As a marriage counselor, I am committed to strict client confidentiality. And I understand why. Couples who come to counseling want to make sure what they tell me isn't going to get out to their friends. And by keeping things confidential, it also ensures couples can talk about the real problems they're having and don't have to hold back out of fear that might get out. For these and other (legal) reasons, I make sure to keep my clients' information strictly confidential.
But sometimes I can't help but feel bad that it's so confidential. Marriage counseling is one of the strongest things you can do for you and your marriage. So instead of keeping it confidential, you should get a t-shirt for it. Here's why.
Marriage counseling isn't for sissies
When you go to marriage counseling, your counselor will ask questions that will make you examine every little corner of yourself. And these aren't always the bright, happy corners, either. These are the confusing, numb and even scary corners that you've never looked at. And you're confronting them head on. Lots of people shy away from them and choose to divorceor just live in a loveless marriage instead. Those who go to marriage counseling are brave enough to confront their demons. And they're brave enough to have someone watch them as they do.
Marriage counseling is the best thing you'll do for your marriage
To show love, lots of people buy their spouse a present. But not everybody takes their partner to marriage counseling. Sure, it's not as romantic as, say, a diamond necklace, but it's a deeper sign of commitment than anything you can get from a store. It shows you're invested, and you want to make things work. It shows that you'll go through whatever it takes — good and bad — for your marriage.
Going to a counselor shows you're not afraid
Unfortunately, there's still a lot of stigma about going to see a counselor. People assume if you're seeing a counselor, you're not strong enough to handle things on your own. But seeing a counselor is just the opposite. It shows you have the courage to ask for help. It shows you're not afraid to admit you're imperfect and are willing to talk to someone who knows more in order to help. You look that stigma in the eye and walk confidently past it.
When you go skydiving for your 40th birthday, you get pictures and even a videotape to prove to the world you actually had what it takes to jump out of a plane. And when your softball team finished first in your league, you got a trophy that you put on your desk at work for a while. When you go to marriage counseling, you're accomplishing a lot more than jumping out of a plane or placing first in a tournament. You're a step closer to accomplishing a lifelong commitment to yourself and someone else. It shows you have the courage, sacrifice, commitment and dedication to follow something through to completion.
Yes, I completely understand why therapists should keep therapy confidential. And I understand why clients would want to keep their therapy confidential, too. But seeing a marriage counselor is one of the most courageous decisions you could make in your life. Instead of trying to hide it, you should get a t-shirt for it. Your children will thank you for it and your spouse will, too. And that's a lot more important than any life accomplishment.
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. Checkout his blog for expert information on how to improve your relationship.