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Treating Marital Problems with Pastoral Counseling


Marriage problems are perhaps the most common thing that you'll see in your ... love as an exercise of the will, a volitional choice that is under their control. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Treating Marital Problems with Pastoral Counseling

Treating Marital Problems with Pastoral
  • C. Jeffrey Terrell, Ph.D., M.Div., President,
    Psychological Studies Institute

  • Marriage problems are perhaps the most common
    thing that youll see in your pastoral
    counseling, and they are also potentially the
    most threatening and difficult to deal with.
  • Research has consistently documented that marital
    distress is the most common problem presented to
  • Another major concern is a divorce rate that is
    continuing to accelerate, both inside and outside
    the church.

  • Part of problem is that youll hear two
    perspectives, and both will be equally logical
    and coherent, making perfect sense. The danger, I
    think, is choosing either side, no matter what
    else you may think or perceive.

  • Your authors define pastoral counseling as
    disciple-making. In many ways, that is one of
    the significant functions that takes place in
    marriage, too.
  • These functions come together in pastoral marital
    counseling, where you can enable this couples
    growth in ways that will make a more significant
    impact in their lives than perhaps anything else
    you do.
  • Help them to understand love as an exercise of
    the will, a volitional choice that is under their
  • This choice is to value ones spouse, and to
    avoid devaluing him/her. (This may seem odd, but
    much of the research in marriage counseling seems
    to suggest that these are separate processes. One
    can value a spouse, but behave in ways that
    devalue him/her at the same time.)

  • Your authors define pastoral counseling as
    disciple-making. In many ways, that is one of
    the significant functions that takes place in
    marriage, too.
  • When we dont feel valued, two responses are
  • A response in the flesh, which results in
  • Negative emotions.
  • Desperate search for validation and significance.
  • Withdrawal from the struggle.
  • Blame (spouse, self, God).

  • The solution to marriage problems is to decrease
    their devaluing, and increase their valuing of
    one another. Pastors do this in many ways, but
    particularly in the following ways
  • Connecting people within a fiath community to
    experience a new kind of honesty and acceptance
    that will bring healing and community.
  • Modeling healthy marital relationships (if
    married). This is essential, and cannot be
    overemphasized. It is also incredibly difficult
    to manage this is the best gift you will ever
    give yourself.
  • Behaving in loving and valuing ways toward people
    (staff, members, outsiders).
  • Dealing with the marital concerns presented in
    counseling in a systematic and positive manner.

Encounter Stage
  • Session One
  • Structure counseling
  • Length.
  • Beliefs about counseling.
  • Beliefs about marriage and purposes.
  • Provide hope.
  • Create emotional connection.
  • Promote agreement on tasks and goals.

Encounter Stage
  • Session One
  • Boundaries
  • Discuss different roles.
  • Emphasize necessity of outside work.
  • Be very clear about your expectations of them.

Encounter Stage
  • Session One
  • Initial Assessment
  • Here are the things you need to assess
  • Spiritual life
  • Faith commitment.
  • Maturity in terms of age and genuine development.
  • Participation in the body.
  • View of marriage
  • Commitment to marriage.
  • Maturity about change process and requirements.
  • Participation in relationship.

Engagement Stage
  • Session Two (after first finishing any tasks not
    completed in session one)
  • History (continued really)
  • Share your rational for taking this history
  • Three primary areas of concern
  • Families of origin
  • Begin here. Less threatening, allows to examine
  • Find out about relationship of parents,
    discipline, emotions, decision-making, anger.
  • Watch for patterns (even in extended family).
  • Major dating relationships may be explored (if
  • Current relationship
  • Remember to focus on assets as well as deficits.
  • Look at differences between when the relationship
    was going well and present.
  • Even make distinctions between times now when it
    is going well.

