Pre-maritial counseling for divorcees

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by JoeKan, Jun 8, 2010.

  1. JoeKan

    JoeKan
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    Can someone give me some advice on how to counsel a couple who is planning on getting married but both have been divorced?
    I'm thinking I should address: guilt, learning more about forgiveness, putting the past behind, etc...
    Thanks
    Joe
     
  2. jaigner

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    For starters, refer them to a licensed professional marriage counselor for those things.

    I'm not discounting pastoral counseling, but remember that is a ministry of the Word. Prayer, scripture and, above all, a Christocentric focus is in order.

    Sometimes I think pastors overstep their area of ministry very easily here. Relationship counseling is best left to those who are trained in that field, regardless of past relationship history. I have heard of so, so many cases of pastors who meant well, but have given some terrible, horrible counsel because, well, they weren't trained in good relational strategies.
     
  3. preachinjesus

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    We usually have them go through some specific steps to ensure the overall health of themselves, healing from the past, and to be sure they're ready for another marriage.

    We don't exclude them from our regular premarital counseling, but do supplement their workbooks with an outstanding studi called "Saving Your Second Marriage Before Its Starts." We have had some meaningful ministry with broken people in this area.
     
  4. Siberian

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    How many licensed counselors give terrible, horrible counsel? Your evidence is anecdotal and goes both ways. A well-trained pastor should be able to give solid, biblical pre-marital counsel that proves helpful. Of course, there are times that we should make referrals. However, a blanket referral policy in the case of relationship counseling is unwarranted. Most of us have specific training in the area of pastoral counseling (including relationship counseling).

    Further, many, many couples will participate in pastoral counseling who would never go see a licensed counselor for the simple reason that pastoral counseling is offered without a fee. We should consider this, because that means that a referral might mean that the couple will receive no counsel at all.
     
    #4 Siberian, Jun 9, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 9, 2010
  5. Crucified in Christ

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    jaigner- I also have seen many pastors step into areas that they should have left to professional counselors, but marriage counseling has never been one of them. I agree with Siberian's point that professional counseling will ultimately mean no counseling program at all for the majority of couples. A good church pre-marital counseling program can, in my opinion, make a difference.
     
  6. Dr. Bob

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    It takes only a small bit (compared to seminary) of added training to gain certification in counseling through a variety of good training programs. After pastoring about 6 years I realized I was woefully deficient in that realm, so took a program thru Liberty (with Jay Adams and Ed Hinson as primary face-to-face professors) for Pastoral Counseling.

    IVP (inter-varsity press) has excellent pre-marital materials. One book we use as basis of our church's hand-out has material for second marriages. We live in a day when books are plentiful and cheap and can assist a pastor in such rudementary counsel.

    (And I have found little benefit from the "Christian" counseling center here in town. They have a dismal record for addictions and abuse, the largest elements of counseling we see)
     
  7. TomVols

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    I echo Siberian and Dr. Bob. Wayne Oates would not be happy to hear that we've relegated Pastoral counseling to the trifles.

    I would approach it like any other family except they aren't :) Then again, no one is. Do your intake/interview. That should determine what you have to cover. Are their previous children and if so how many and what ages and where do they live? What caused prior divorces? You get the idea.

    Never discount the initial interview. NEVER. You'd be surprised at how that lays out your counseling plan.
     
  8. jaigner

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    Again, I'm not discounting pastoral counseling (some are even licensed counselors), especially in areas where there is limited access to other counseling venues. I also understand that some people, no matter how much advice they get, will not go.

    But there's something to be said about counsel from those who have completed a master's degree in that field, have gone through internships and licensing procedures (giving them literally 1000s of hours of experience before they are fully licensed). Plus, many counselors have a specific area of emphasis in which they've received even more training in areas like relationships, mood disorders, etc. Some even emphasize in second marriage preparation.

    At least those are the requirements in the areas and provinces where my wife has practiced. It doesn't mean they will always give sound advice, but looking around a bit will help someone find a counselor who is sound and trustworthy.

    Also, it is quite possible that one or both of the divorcees might have some sort of mood disorder, like depression or anxiety, etc., for which they need to be referred to a professional counselor and a medical doctor.
     
