What’s the best way to find a good couples therapist?

You say that as you and your husband adjust to an empty nest and near retirement, you feel like you’re drifting apart. You also ask what to do if your husband isn’t willing to go to counseling with you. 

Ask a person you know and trust, whether that’s your physician or a friend, and then do a bit of research online. Most counselors have websites. At the very least, you should be able to learn whether the person is certified and has a license to practice. Also, note the approach or techniques the counselor uses (for example, cognitive behavioral therapy, internal family systems, mindfulness) and then research those to find out if they resonate with you. If not, move on to the next counselor on your list.

Once you’ve found a counselor with an approach you like, ask for an initial session during which you and your husband and the counselor can all assess if you’re a good fit. Does this seem like a person who can understand each of you and your specific issues? Is this counselor proposing a course of therapy that addresses those issues? If not, move to the next name on your short list. It may take visits with several therapists before you find the one who works for you and your husband, but it’s worth the trouble.

Knowing what you want is a big step in the right direction

Be sure to prepare ahead of time for your first visit—as a couple or individually. Think about what you hope to accomplish with counseling, so you can clearly communicate that to the counselor. Sometimes what we want is not very realistic—I want you to totally change my spouse’s behavior in every way! Knowing—and being able to articulate—what you want is a big step in the right direction.

If your husband balks at the idea of counseling, go on your own. Clearly, there’s something going on in the relationship, and your counselor can help you identify ways to address it that could result in positive change.

One more suggestion: Search for empty nest support groups in your area. Talking to others who are in a similar situation can help you remember that you’re not alone in this. And you might get some new ideas on how to ease the strain at home.