Who can save a marriage? Most modern people think about going to a marriage counselor when they are having family difficulties. These licensed professionals have specialties in Marriage and Family Therapy right? Unfortunately, they may not be the best people to help you. In fact, your pastor can save your marriage better.

There was a time back in the 1950s where the board of psychologists considered it unethical to do couple’s counseling. The role of the therapist was to work with an individual and working with two individuals on the same set of issues would be a conflict of interest. They didn’t think they can save marriage or that it was their role to.

In the 1960s, this view began to change and then in the late 1960s when master’s level therapists began to emerge, the specialty of marriage counseling with a licensed therapist developed. But, these people were still trained primarily in individual therapy. In fact, in some master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling marriage therapy is only an elective class not a required one! Most of the classes are in individual or group therapy around cognitive behavioral changes.

Today’s ethic of therapist is to work on the individual. Therefore, a common course of marriage counseling is to say that the parties have individual problems and send them both off to separate individual therapy. In 85 percent of cases where marriage counseling with a licensed professional is tried, the couple ends up in divorce court.

Compare that to what happens in pastoral counseling. The pastor is committed to the preservation of the marriage not the immediate happiness of either individual. The pastor is working from the assumption that marriage is a holy institution.  

While most clergy will advise couples to split up if there is alcoholism, abuse, or serial adultery going on, they think that most problems can be worked out.  

They will also provide the support of a larger church community to help with difficulties in the marriage. For instance, if finances are at the heart of the problems, they may have contacts or resources to assist. If childcare stresses are an issue, they may be able to provide a sitter once a week so the couple can get some alone time. These resources are all available to the pastor within a church community.

A pastor can save marriage because he’s committed to it as an institution. He believes that God has ordained it as a way for society to operate.

When you are having marital problems, don’t overlook your pastor as a source for counseling. And, don’t automatically turn to the professionals who, by their titles, would seem best equipped to help you.

There’s no way a pastor can save a marriage. But he is likely to see the challenges in a particular marriage as an opportunity for growth within a Biblical context.   

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