The titles “marriage counselor,” or “marriage therapist” have different meanings
in different places according to individual state statutes governing their use. In some states, anyone can hang out a shingle, call themselves a marriage counselor and do marriage counseling with no training of any kind. Here I will give you some information about marriage counseling, with some specific references to the use of the terms marriage counselor and marriage therapist in California. To get more specific information about statutes in other states,
In California, the title “marriage and family therapist” has replaced the title “marriage and family counselor” under the present statute. The term refers to a professional person who is has training and experience in helping people resolve marital problems, parent-child problems and other relationship problems. Because most people use the terms “marriage counselor,” or “marriage counseling,” I will use those terms here.
Many people are a little apprehensive about consulting someone for problems in their relationship because they don’t know what to expect and because so much is at stake. A well-trained and experienced marriage and family counselor will do a good job of making you feel comfortable and at ease in the privacy of his or her office.
What can you expect when you consult a marriage and family counselor?
If you were to consult me I would start by asking you questions about the immediate problem that brings you in and about the history of the relationship. My first job is to learn what is going right and what is going wrong in the relationship.
My next job is to help you arrive at some new answers which will improve communication, help you make good decisions, resolve conflicts and succeed in meeting the emotional needs of each person in the relationship.
A knowledgeable marriage and family counselor does not try to find out who is the “good guy” or “bad guy” or to attack or demean either person. Successful relationship counseling involves respecting the feelings and needs of each partner in the relationship and helping them find solutions that work for both of them.
You can expect a marriage and family counselor to conduct himself or herself in an ethical, sensitive and professional manner and to keep your visits private and confidential.
Personal counseling can play an important role in helping you deal successfully with issues of great importance and significance in your life. The stakes are high. Therefore it is essential that you see a counselor who is both well qualified and highly experienced.
It is my personal recommendation that you see seek out someone with a Ph.D. degree in psychology, and who is identified and licensed both as a marriage and family counselor and as a psychologist.
In California, they should show these titles, and license numbers for both titles in their listing in the telephone book as is required by state law. Someone with these qualifications is best prepared to deal with all aspects of any relationship and personal problems that may come up.
You should feel free to ask any professional person you consult about his or her qualifications and experience. A well-qualified professional will not be offended by such questions and will welcome the opportunity to tell you about his or her training. Be sure to ask where they went to school, how long they have been in practice in your community and whether they have any university or hospital affiliations.
As an example of information about qualifications and training that a psychologist might provide, here is the information I would provide about myself:
I took my B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in psychology at the University of California at Los Angeles. I was an Assistant Professor of Medical Psychology on the Clinical Teaching Faculty in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of California at Irvine for more than 20 years. I have also been on staff at Memorial Hospital of Long Beach, Long Beach Community Medical Center and Fountain Valley Regional Hospital.
I am licensed in the State of California as a psychologist (license no. PSY 1036) and as a Marriage and Family Counselor (license no. M676). My National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology number is 1288. I have been in the practice of marriage counseling and psychology in the Long Beach, California and Orange County, California communities for more than 20 years. For further information about my training, experience and office locations, click on Marvin S. Beitner, Ph.D.