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Sam and Sally go to the Bishop

By Marintha Miles

*Previous installments of Sam and Sally can be found here and here.

*Sally and Sam Seymore took your advice (or ignored you) and went and saw the Bishop together. In talking to them, Bishop Smith understood that Sally and Sam had problems beyond differing feelings about the church. He also realized these were problems beyond the scope of his training. He suggested the two of them go to counseling together. He suggested a couple of therapists as good options at LDS Family Services. Bishop Smith emphasized how important it was they go see an LDS counselor.

Bishop Smith even offered to pay for their therapist out of ward fast offerings if Sam and Sally could not afford it. Sam and Sally did have a tight budget.

Sam was willing to go to counseling, but for him an LDS therapist was out of the question. If the kids didn’t play soccer this season, they could afford a good therapist he heard about from a friend at work. Sally really wanted to go to an LDS therapist. She felt only an LDS therapist would really understand what she was going through, and emphasize the good family values she wanted to maintain. She also hated to have the kids miss out on soccer.

Sam and Sally should:

1. Go to the therapist Sam chose.

2. Go to the therapist Sally chose and use the ward budget.

3. Go to the therapist Sam chose, and use the ward budget. (The budget will pay for a therapist, even when the therapist is not LDS.)

4. Go to the therapist Sally chose and use the kids’ soccer money. They should be willing to pay for it to save their marriage.

5. I don’t care! I’m sick of Sam and Sally

Have you ever decided to go to couples counseling? Did you choose an LDS therapist? Why or why not? Was it helpful? Was it worth the financial cost?

About Marintha Miles


26 thoughts on “Sam and Sally go to the Bishop”

  1. We've spent the money for therapy, both for me individually (non-LDS) and as a couple (LDS). The couple's therapy with the LDS counselor was about issues with extended family, and for that, I think it was helpful to have an LDS counselor. But for Sam and Sally's situation, I would strongly consider using the non-LDS counselor. I would worry that if the counselor expressed any LDS bias that it would either be perceived by Sam as ganging up on him or dismissed out of hand.

    Is soccer the only wiggle room in the budget? Adding money issues to counseling wouldn't help anything, but on the other hand, there is something about taking that responsibility for oneself.

    Coming to the point, I vote #3.

  2. Are you making the assumption that a non-LDS therapist won't be familiar with LDS values and culture? When my husband and I went for marital counseling an LDS therapist wasn't a viable option. I found the therapist we saw knowledgeable about the LDS Church and the particular issues that were related to religion without the preaching tone many LDS folks sometimes use.

    I say go to the therapist that works for both of you. As for the cost – soccer must be much more expensive there than it is here if it will also pay for therapy. But, I think counseling is an appropriate use for fast offering funds.

  3. Based on what we know of Sam and Sally, I'm not sure why they feel they need counseling. We've been told that Sam is a good husband and father, although Sally might be pushing him a little when it comes to Church.

    However, IF they think they need counseling, then I would suggest that Sam and Sally begin with a commonly agreed upon counselor, LDS or not, and pay for it (at least for as long as they can) out of their own pocket. Chances are good that the first counselor they try may not be a "good fit" for them, so they may have to try a few before they find one that they click with. By paying for it themselves, as least for as long as they can, then it places more value on the counseling. They may also want to see if any counseling is covered through their insurance policy. If they eventually need help from the ward, then that's fine, too. But, I think that starting off paying for it themselves involves more commitment and more investment in the outcome and the more self-reliant they are, the better off they will be. (See the Ensign article from Jan 2010 regarding emotional self-reliance.)

  4. It's really impossible to make blanket statements in these situations. It depends so much on the details of Sam and Sally's marriage, their personalities, their biases and beliefs, their history, etc. I kind of feel like it's dangerous to try and say what is right, even though Sam and Sally don't actually exist, because we just don't have enough information.

  5. I'm not going to comment on what I think S&S should do because 1) I've tried to make it a point to not think in my head what I think other people should do because it leads to me being judgmental, and 2) they are fictional! hahaha, hehe.
    I went to see an LDS therapist after my husbands mother broke my spirit and I felt challenged as a mother and a wife. I was struggling.

    I paid for my visits, but when my money ran out, my bishop felt that I should continue on and so then the budget paid for my visits. I struggled with that a little, but I was growing so much through the sessions and dealt with far more than I initially thought.

    My experience with an LDS therapist was far more superior to my experience with a "good therapist" in town. The good therapist told me to get out in the sunshine more, read passages in a self help book, quiz me, and talk about my feelings…
    My therapist didn't really push me to be so self centered. He brought doctrine and insights into our sessions and they were spiritual, and we wept together, and I dug deep and with work we addressed the spiritual side of my life that I was lacking so much of. It usually ends up being so much of a connection with our Savior when we benefit the most out of our life lessons.
    Not by taking a color code personality test and being encouraged to focus even more on yourself and your problems. We are all powerful strong spirits stuck in our mortal fallen imperfect state, struggling with the weaknesses of the human flesh. Making life more spiritual instead of analyzing our human patterns and thought processes makes life more tuned to the Lord and overcoming our weaknesses.

    Just my own thoughts. 🙂

  6. I am here to tell you as a therapist that if both people don't feel totally comfortable, counseling is way harder. I vote find a therapist who may or may not be LDS but they both can agree upon. And find a therapist who truly specializes in couples work, not who just says they do it. If it were my marriage, I'd want to see someone who spends most of his/her practice doing marital work.

