The role of the minister in marriage counseling
Orso, Paul Michael
MetadataShow full item record
The minister puts the blessing and approval of the church upon each couple whom he marries. Authorized by state governments to perform marriages, the minister has the right to inquire concerning the couple's attitudes toward marriage. There are those who feel the minister should merely perform the wedding service, without conferring with the couple at any length; others expect him to prepare couples for marriage, through counseling and giving them the necessary education to make a successful marital adjustment. The minister is constantly faced with young people asking him questions concerning various phases of marriage preparation; at the same time he encounters innumerable marital situations which are in need of counseling, and many couples ask the minister to assist them with marital adjustments and difficulties. To be an effective counselor the minister should know the community resources. He should know to whom he can refer counselees when marital problems indicate the need of a specialist, such as a doctor, psychiatrist, lawyer, psychologist, or social worker. The minister needs to realize the distinctive services which the other professions can contribute to marital counseling, as these professions should be acquainted with the role of the minister. There is need for the various professional groups to come to an understanding of the overlapping of their services in marital counseling as well as the distinctive features which each has to offer. The need of cooperation and sharing of resources among these professions is essential to a well rounded marital counseling service. An inquiry was used to learn what ministers of the United Lutheran Church are doing in the field of marriage counseling. Five hundred questionnaires were sent, of which 276 were returned and 260 were usable for statistical evaluation. The survey indicated that 46.2% of the ministers always hold pre-marital conferences with couples, while 36.2% occasionally do. In these conferences the chief considerations are: church membership, 92.7 %; family altar, 63.5%; expectations from marriage, 63.5%; common interests, 61.2%; differences of opinion, 57.3%; and role of forgiveness, 50.4%. Less than 50% counsel with couples concerning any phase of sex. There is a wide range of books and pamphlets used in marriage counseling. In the educational program, 43.1% of the ministers have discussions in family living for the high school age group and 22.7% for the college age group. Little or nothing is being done for married couples through the educational program of the church. The marital problems which the minister feels the most prevalent are religious differences, alcoholism, infidelity, and emotional irmnaturity. The counseling procedures used vary from giving authoritarian advice to listening quietly to help the counselee come to some solution of his problem. Seventy-eight percent of the ministers feel they are just average in their counseling success and many feel the desirability of having more training and experience in this field. The minister should have a comprehension of the emotional and psychological problems of marital life. These factors include the psychological effect of environment, interpersonal relations in the marital unit, interpersonal relations with others, attitudes of the marital unit, financial matters, and spiritual considerations. The minister needs to appreciate the dynamics of psychological factors of marital adjustment, so he can challenge couples in their preparation for marriage and more adequately deal with problems that arise in marriage. Beceuse marriage is an interpersonal relationship, the counseling approach of two pioneering interpersonal psychologists is considered. These men are Sullivan, who gives an analytical approach and Moreno, whose tachnique is psychodrama. These techniques can be incorporated in the therapy of the minister in marriage counseling. The minister can use Sullivan's technique by interpreting to the counselee how his interpersonal relationships have developed from the time of birth so as to cause present marital difficulties. He can use the psychodrama of Moreno to help the counselee act out on a stage his problems and their possible solutions. Rogers' technique of nondirective counseling is also useful. The minister who uses this technique assists the counselee to obtain release of pent up tensions, to see the problem in a larger perspective, and to make and carry out his owm decisions. Tests may provide another dimension in marital counseling. Personality tests such as the Thematic Apperception Test, Rorschach, and Bernreuter tests may diagnose emotional tendencies significant in marriage. Burgess' and Cottrell's marriage prediction test as well as marital adjustment tests by Adams and Popenoe may be used as guides in self-analysis. These tests should be used only by the minister who has the experience or personnel available to interpret them properly. The main value of tests is to stimulate the discussion of the factors which are apparently revealed in them. The minister can prepare himself for marriage counseling as he realizes the vital role which he can fill in assisting with personality adjustments leading to marital happiness. He can study the best scientific techniques and seek to adapt them to the treatment of problems he faces in counseling. Several conclusions are drawn from this study of the role of the minister in marriage counseling. 1. The minister is in a unique position to do marriage counseling. Couples come to him to perform their marriage service which gives him the opportunity to counsel with them. The minister's position is unique for he represents one profession that can go into homes without being called. During his pastoral visiting he will come across many marital tensions which he can help to alleviate. The married minister with a family is in a position to encourage through example. In developing a happy and well adjusted home and family life of his own, he can have a psychological effect upon those of his parish. 2 . The minister is in a strategic position to be a therapeutic agent. He has a weekly audience to whom he speaks and to whom he can expound the Christian conceptions and attitudes which are needed in pre-marital and marital relationships. The minister has several organizations in the church which offer continuous educational services. He can encourage them to conduct a series of meetings on the problems of family living which are of interest to each age group. He can suggest programs, literature, and speakers for the various meetings. This educational aspect of his work gives the minister an opportunity to develop a program of help prevent marital discord and maladjustment. 3. The minister needs training to recognize maladjusted individuals who need counseling in family adjustment. He needs to have an understanding of the emotional problems which are involved in courtship and marriage, and of the dynamics of the adjustments which take place in marriage. He needs training in techniques of counseling so he will be able to offer a counseling approach from the basic concepts which will be effective in a variety of problems. 4. The minister may serve as a referral agent and lead in the orchestration of community resources for better family living. By recognizing his inability to cope with the unconscious dynamics of the more involved marital situations, the minister is not building up false hope or claims that he will be able to prescribe a workable solution for every problem. When the problem is beyond his ability to help, he will have suggestions as to where the counselee can secure possible assistance. 5. There is a need for adequate literature which the minister can use in marriage counseling to enlighten couples of their marital responsibilities and opportunities for domestic happiness. Likewise, the minister needs to be acquainted with the best which is being written. He will want to build a library of these books for his own instruction and use with those who come to seek his help. 6. Theological seminaries and graduate schools should offer facilities to prepare ministers to be more adequate in marital counseling. It is the responsibility of church bodies to see that the minister is professionally competent in this urgent field of pastoral counseling. The minister is often placed in the role of a marriage counselor. He who is equipped with skillful counseling techniques and a knowledge of the emotional factors involved in marital problems can make a distinct contribution toward stability and harmony in the home.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University