Most Couples Counseling Does Work

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), May 2, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Most Couples Counseling Does Work


Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By John Miller For The Register-Guard

On April 19, The Register Guard published an article from The New York Times with the headline,`Marital counseling may only make things worse." It was an unfortunate headline, because it did not seem to represent what the article was really all about.

The article raised some important issues regarding therapy and how and when it works - and doesn't work. The main thrust of the article was that couples therapy is complex, specialized work that requires skills in empirically validated, effective approaches.

The reporter noted that many practicing therapists are not trained in these proven techniques and lack the skills to do couples therapy. When competent, their therapy is usually helpful and effective.

The question this raises in not whether couples therapy works, but when and how to find a competent therapist. In Oregon, anyone can hang out a shingle and claim to be a `couples therapist.' Some who do this have little or no specialized training in working with couples and families, and may not even have formal education in human services.

Only licensed marriage and family therapists are required to get the specialized training and clinical experience in working with couples and families. This training is rigorous and intense, and requires the professional to take graduate courses in human development, theory, assessment, legal and ethical issues, group dynamics and research.

Specific topics typically covered include domestic violence, human sexuality, child development, counseling diverse populations, psychopathology and substance abuse and addiction. In Oregon, training must also include 600 hours of supervised clinical experience.

After students graduate, a training therapist must accrue 2,000 clinical hours under the close supervision of a qualified supervisor. Only after completing these requirements are training therapists permitted to take a national qualifying exam, which evaluates core knowledge in the field's validated techniques.

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