Coaching Versus Counseling

January 22, 2010

     There is a dirty little secret in the marriage counseling industry.  75% of all couples who go to marriage counseling end up being divorced.  There is a quiet revolution taking place in this country where  some forward thinking counselors are abandoning the traditional counseling methods and adopting a “coaching” style.  A couple of well known counselors have made the transition like Michelle Weiner Davis, author of: DIVORCE BUSTING and Dr. Willard Harley, author of HIS NEEDS HER NEEDS.

     Part of the problem is how services are delivered.  One hour once a week is insufficient to do the job.  Another part of the problem is philosophy of treatment.  Counseling concentrates on couples talking about their feelings.  Coaching concentrates on resolving the problem.

     Think about this for a minute.  If couples seek out marriage counseling, the marriage is likely in deep trouble  where the stress level is such that they are considering divorce.  Now think about the “medical model” for a minute:  If you had serious heart trouble, would you want to go to a cardiologist whose record is that 3 out of 4 patients under his care die?  If you had a very serious life threatening cut, would you be happy with a doctor who said, I am going to put one stitch in you now, and you come back in week and I will put another stitch in you and keep coming back once a week for the next 20 weeks and we will have you all stitched up?  If you had Strep Throat would you be happy with a doctor who says that he will give you a little antibiotic and keep coming back for 20 weeks until the infection is cleared up? Would you want accept any of those treatment plans

     Would you accept firemen coming out to your house and telling you that they are going to put a little of the fire out and that they would come back the next week and put a little more of the fire out and keep coming back until the fire is out? There is no other profession that attempts to resolve a problem utilizing this paradigm.

     The reason that it is done this way is not because it is what is best for the patients, but it is what is best for the insurance industry who will only reimburse for one hour once a week.  Actuaries  (these are guys who are the bean counters for the insurance companies) have figured out that couples will abandon the process long before they resolve the problem thus saving the insurance company money.

     Another part of the problem is the philosophy of counseling style where the counselor assumes a neutral position. Mediation services don’t follow this style.  The mediator takes two opposing sides and takes charge and is a referee suggesting alternative solutions to both sides and maintains order during the process.  They also roll up their sleeves and over the course of several hours resolves the problems or makes great strides in resolving the problem in a minimum of sessions in a very short period of time. Couples don’t need to talk about their feelings, they need to resolve the problems.  They need to be taught relationship skills.  There is an old Chinese proverb which states:  “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.  Couples need to be taught conflict resolution skills which do not come naturally.  What comes naturally is fighting.

     Going back to the medical model, you don’t leave a patient with a high fever for weeks at a  time, you treat the fever and what is causing the fever in a short period of time.  Couples in crisis are having the equivalent of serious fever.  They are in stress because the “Fight or Flight Syndrome” causes huge adrenaline rushes which can’t be easily sustained over weeks of time.  The stress is very hard on the body and is a leading cause of heart disease.  The collateral damage happens to the children in the family.  The toxic mood in the house is equivalent to torture for them because they are helpless and can’t do anything about it.

     Clearly the treatment model for counseling needs a paradigm shift.  We need to first resolve the problems in a short period of time, teach couples conflict resolution skills and relational skills and to lobby the insurance industry to adopt a different reimbursement model.  Insurance companies need to pay for hours of service rendered and not dictate to the counselor how he structures the time element in the therapy.

     As a couple, you need to seek out a marriage coach to help you resolve your problems.  You will have to pay for it out of your own pocket, but it is a much more effective therapy and far cheaper than divorce. 

    Most coaches will deal with couples by phone or on the internet by Individual Messenger (IM).This saves time and money.  Many couples don’t like to drive to an office.  This way you can deal with your problems in the comfort of your own home .

The author of this article can be reached at marriagecoach1@yahoo.


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