The Power of Empathy
September 26, 2018
Let’s talk about sex!
October 28, 2018

Hello Dear Readers! I’m so excited to share with you that after sending out an invitation to a number of colleagues, we have a guest blogger this month! I am thrilled to open up the conversation and add more voices for well-being to the Blog. So let’s begin.

Let me introduce you to Tom Caplan, MSW, MFT : (click on the link for more information about Tom)

By way of introduction I am a licensed Social worker (OTSTCFQ), Marriage and Family Therapist and Supervisor (AAMFT/CAMFT), and Psychotherapist (OPQ) in private practice who works with individuals, couples, families and groups.  I was a consultant to the McGill Domestic Violence Clinic, am the founder of Montreal Anger Management Centre and the Caplan Therapy Centre. I am also a designated expert in Domestic Violence and Generalized Violence for the Quebec Court System.

How to Choose a Marriage/Couple Counsellor

There are many websites that offer advice on how to choose the best couple/marriage counsellor. I would like to suggest the following with regard to that choice.

First Contact

The first contact is usually over the phone and questions to ask should include how they assess your problem. For example, do they use a cognitive, relational, emotion-focused or needs-based model – and what does that mean. How long have they been in practice could be important but as long as they are not new to the “business,” length of time in practice does not always indicate success or failure. A therapist should take as long as you want to answer any and all questions you might have over the phone. This might give you an idea of the therapist’s personality and indicate if you are a good “fit” or not. As well, a therapist’s therapeutic background and training is important. The therapist must be an accredited Marriage and Family Therapist which indicates she or he has been specifically trained in this specialty.

How They Work

At the end of the first session it is important to know how the therapist would like to proceed. It would be important to ascertain whether she or he uses a “template” or whether there is an indication of flexibility in the approach to your specific problem. A good therapist might even ask how you would like to proceed. Again, you might want to clarify the modality she or he uses and ask how this might be of help to your relationship. It is true that a therapist might have to use some directive interventions but constant advice giving or specific instructions that “must” be followed “no matter what” should be of concern. Overall, it is you and your partner who should feel in control of how the sessions are proceeding.


It is a myth that your relationship should be “cured” in couple work. Any improvement in your relationship should be considered a success. The way it works is that if you can accomplish a small improvement in your relationship you should then be able to continue the process yourselves, or, with occasional coaching from the therapist. I usually schedule couples every two to three weeks since not much happens in seven days. I find that most couples – especially those who are motivated to reconcile their differences – can do an enormous amount of positive work without my help once their relational needs are clarified.

In Conclusion

It is the therapist’s job to motivate their clients. Therefore the first session should uncover issues that couples would be motivated to examine. The therapy itself should not take too long. Most clients want to get on with their lives therefore I feel that eight to ten sessions should suffice to pinpoint the problem areas and examine appropriate relational problem-solving strategies – though some once-monthly sessions, after that is accomplished, might be appropriate to monitor progress and support relational improvement.

Finally, marriage counsellors are there to help you to find ways of coming together not move apart. They are not divorce counsellors. They should not make the decision of whether you should stay together or separate. They should help you to get enough information to make that decision for yourselves. An informed decision is always better than an emotional one – especially if you have children.

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Thank you Tom!

Say hi to Tom everyone 🙂



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  1. My friend got married young, so she may need a marriage counselor to help her out down the road. I love how you mentioned that she should look for a counselor that is able to be flexible. Thanks for the great tips on choosing a marriage counselor.

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