might just lead back to the beginning.

Lisa: Yeah, absolutely. It feels like spinning your wheels, huh? Wow. And so then there is another, reason number four, that marriage counseling or couples therapy won’t work. And this is also very, very, very common and I mean, probably even, usually the case that when people are starting couples counseling, one or both partners, believes that their partner is the problem, and that we are here in couples counseling to fix them and get them communicating differently, help them work through whatever their issues are, help them be more like me. And when they do, then we will have a better relationship.

I have to confess when my husband and I went into couples counseling back in the day, I thought that I was the innocent victim of my husband’s communication styles or whatever, that he wasn’t doing these things. It was very illuminating to me that I was actually participating in this relationship and had some things that I needed to work on. Very humbling experience for me, Jenna, but, I mean, how do you see this play out in couples that you work with?

Jenna: Oh, yes, it’s very common, and even in my relationship now, I think there are moments where I have to stop myself.

Lisa: Oh, it’s my fault.

Jenna: Exactly. Well, it’s part of human nature, I think, to blame. I guess and I thought about this and I think that there’s an element where taking responsibility sometimes for our part in the problem feels like we’re minimizing our feelings. So you know to say that I’m sorry that I yelled at you might take away the why I yelled at you, the feelings that were behind it.

Lisa: I yelled, because you did that.

Jenna: Exactly. Or I yelled because I was hurt, or I’m feeling unheard by you, which is a very valid feeling to have. But the yelling obviously becomes part of the issue within the relationship or the conflict. So I think that it can be easy to not look at our part, and to say this is you, because it’s difficult to see our own part. Sometimes that’s when counseling can be so effective as it can be a guide to help us seeing how are we contributing to the problem in a way that we might not even be aware.

And it certainly sometimes it’s not intentional how we add to the problem. We’re hurt, and so we react, but we don’t think about how that actually is possibly adding to the fact that my partner is reacting, and now we’re reacting to each other’s reactions. So I think that it’s, like I said, it’s almost natural, but it doesn’t help relationships in the long term. So it does need to be addressed, it needs to be acknowledged when we are blaming, or seeing ourselves as the victim, because it as you said earlier about systems, we believe in as couples therapists, that relationships are a system, meaning they interact with each other, and it’s not isolated.

The things that you do and say, are going to have an impact on your partner, just like the things they do and say have an impact on you, and it goes back and forth. So to think that my partner is only the problem is taking away the aspect of a system, where it’s a back and forth, and that’s how it goes in all relationships. Not just in romantic but friendships, family, all of that.

We’re impacted, and we impact and so to understand our impact, I think can help them to make couples therapy more effective. And that’s I think part of the therapeutic process is your counselor or your coach helping you through and understanding how that dynamic plays out.

Lisa: But I think too, like this is even going back to our original point, you know that marriage and family therapists are taught about systems theory, and about how to help people understand how they are impacting others, and how by taking responsibility for and changing the way they show up in relationships, they will get a different response from people.

And that is so unique to marriage or family therapy, because I think an individually trained therapist will be like, okay, let’s talk about your anger issues. Because they literally have not been taught how to conceptualize it differently. And so that very quickly devolves into okay, who’s, who’s the partner with the problem? Whose fault is this?

And that is why “couples counseling“ doesn’t work well, because it reinforces this narrative, that it’s really one person’s problem and if you got your act together, it would all be different compared to this, like an empowering perspective of, I can understand how when I do this, it makes you feel that way. And that’s part of the reason I am experiencing you in this way is not because of just something happening within you, but of how you are reacting to me.

So there’s like all of a sudden this new opportunity to create change and the relationship through your own growth process. It’s really so much more constructive.

Jenna: I think absolutely, that that is something that is extensively talked about and researched, even within couples work, is that it isn’t anyone’s fault. This is a system. This is how the cycle is playing out between two people. Where in individual work or individual counselors and clinical mental health and career they don’t get taught that work. It is more who is at fault, like how do we solve this problem? Rather than how do we understand the system.

Lisa: 100%. So glad we’re talking about this. Now, there is another situation that will also reliably derail couples counseling and just again, to educate us, so any kind of relational work, it happens in stages. So when you first come in, there’s often an assessment process where you’re trying to create clarity around okay, what’s going on what what needs to change in order for this to feel better, and that that can take a while. We could be talking about family history and just sort of understanding the dynamics.

But at a certain point in any effective growth work, there does come a time when we need to stop just talking about it in our sessions and begin practicing the skills, strategies and new behaviors, the ways of being that we’re talking about. We have to practice it outside of sessions in order to be able to create real and lasting change in the relationship. And that’s true. I mean, even if you’re doing individual work, there comes a time when it’s like, okay, there’s enough talk, and what are we going to do differently.

But not all couples understand that or maybe follow through with that and that can really impact the outcomes that people experience. I’m wondering what your take is on that, and how you’ve seen that show up with couples you’ve worked with.

