The Divine Setup: Counseling Couples

There is no question that marriage is a profound and powerful experience. Any marriage can be thrilling, threatening, mundane, restorative and surprisingly fragile. Most marriages struggle, at least occasionally, and a disturbing number of marriages dissolve. There are obvious theological reasons for these realities! In most marriages, God is up to something (and that is sometimes hard to see and even harder to cooperate with).

When struggles in marriage occur, sometimes counseling can help; however untangling individual vs. couples issues and discovering what God is up to can be complicated and challenging for the counselor.

Dr. Bill Clark and Dr. Carolyn Sinclair present this workshop and provide a basic model for understanding and counseling couples and offer some helpful case illustrations. Even if you don’t counsel couples, the individuals you encounter may be part of a couple and these issues will still have impact in their lives.

Building on the LCI model of counseling, we’ll look at some of the unique aspects of working with a couple:

  • What is their theology of marriage, gender and sex?
  • How do they give and receive feedback?
  • What scripts and cycles do they experience?
  • How do they deal with their differences?
  • How do they distinguish between individual “issues” and “couple” issues
  • What does repair, rejuvenation and repentance look like in their marriage
  • What do they do with hurt, anger and confusion?

Here’s a sample of what we hear in couples counseling:

  • “I think I married the wrong person…,”
  • “I got married for the wrong reasons…,”
  • “We started great and then we got hit with…,”
  • “I thought we were fine until I found out about…,”
  • “We were good until he/she changed…,”
  • “It’s ok but not at all what I imagined or believed…,”
  • “We do everything we are supposed to do but it’s still hard…”

In other words, marriage is different (and usually harder) than we ever thought it would be. We know we’re different (Mars and Venus), we know we are sinners (When Sinners Say I Do), we know we have baggage (“check out the trunk before you say ‘I do!’”) when we marry… we just didn’t realize that it would be this challenging!

What’s up with that? And how come the 20 books we have don’t help much? And how come we did nothing but fight on that marriage retreat? What’s going on? And some would add, “Not sure counseling will help either!”

Deep down, we wonder what God is up to in our marriage…and how can the counselor help couples navigate this exciting but challenging journey?


McLean, VA

"Lay counseling at McLean Presbyterian began as a grass roots effort by several members of the church family. We sent a survey around to the church members and learned that our church was not doing well in attending to the brokenness both of our members and the larger community. As a result, a group was formed to figure out how we could better care for others. We found that the LCI model was the best fit for us. Since we began our Lay Counseling ministry several years ago, the lay counselors have been one piece of the pie in how God is moving MPC to be a care station for the hurt and broken.

We have seen lay counseling begin to change the culture of our church and it began by changing us. We have a better understanding of our own brokenness and the grace God has given each of us. We are able to live more authentically ourselves and in doing, so encourage others to live the same. We have seen God transform and redeem so many lives and situations in sometimes totally unexpected ways. LCI was, and continues to be, a driving force in this change process."

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