Marriage counseling the understanding, the sympathy, the interest

No matter what the process or technique used by a counselor may be, there is an intangible quality in marriage counseling which cannot be described in specific terms of method or process. The personality of the counselor himself, the relationship which he establishes with the counselee, the understanding, the sympathy, the interest, the warmth which he possesses, profoundly affect his counseling and its results.

It takes time to change, to grow, to make adjustments, to develop competence. Therefore patience is necessary and not hastiness, sympathy not indulgence, tolerance not criticism, faith not pessimism. People do not want too much fuss made over them; neither do they want to be pitied. They have to feel their way. Many will find themselves through trial and error. The counselor should not argue, blame, criticize, moralize, or tell the other person that he is wrong. He should not humiliate or tell the counselee to be ashamed of his unusual or erratic behavior. He should express approval for real effort to become more adequate, even though success is not immediately forthcoming, and above all, he should show a warm human responsiveness, a sympathy with human differences and an understanding of them, and an awareness of spiritual values. The goal of counseling is to help people over the spots that seem rough to them and through this process enable them to help themselves and those with whom they are most closely associated.

If the family thus remains the basic unit of our society, any social or professional practice which helps to maintain competent marriages should in itself contribute to the strengthening of family life and indirectly of society. Long ago Confucius pointed out that good families are essential to good communities, and good communities to a good national life. What then constitutes a good family? In the memorandum mentioned above, a Good Family was defined as one which "stresses growth and development of children and parents, has achieved happiness, strong bonds of affection, mutual enjoyment and co-operation, is characterized in practice by democratic give-and-take and high togetherness, is actively contributing to the community and is crisis-proof because rooted in spiritual values." Expectations both in marriage and family life are in the main high in our American culture. They go well beyond economic security and adequate physical care. They stress the importance of affection, of equality within the home, of a mutually supportive emotional and physical relationship, and of wholesome and understanding parenthood.

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