I’m going to tell you a secret…
Most counselors have no idea what to do with betrayal.
Let me pause to say I have the utmost respect for my fellow counselors and coaches. They are dedicated and passionate about helping their clients. Some of my favorite people are mental health providers, and we are a compassionate group of people.
But just as you’d only see a cardiologist for a heart issue, it’s vital you choose a betrayal specialist to help you heal. They are trained specifically to guide you through those choppy waters. Too many times, women are deeply hurt by well-meaning counselors, coaches, or pastors who simply don’t have expertise in this area.
Let me pull back the curtain on the counseling world to offer a deeper understanding of what to look for. I want to empower you to find someone who understands what you’re going through, can help you navigate the counter-intuitive healing process, and will keep your heart safe in the process.
First, there are a few things you need to know:
- Because it’s so specific, most counselors are not trained in how to help couples or wives heal from betrayal. Some graduate programs don’t even require a class on marriage counseling.
- Many counselors view betrayal, infidelity, or sexual addiction as a marital issue, believing both individuals share blame. That may be true in certain situations, like communication or financial problems without any betrayal. But when a husband breaks his vows by sexually acting out, it’s no longer a marriage issue. It is a betrayal issue. The two are vastly different and must be treated as such.
- The aftermath of betrayal can be very intense at times. If counselors are not specialized in this area, they may become overwhelmed and unintentionally fall into the trap of trying to lessen the intensity. This may come out in several ways such as not requiring a full disclosure, focusing on calming the wife’s anger, or dispersing blame rather than holding the husband’s feet to the fire.
It is important to get the help you need on this healing journey. Here are a few things to consider as you look for the right counselor to help move your healing forward.
1. Before you contact a potential counselor, have clarity for what you want out of counseling. This will help determine what counselor is the best fit for you. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What do you want for your marriage right now? Is your goal to stay no matter what? Are you done and filing papers? Or somewhere in between?
- Are you looking for someone who is gentle and supportive or someone who will provide strong guidance and direction?
- Do you want someone with a faith perspective or not?
2. Don’t be afraid to interview a potential therapist before starting with them. This is very normal! Making sure it’s a good fit can save you valuable time and money. Questions to ask a potential counselor are:
- Is this an area of specialty for you?
- You want someone who specializes in betrayal, not someone who does this on occasion.
- How did you get into betrayal counseling?
- If it’s important to work with a counselor who has personal experience in this area, this question is vital. It opens the door for them to confirm it’s their story, too, if they choose to share that.
- What role do you believe a wife plays in a husband’s betrayal?
- Their answer will be a major indicator as to how the counseling process is going to unfold, particularly if they say you somehow contributed to the betrayal.
- Do you believe husbands can understand why they did it?
- If a counselor says you’ll never get the “why” answered, do not move forward with them. While it’s difficult and deep work, he can discover his “why”, and it’s a vital part of his healing.
- What do you believe about full disclosures?
- Full disclosure is when a husband shares everything he’s done. This step is very important because it gives you the full truth and ends the secrets. It allows you to know what you’re dealing with so you can make sense of your marriage. If a counselor doesn’t know what full disclosure is or doesn’t think it’s important, then you may want to keep looking.
3. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find a counselor you really connect with, and one who is the right fit for your journey. Remember that you’re never locked in, and you have the freedom to change counselors if needed. Here are a few signs it may be time to move on:
- If you are blamed for his betrayal.
- If you are asked to do something that feels unsafe, such as having sex with him before you are ready.
- If the counseling becomes more focused on your anger and emotions rather than your husband’s need to empathize with those emotions.
- If you’re pressured to simply forgive and move on.
- If things aren’t getting better.
Always remember that your needs and desires for counseling or coaching are very important. And while there are many fantastic counselors who care deeply about helping others, not every one of them may be a good fit for you or this process. Make sure to be clear on what you want from your time together, interview them ahead of time, and change counselors if it isn’t a good fit. The goal is for you to receive the best help possible from the person who is the best for you. Your needs are important. This is your healing journey. You are worth it!