Joint Conferences with Both Partners Can Be Helpful but Are Difficult

Husband and wife may make the wildest accusations and say the most cutting things to each other without necessarily bearing a permanent grudge. Once these things are said in the presence of a third party, even a professional person, they tend to become fixed and to take on a different significance and value. A joint conference can provide just the opportunity for either or both parties to say things to punish and hurt each other which neither will forget because of the presence of a third party. The joint conference can, therefore, become the means of further separating spouses instead of bringing them together. But it can also serve as a time-saver and as a means of clearing up misunderstandings from lack of communication. It can serve as the place where fantasy and reality may meet for the first time. Hence it becomes an important adjunct to counseling techniques but should be used with the utmost care.

The Counselor Should Approach Every New Problem in a Spirit of Humility and in the Conviction That Regardless of How Similar It May Appear to Others in His Experience, It Must Be Studied and Treated As If It Were Totally New and Unprecedented. This principle is anticipated, in part at least, in some of the others already stated, but it is so important that it merits repetition and emphasis. The uniqueness of personalities and their interrelationships as well as the complexity and unpredictability of human interaction must ever be kept in mind. Besides, professional personnel dealing with people in trouble must exercise the greatest possible caution lest they act on the assumption that they are endowed with special powers of omniscience. It is sometimes difficult for them to keep from believing in their own superior qualities and to refrain from acting accordingly. It would be well for those who feel this way to remember and try to emulate one very good psychotherapist who prayed each morning that he might resist the temptation to play God and prayed each evening for forgiveness for having succumbed to the temptation.

The Counselor Should Ignore or Violate Any of These Principles Mentioned When the Situation Demands It. This brings us back to the point of our beginning -- namely, the need for an open mind and flexibility in point of view, approach, and method on the part of the counselor. This is the only principle that should be held inviolate and is a sine qua non for marriage counseling. Given a counselor with adequate training, an open mind, an appreciation of the value of the human personality, a dedication to do everything possible to be helpful to his client, and a spirit of humility arising from the awareness of the inadequacy of our present knowledge regarding human behavior and its motivations, the counselee is in relatively safe hands.

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