Engagement Stage
  • Session Two
  • See the history taking not as your passive
    reception of their narrative, but as an active,
    guided process.
  • Focus is on re-conceptualizing problems as
    opportunities for change and deepening knowledge.
    Worthington writes of failures of faith acting
    through love.
  • The real problem is the devaluing thats taking
    place, not the identified problem.
  • You want to begin in this session to change
    perceptions and implant hope.
  • Consider healing of memory

Engagement Stage
  • Session Three Explore central concerns
  • Again, this is a guided narrative. Typical areas
  • Closeness
  • Communication
  • Conflict
  • Cognition
  • Commitment

Engagement Stage
  • Session Three
  • Focus shifts a bit in marital counseling because
    there is so much to cover. Here I would slightly
    modify the model to suggest that each potential
    area of conflict be considered from the three
    domains of feeling, thinking and behaving.
  • This doesnt sound like much to cover, but youll
    be amazed at how quickly the time goes by. Just
    remember to focus each portion of the encounter
    on these three areas.
  • Review blessing and cursing in marriage.
    Blessing is building up cursing tears down.
    Solicit intent to bless.

Engagement Stage
  • Session Three
  • Attempt to identify one crucial area.
  • Goal is to find the one that would make the most
    impact if changed
  • Somewhat discouraging because session will deal
    with what needs changing
  • Emphasis must be on having each partner identify
    his/her own contributions

Engagement Stage
  • Session Four Plan for Change
  • Create attitudes of confession (first) and
  • Increase commitment
  • Review Biblical model for relationships
  • Decrease devaluing behaviors
  • Recall positives from relationship
  • Eliminate or reduce competitors for couple time
  • Restore common vision
  • Increase valuing behaviors

Engagement Stage
  • Session Four
  • Be as active as possible in this session.
  • Involve in role play
  • Use room as model for distance, or love or
  • Once commitment to relationship is restored, you
    may begin to work on changing specific behaviors
  • Relationship mission statement
  • Develop and exchange lists of desired behaviors
  • Provide quality routine
  • Add in caring days
  • Plan for some big events

  • Session Five Cementing change
  • Solidify attitudes of confession and forgiveness
    (may even want to have couples confess)
  • Help counselees return to their normal lives
    plan where they go from here
  • Plan for future growth (spiritually and
    emotionally, individually and as a couple)
  • Have them summarize what theyve learned and how
    theyve changed

Dealing with Tough Questions
  • The Questions
  • Under what circumstances should separation occur?
  • What should a person do if there is abuse
  • Is divorce ever permissible?
  • What about remarriage?
  • Others?

Dealing with Tough Questions
  • Guidelines
  • Take the counselees questions seriously. Respect
    his/her logic and make sure you fully understand
    the person before you respond.
  • Be gentle. Treat the counselee as someone
    youll love even if he/she disagrees with you.
  • Make it clear when there are different answers.
    Then (and only then) feel free to offer your
    opinion. (Youll be amazed at how this changes
    your own response set.)

Dealing with Tough Questions
  • Guidelines
  • Try to only preach on Sundays! Answers should be
    short. (Observe carefully while youre talking to
    be sure that what you say is received in the way
    you mean it. If youre unsure, ask!)
  • Dont let your counseling get bogged down by
    theological discussions. Investigating biblical
    responses is appropriate, but some people will
    work to get you arguing, because then they wont
    have to be responsible!
  • Live what youre teaching.

Guidelines for Benefiting from Counseling with a
  • Couples who benefit from counseling are those who
    are involved in their counseling and do what is
  • Tell yourself continually that divorce will not
    take away all of your distress, it merely
    substitutes other distress for the present.
  • Adopt the attitude, "I have fallen out of love,
    and I can fall back in love."
  • Change first don't wait for your partner to

Guidelines for Benefiting from Counseling with a
  • Be patient be willing to do things that are not
    comfortable to allow hearing.
  • Expect ups and downs in counseling. When the
    downs come, don't stop trying to change. When
    the first ups come, don't think the problem is
    solved. Keep working until valuing your partner
    becomes a habit.
  • Don't quit just because you don't see quick
  • Don't expect your spouse to become perfect.