Integration Course

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Integrated Christian Counseling

Building Strong Marriages

by Dr. Brian Campbell


I thought you might be interested in hearing how I go about counseling married couples.  Of course, I will only be able to sketch the overall process and give you a brief glimpse of my counseling techniques.  So here goes...

With married couples (or couples in a serious relationship), I typically schedule to see both persons during the first session.  If one or both persons requesting therapy are Christians, I make it very clear "up front" that I do not counsel for divorce.  I will see them with the understanding that I will try to restore a healthy marital relationship.  I also tell couples "up front" that each will have to waive his/her right to confidentiality.  I will not proceed in counseling the couple unless each person gives me permission to share confidential information with the other.  This is extremely important.  I tell the individuals that I will use my judgment in terms of what kinds of information will be shared, but they must assume that everything that is shared with me may also be shared with his/her partner.


I then schedule each spouse separately for a clinical interview and to take the Millon Clinical Multi-axial Inventory--III (MCMI-III).  Each spouse is scheduled to come one-half hour early to the next appointment in order to take the MCM, which is scored immediately by computer.  I use this tool in combination with the Adult History as I clinically interview the client.  At this point in time, I am trying to arrive at a differential diagnosis of each client.

After I interview each spouse, I then schedule a two-hour appointment to go over the results of the evaluations with both spouses present.  I show the couple the graphs from the MCMI personality tests, and discuss my differential diagnosis of each spouse.  At this point in time, I decide how to proceed.  At times, it is necessary to do individual counseling with one or both spouses prior to proceeding with marital counseling.  This decision is complex, but it is partly determined by the nature and severity of any psychological disorders that are present.

When I begin marital counseling with the couple, I use various clinical tools to help the couple heal their relationship.  Below, you will find a picture of one of the tools I have developed.  This tool contains what I have determined to be the most important characteristics of "healthy" marriages.  These characteristics are all biblically based.  In my style of counseling, I do not let the couple go back into history and go over all their hurts.  Instead, I focus on teaching them the characteristics of "good" marriages.

I sometimes use a golf analogy.  When I golfed, I used to have a "slice" when which my ball typically went off to the right every time I hit it (and I often ended up in the woods hunting for my ball).  Eventually, after many, many, years of frustration, I finally decided to go to a pro golfer in order to find out how to hit the ball properly.  To my surprise, when the pro showed me how to swing, I started hitting the ball straight.  I was sooo excited!

Then I tell the couple that it would not have helped me at all to go over all the times I miss-hit the ball (when I had the slice).  That would not be helpfull at all.  In the same manner, I tell them it will not be helpful to go back over all the problems that have occurred in their marriage.  Instead, I tell them that we are going to focus on the present, and I will serve as their "coach," and teach them what they need to do to have a good marraige.  As part of this process, I utilize the tool illlustrated below.