Jenna: And I love homework. I’m all about assigning homework. It’s if you’re meeting with someone every two weeks, then there’s 13 days, 23 hours, and usually 15 minutes between your sessions. And if you’re not doing any work towards your relationship, that’s a long time to forget about what was said or to not apply it. The time in between sessions is supposed to be, it’s helpful when you are applying, and adapting what you learn in coaching or therapy to your actual relationship. That way, if it’s not going well, you can talk to your therapist or coach, hey, we tried this, it didn’t go well. Like how, what do we do about this?

I think that a lot of times in this work understandably, couples are looking for the fast forward button, how do I make this work go faster. And we usually say there is no fast forward button. But if there’s any even semblance of a fast forward button that I found, is when couples are actively working on the relationship outside of our work, when they are doing the homework, when they’re thinking about it, they’re listening to podcasts, reading books, educating themselves as much as they can. That’s the only thing that I’ve really seen, that seems to make the process go as quick as it possibly can, is that it’s we’re jumping into this.

Now, there is a balance, there is such thing as too much therapy, too much coaching or too much reading materials and thinking about your relationship where I think it cannot be helpful and so finding that balance between thinking about these things, working on these things outside of of the therapeutic work but also allowing yourself some, some breaks and some time away from it as well.

Lisa: Sure. But that’s a great point that it is any growth process, it occurs over time. We really need to, it is a journey, it is not an event like, and it’s usually measured, at least in months. And so just to, like, slow down and be patient and learn incrementally.

But I think you’re bringing up such a good point, too, which is that when I’ve experienced people who I’m working with, and you know, are very happy to come to sessions and like, tell me about the things that we talk about stuff but that aren’t following through. What I suspect is going on is sometimes a lack of awareness in people around how this works it’s like, there might be this core belief that maybe even a subconscious, but like, the belief about therapy, or growth work is that by coming and meeting with me, and articulating how they feel, or what they think that that in itself will create change. Like that’s how it works. There’s something magic about somebody telling me about how they feel. And that is not true.

Certainly the talking about it can you know, insight can be helpful when we can make connections and understand different things like raise self awareness, but the really core thing about this process is that it’s actually almost educational, like you are learning something new, and then you are expected to apply it. And that’s where that real change comes from. I think that that’s not something that we talk about enough. It’s like how this works. So people don’t know they think we’re magic

Jenna: Absolutely. And it makes sense that people think that but it’s not enough alone, the concepts need to be applied, you need to be practicing them. Like you said, the doing the action is as important as talking and understanding and building self awareness. And so the action part needs to happen when you’re in your home, when you’re living your lives, that’s when it means the most. That’s what you’re there for is to change those moments. And so practicing using those concepts, I think, yeah, it’s necessary.

Lisa: Well, and is this related? So our next point here something that both of us know will always derail couples counseling, and that can surprise people but is going too long between sessions, particularly at earlier stages of the work we have people reach out to Growing Self sometimes like we want to do couples counseling, but like we’d like to come in once a month. What’s your take on that and why? Why can that be problematic?

Jenna: I find when I’m meeting with clients once a month that the first half of our session is catch up, it’s talking about what happened over the last month. And then that leaves us a pretty small amount of time to actually do the work. And so what I find is that monthly sessions are best, when you’re in what’s called the maintenance stage, meaning change has already happened, you are making it concrete, you’re solidifying the change. That’s when more time in between sessions, I think is okay, or works just fine.

But when you’re just starting the work, if there is too much time, like we’re just you can forget even what you were just talking about last session, it’s you’re maybe not applying them, because there’s too much time to apply it, where it would have been helpful maybe to learn a new skill in that month to be able to continue the work.

This work works best when you build off of it, when you’re learning a concept, applying it, learning a new concept, applying it or building self awareness, talking through things, processing things. But if it’s if enough time is happening, then again, that change can’t really happen. Or it’s going to be very difficult for it to happen, I guess I should say, because it’s, you’re not getting that guidance. And theoretically, that’s why you’re coming to counseling or coaching is to get some guidance, because you’ve been trying it on your own, it’s not working.

So a month is going to be a long time to just kind of be doing things and maybe even go back to past patterns or bad habits.

Lisa: Yeah, well, it’s hard to change systems so we need to be kind of staying on it. Because people it’ll collapse back to the way that it’s been very easily.

But okay, well, one last thing and this might I think be the most the biggest shock for people and then probably but when why it’s so important for us to be talking about. There can be a huge negative consequences for the outcome of couples therapy, when people are very attached to the idea of using health insurance to pay for said therapy. Why is that?

Jenna: So the process of using insurance in the United States is that one person has to have a diagnosis in something in the DSM-5. The diagnostic manual has to apply to one of the people and they become the IP, the patient. So if you are working with insurance, and you diagnose one of the members of the couple, you have to be working on that diagnosis.

So if one person has depression, and you’re diagnosed that and you’re using that for insurance purposes, you have to be working with depression pretty much regularly with a couple and that means then there might be some problems outside of depression that really need to be explored and talked about and dug into that there are limits to that working with insurance.