  9. John Toppass

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    I believe the Pastor's responsibility is to help the two candidates determine if they are really ready to get married to each other. He is not suppose to determine the nature of their mental health or disorders. That should be left to Doctors if needed.
    A Pastor, who is doing a good job shepherding the church, is probably going to be more competent than a "licensed counselor". There are times when people need to be refereed to counselor but the Pastor should check out the integrity and ability of any counselor they might refer.

    Sometimes a Pastor may run into a situation where he tells the couple, "I can not marry you for I do not think you are ready at this time". This would apply to all couples he counsels for marriage.
     
  10. annsni

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    Bingo.

    I think that addressing the issues that caused the divorce would be important (we did that with one couple who were both divorced before) along with the regular pre-marital counseling. To think that premarital counseling needs to go to "professionals" is ridiculous.
     
  11. jaigner

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    I just think that engaged couples, especially those who have failed marriages already, should be referred to relationship counseling from someone who is trained in actual relational techniques, not someone who "knows from experience" or has read books (and many, not all, Christian books on the subject are very shallow and superficial). Pastors should have reputable counselors who they have researched to whom engaged couples can be referred. It's obviously not necessary, but it can be very helpful.

    My wife and I were counseled by the minister who married us, but also have been served well by research-based relationship strategies.

    Again, I'm not discounting the importance of pastoral counseling, especially when it comes to ministry of the Word in this area, but most pastors do not have the level of training that respectable mental health professionals do.

    There are good and bad counselors, of course, that's why it takes some research on behalf of the pastor.
     
  12. Siberian

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    Most pastors have far more actual training in counseling than your statement suggests. Most of us have taken many graduate courses in counseling theory and methodology.

    Even so, I agree with you; most pastors do not have as much training in counseling as a licensed mental health professional (who, as a minimum, has a 60-credit hour masters degree, with most of those hours being counseling courses + observed internships, etc.). However, I would also argue that, in helping ministry (including relationship counseling), there is great advantage to having the biblical and theological training that most pastors have (and that most licensed mental health professionals lack). For one thing, that training is helpful for recognizing and rejecting the therapies (many of which are research-based) that are rooted in humanism, or other unbiblical concepts that will ultimately prove harmful. Thus, a gifted pastor with 18 hrs of counseling training and 72 hours of theological and ministerial training is plenty competent to counsel a couple that is seeking marriage, even a couple with a sordid past.

    Marriage, after all, has its genesis in the Bible - and the most important "strategies" of a healthy marriage are found in the Bible.
     
    #12 Siberian, Jun 25, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 25, 2010
  13. StefanM

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    The issue of access is very important.

    Free vs. $100 a session is a very real distinction.
     
  14. Major B

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    Most of the people who come to us for counseling have investigated "licensed professionals," who use very little Bible in their counseling, and much of what they use is incorrect as to context, etc. It is NOT as if couselors should have a state-sponsored, secular based certification with a little Christianity sprinkled on the top for flavoring! Without a thorough understanding of the full theological and biblical basis for marriage, "licensed professional counselors" are actually injurious to the marriage. Over the years, we have had many couples come to us who were told blatantly unbiblical things by counselors with secular methodology and worldviews.

    Unlike medical science, math, or other hard sciences, social sciences are survey based speculations. If I ask ten math whizzes to answer a problem, I will get one answer (unless we venture into the realm of theoretical stuff). When I have quizzed Licensed Professional Counselors, I usually get as many different answers as there are surveys. When I go to the Bible, I get the same answer all the time.

    Remember, when you say "researched based," in the social sciences, what the term really means is "survey based."
     
    #14 Major B, Jun 29, 2010
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  15. sag38

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    Remember, when you say "researched based," in the social sciences, what the term really means is "survey based."

    Which is clearly demonstrated by the removal of homosexuality from the DSM. It wasn't a matter of science as it was a matter of protest and politics.
     
  16. John Toppass

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    Your right. Some pastors are priceless in their wisdom and experience. On the other hand, I have never met a counselor worth $100 an hour.
     

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