Buyer beware when seeking marriage and family counselling, professor says

By Jazlyn MacLeod
Oct. 22, 2014

It is buyer beware when it comes to finding the right marriage counsellor.
That’s what UPEI history professor Ian Dowbiggin says in his recently published book The Search for Domestic Bliss: Marriage and Family Counselling in the 20th Century America.
It casts a clear, heavy light on the expected viewpoints in the profession today, Dowbiggin said.
“Marriage and family counsellors have played a role similar to that of cheerleaders.”
The book isn’t about what should happen in a counselling environment, instead it advises the public to know their counsellor’s views on marriage, Dowbiggin said.
“Some of these therapist come to the clinical setting with an agenda.”
Some believe divorce is acceptable rather than being an extreme last resort, Dowbiggin said.
Teresa Kinnear has been married for 50 years. She knows that brings a certain bias to her views on the importance of marriage.
She has run her own private practice on P.E.I. for about 25 years, taking clients for a variety of reasons such as marital and family issues.
Counsellors do need to be aware of their own bias towards certain issues, Kinnear said.
“I have my views of anxiety depending on my life experience, my training and my teachings and, because you’re using yourself, you always have to be somewhat aware of your own bias.”
Being upfront with clients is in their best interest, Kinnear said.
“It helps them also make their own decisions about whether you’re going to be fit for them or are they looking for something else in a counsellor.”
Telling clients whether you’re in favour of marriage over divorce is important, Kinnear said.
Counsellors not being upfront with clients about their own bias is partly why divorce rates are high today, Dowbiggin said.
“It helps to explain to a certain degree.”