Lisa: Yeah. Insurance does not pay for relational work, it only pays for that, that diagnosis and treatment of the mental health condition. And so if you’re using health insurance, we are calling this family therapy for the purpose of treating Joe’s depression. And Susan is going to come to support him and his healing process.

But also that a therapist is required to create a treatment plan that you know, like we are here to treat Joe’s depression. And also in our our case notes that in this session, we attempted to resolve Joe’s depression by x, y, z, which is totally different than maybe what Joe and Susan wanted to do, they wanted to come in and talk about who’s going to unload the dishwasher, but they will also want to use their insurance. And then that’s not accomplishing their relational goals.

It’s also pathologizing Joe, and maybe reinforcing Susan’s idea about how Joe really is the problem because of his depression and, and their relationship is actually damaged as a result of it.

Jenna: It’s hard to do systems work when you’re using insurance. That work of this is a cycle that it’s no one’s fault. This is how we both, our dynamic between both of us. But like you just said, if it’s one person is diagnosed, then it’s easy then to say, oh, that’s the problem. When couples work is trying hard not to have that mindset. So it kind of reinforces something that doesn’t help the work to begin with. 

Lisa: And so you guys, I know that we went through a lot of information and quickly because there is just so much to talk about on this topic, obviously. But I also want you to know that you know, even though Jenna and I kind of ran through these really quickly, I have so many more resources for you on this subject. So it’s almost embarrassing how much time and energy I have spent on trying to inform the public about these things through writing.

But if you come to my website like if you would like to learn about any more about these ideas that we’ve talked about today, please come to growingself.com. And I have created these knowledge base libraries that have a lot of detailed information on all of these topics. So you can navigate to the I believe the main page is like questions about marriage counseling. Or you can actually come to any of our blog posts that have relationship advice. And at the bottom of these posts, you will find an information library that is extensive, it is exhaustive, I put a lot of myself into these.

But I have articles around how to choose a marriage counselor or a couples therapist that goes into a deep dive about the differences in education and training between MFTs and other kinds of mental health professionals, questions to ask a prospective couples therapist, things to look for, as you are interviewing prospective couples counselors that can help you identify whether or not the person really does have the experience that you need.

I also have informational articles on using insurance for all kinds of different things.But particularly as Jenna and I were just discussing around trying to use health insurance for marriage counseling, or couples therapy, and in talking a lot more about the dynamics that can be created because of that, and how that you know, just simply more information about why relational work, just like personal growth work is not paid for by health insurance. So you can learn more about that.

You will also be able to find more information about the mixed agendas that we were talking about. There’s pages on the site about discernment, counseling and coaching, which you heard us talking about. And I also have done a podcast about discernment counseling that you may find helpful.

And then, of course, many, many podcasts about taking responsibility for the way we’re showing up in our relationships can be important. So you know, not blaming your partner. Also podcasts around when to get couples counseling, and there are informational articles on that topic as well. You’ll find informational articles about how long marriage counseling should take where we go into more of an explanation around why it’s really important to come in more frequently in the beginning stages of it doesn’t have to be like that forever. But if you really like to attend regularly, do your homework, do the things you can be done in 10 sessions, and not not three years of messing around.

But so anyway, I just wanted to share all this with you because there really wasn’t enough time and space to go into all of those things at length in this podcast. And I think in my heart of hearts I am an educator in some ways, like that’s why I do the podcast, but I also do it through my writing. And so I really just wanted to let you know about the resources that I have available for you on my site and the other podcasts.

And also just to share if you have a loved one who has been struggling in a relationship and who you would like to help them get help, because you know, they’re in a rough patch and you believe that the couple’s counseling or marriage counseling might help them might strengthen their family might give their kids a better shot, it would be a very supportive and loving act for you to send them some information about how to get the best kind of help they can for their relationship so that they can be making good decisions about that and come into this as informed consumers because it’s just the most heartbreaking thing in the world to me and I’m sure to you too if you have your own loved one in mind.

You know when somebody’s after a lot of angst and deliberation and anxiety finally reaches out for help finally makes the appointment and blunders into the situation that is like one of the ones I described and comes back and says, we tried a couples counseling, it didn’t work. I think there’s no other choice for us. This is the end of the road. Let’s all do everything we can to prevent that from happening.

Certainly there are times when relationships cannot and shouldn’t be saved like it really is for the highest and best that we find ways apart peacefully but boy, let’s all do everything we can to help people get meaningful help and find out for sure if a relationship is salvageable or not.

So thank you for doing this with me, we are all working together now to create positive change in the world by helping share high quality information with the people that we love. So, thank you again for being part of this process and, and joining me and Jenna today so I’ll be back in touch with you next week and again for your listening pleasure. Please enjoy more Mark Almond. Isn’t he great? Alright, take care of you guys.

Marriage Counseling Questions | Couples Therapy Questions

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