Marriage Counseling The Initial Interview

How did the counselors proceed with their cases? What were the techniques employed by them? What general concepts or principles. were utilized in the achievement of the reported results?

Here an attempt will be made to analyze the cases presented from the point of view of the processes and techniques reported in the case presentations as actually employed by the different counselors included in this report. This summary should indicate how closely practice relates to theory in these particular cases and may be considered suggestive in connection with the current practice of marriage counseling.

The Initial Interview: The way in which the client-counselor relationship is established in the first interview is important psychologically as well as practically. Almost every experienced counselor evolves his own procedure on the basis of what seems most. comfortable and efficient for himself and his client. The goals of this first contact are similar for counselor and client in three major respects: each hopes to end the hour with a picture of what the focus of the problem is, to ascertain whether the counselor through his specific agency or private practice is equipped to deal with the situation, and finally to decide whether the client is sufficiently motivated to work out a mutually acceptable plan for counseling.

In this first contact some clients pour out their story with such vehemence that the counselor can do little but interrupt occasionally to keep the flood of words focused on relevant material and finally to allow time for discussing a plan of counseling. Other clients may be so upset it is extremely difficult for them to talk at all, let alone organize their account. In each and every situation it is the counselor's most important job to help the client feel comfortable, to let him know the counselor is interested and wants to be of assistance.

Often some simple question or statement breaks the ice. "How did you hear about marriage counseling?" or "Why don't you just begin to talk about what you most want me to know; we can fill in the details later."

Sometimes, in spite of how it may be suggested, couples come separately for the first interview; sometimes they come together. Some counselors plan, if possible, to see a couple together for ten minutes or so; then to see the man and woman each separately for about thirty minutes, and finally to spend the last fifteen minutes with both again jointly in order to set up a plan. Such a process enables the counselor to get a glimpse of the interaction between the partners, to find out if they are concerned with the same or different problems, and to estimate whether one or both are committed to a plan for participating in the counseling.

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