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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Laura Doyle "6 Reasons why Marriage Counseling is BS"


A few week ago or so, I came across this article and became very angry. Unfortunately there was not enough space to refute the article point by point in the comment space, but luckily I have a blog :D. So you folks get to suffer through it with me.

  Some of my background: I have been to therapists off and on for the past 12 years. Currently, I'm in the last year and a half of a masters program to be a therapist (eventually to be certified as a family and marriage counselor). I'm familiar with the stigma of seeing a therapist, especially as I can't get my husband to go see one even though he has panic attacks and has alot of unresolved issues from his childhood that ambush him in the "here and now" of his life. So besides having been to a therapist (like the author) I've been trained in how to be a therapist for the past 3 years (unlike the author who has no therapy training but holds retreats in California to teach women how to attract the right man and have a successful relationship with them. I had no idea all you needed for that qualification was a journalism degree and a few books published! - sarcasm).

  1) "It starts with calling your husband a loser"
             Well, isn't that special. So going to therapy to try and fix communication with between you and your husband mean you're insulting your husband. Is that reality? Or is it stigma that needs to be cleared up? If someone is having panic attacks and ends up in mandatory therapy, does that make them a loser? So this one would be the husbands stereotype of what marriage therapy is.
              On the other hand, the goal of family and marriage counseling is to change patterns of thinking and behavior that are causing problems in the relationship. This would include negative talk, anger covering pain and hurt, and triangles that exist. If a husband feels that he will not be heard during marital therapy because the wife instigated the therapy and choose the therapist, that is a valid concern that would need to be addressed first and foremost by hearing him out and making sure he feels like he is part of the process. A therapist can do this with some strategic assignments or with some structural moves (both family and marriage counseling theories).

2) Some Marriage Counselor's are Failures.
          So your counselor got divorced. Which totally means they can't treat people who are married and trying to stay married. Awesome. Does that mean that an adult who failed english in high school shouldn't teach english as an adult? What about someone who did drugs? It turns out that peer counseling is actually very valuable and worthwhile. So someone did drugs in the past and is now able to counsel going through what they went through. Marriage is a relationship. We all have relationships and sometimes they're successful and healthy and sometimes they're not. But if we JUDGED (yes that is the word I'm using for this point) people based on their past and became prejudiced against them because of it, what does that make us?
          How else can I put this.. Well, I'll give it a try :D. Counselors are trained to use theories in order to treat their clients. Sometimes there is self-disclosure, but usually not to a particularly high degree. The therapy is supposed to be driven by the theory, not our personal experiences. If we self-disclosed and talked from our own personal experiences all the time then it would be more like hanging out with friends, not a blank psychodynamic slate for the client to project upon us and for us to be able to reflect back on them. Though, I am the last person to say that our experience won't help us. I believe that my childhood experiences of growing up in an abusive and neglectful household can help me be empathetic. But I can't JUDGE my client through the lens of my past experience because what they're going through is different.

3) Any fool can complain, and most do during marriage counseling.
        That is the truth, for both sides. But with a therapist who is properly directive and in charge of the therapy session, as it should be, that isn't what therapy is. A therapist is not someone you go too every two weeks or once a month to complain. It's someone you go to in order to develop new coping skills, to change a behavior that isn't working for you, to learn new communication skills. If you're just there to complain and get nothing out of it, then yes, the therapist is not doing their job and the time and money is wasted.
       Therapy is about helping the client develop insights about themselves which help them grow as a person. How much do you wanna bet that is what the author, Laura Doyle, is doing at her retreats, without a real background in training for it. Why? Because after a while with working with people, its supposed to be intuitive.

4) It's a hideout for hypocrites.
        Now here is where she really gets into the prejudices for the type of people that go to therapy. In fact, from this point forward, everything she talks about is almost an insult to the type of people who go to therapy. So yeah, people often go to therapy, either individual or couples, with a strong sense that they are right and the other person is wrong. But that is a breakdown in communication, which, again, is what the therapy is supposed to be working on. No one goes into therapy perfect and knowing what all the real deep problems are with a relationship.
       An example of this would be a couple in which one is high functioning and one is low functioning. So perhaps the low functioning is depressed and doesn't clean up around the house. The high functioning partner is working two jobs, cleans up and is thoroughly sick other low functioning and on their high horse about it. They go to marriage counseling and the high functioning gradually discovers that they are enabling the behavior by picking up after the person, the low functioning person gradually receives coping mechanisms to deal with the depression and whatever else is malfunctioning in the relationship. The high functioning realizes that the lack of affection is adding to the stress in the relationship and they start to do more things together. etc etc etc. So yeah, we could call the high functioning a hypocrite because they do not see how their being cruel to the low functioning perpetuated the problem, but its all in the word usage, isn't it?

5) Men are not big, hairy women.
    This one, honestly, made me laugh. Of course we should have respect for each other, but this also goes the other way in which women really sometimes need to know how her partner feels. So besides being respectful about his masculinity, he needs to be respectful for her femininity and need for emotional exchanges. This goes in with the criticisms for Laura Doyle's style and of surrendering to the man. I actually get this, but I think of it more as surrendering to life and choices and trying to find joy within life regardless of whats going on at times just to balance out. I do not want to "surrender" to my husband, I'd rather be a partner who can receive what I need as well as give him what he needs.
      But this point again, is going into the prejudices and is giving (sorry) men an out. Sometimes you gotta say what your feeling, even if the society you were raised in, and your family of origin, didn't do that. We do things for our loved ones we normally wouldn't do, because we love them. Sometimes we bend and change ever so much for them rather then wait for them to bend and change for us. In therapy, both sides are expected to eventually learn how to do this. And how to accept the other person.

6) It's the most expensive way to try and control your spouse.
    Is it me, or is this just rewriting what the other points have said? Again, I'll repeat myself. Proper therapy means that you learn to communicate and talk to each other in positive ways, and yes to sometimes simply accept each other. Of course some couples will go into therapy for their marriage when really they need to work on their own personal stuff, but that's when a therapist would say, "I'd like to give you a referral to another therapist to do some personal work, I really think you would get so much out of it and it would likely help the relationship with your partner."

Here's my shtick. Some therapists suck, they don't join well, they don't use theory properly, and they can't keep their life compartmentalized. Anyone who has gone through a few therapists knows this. Not every therapist is going to work for every person. But, saying that marriage counseling is BS is like saying that all movies suck, its just a gross generalization. Sometimes we hear things we aren't ready to hear or do not want to hear from a therapist, sometimes they're just plain wrong. Guess what, therapists are human! Holy shit, really? yeah, really, they're human :D.

      This is my story, I'm sticking to it. Have a nice day!