  7. My husband and I went through an extremely difficult time in our marriage. One in which it became obviously necessary to each go to individual as well as couple's therapy. With three visits per week, it was very expensive. But very necessary. We spoke with our bishop, and we went with a counselor that was not through LDS services. The bishop used fast offering funds until we felt that we were in a financial place to be able to carry the bill ourselves.
    (Another financial option would be to have the couple pay for half of it, and then half come out of the fast offerings.)
    Although I see Strollerblader's point in being self-reliant, from my own personal experience, there are times that self-reliance is not the most important thing. I myself am very frugal and stress easily about money. If I was to have to deal with the stress of paying for three counseling appointments a week (which to be honest, we could have, even in the beginning), as well as the stress of the issues at hand, I'm not sure I could've handled it all. However, once we got to a better emotional place in our relationship as well as our personal lives, I was able to recognize that the financial cost of the counseling should be on our shoulders, and we told the bishop we were no longer in need of the ward's assistance.
    Hopefully this makes sense…
    In regards to which therapist to go to…if it was me, I would evaluate what are the deeper issues that need to be resolved, and for whom are those issues more sensitive…for example, in my own situation, though we were doing individual as well as marriage counseling, the main issues we were dealing with were things from my husband's past. For that reason, it was a more sensitive/difficult situation for him, so even though if it had been up to me, I wouldn't have stayed with the therapist we did (simply because I felt there might have been more qualified therapists out there), we stayed with him because my husband felt safe with him and could thus work through many of the issues that he needed to.

  8. Anon #3,
    No, I am not. It has been my experience talking to bishops and others that couples are strongly encouraged to see LDS counselors.

  9. Ooh, I love this subject.

    A good therapist is worth their weight in gold–absolutely worth the money. And if pride needs to be swallowed to accept help from the church, it's worth it. As for Sam & Sally and soccer money, I'd say either option (help from bishop or drop soccer) is viable, and could be a matter of prayer and consulting with the Bishop. Maybe the kids REALLY need soccer.

    Good therapists can be found in and out of the church and in and out of LDSFS. I had the opposite experience of Jamie, with the LDSFS counselor doing more of what she described the non-LDS therapist (quiz me, etc.)

    My husband and I have been to an active LDS therapist (who was mediocre)and a therapist who we didn't know what her religious views were but she came highly recommended. Turns out she was formerly LDS, now actively Lesbian (she never disclosed the sexual orientation part, but we suspected and an outside source confirmed). She was fantastic. Amazing skills. Absolutely and completely worth it, even though her degree made her rates higher than most.

  10. I vote for #3.

    My husband and I went to couples counseling with a LDS therapist. I think it was beneficial in our case that the therapist was LDS because that gave her more credibility in my husband's eyes. I would have done just as well either way. I don't think it's crucial for the therapist to be LDS. Any competent marital therapist is going to try to save the marriage, or rather, help the couple save the marriage.

  11. Being contrary, I would say #6 – Sally go to the counsellor her hubby would prefer (both compromising about preferred payment methods) and Sally go on her own for her own counselling with LDS services.

    Compromise doesn't mean someone loses, it means several someones are as close to getting what they want as possible. The main point is there is hope, and communication going on, and that is worth $$$$$.

  12. If I were in Sally's shoes, I would probably go to the therapist my husband was wiling to go to, and try to pay for at least part of it. Selwyn's idea of Sally going to the LDS therapist on her own is a good one.

  13. Like others have said, I think it is most important to find a therapist with whom each party is comfortable. There are a lot of good options; one of those is for her to have individual therapy with an LDS therapist, especially since many of her issues are likely to be due to adjusting to the new status of her marriage (this was the case for me–many of my issues had to do with the specific fact that I felt betrayed by my husband leaving the Church and an LDS counselor understood that well). Like others have said, so much depends on the individual counselor. I've also learned through experience that you may have to shop around a bit to get the right 'fit', especially if there are two people involved in counseling.

    As far as payment, there are also a lot of options out there. They should check with their health insurance, or even some employers will fund counseling through wellness programs. Or they could pay part of it and have the ward pay for it. At least where I'm at, the cost of sacrificing a season of soccer would only pay one therapy session so that wouldn't be a good option for me.

  14. I am going to add another option. Follow Sam's lead. Choose a therapist together by interviewing them until they find a good match. With LDS services, at least in the diaspora, there aren't very many choices. LDS services has been more focused on adoptions and addiction than actual therapy.

    Whatever they do they will find more worthwhile if they can agree.

  15. I would have to agree with 7 & 12–there are great non-LDS therapists, and some therapists at LDSFS who aren't so great–the key is to find someone who specializes in marriage counseling with whom both spouses feel comfortable. It might also be a good idea for Sally to seek some individual counseling from an LDS therapist if she feels like that would be helpful for her.

    And while using ward funds for counseling is a perfectly acceptable idea, I know that my husband (who is a marriage therapist & has worked for LDSFS and on his own) really encourages bishops to have couples pay for at least a part of their therapy, because it can help people be more motivated to work on things if they have some financial investment in the process.

    A good marriage counselor, LDS or not, should respect the belief system of the couple he or she is working with, and will not try to impose their own value system on their clients. Marriage therapy is more about the relationship than about spiritual issues. Those are best addressed with the bishop or on an individual basis.

  16. A decent therapist will help the marriage, LDS or not. The counseling will help and if a non-LDS counselor will encourage Sam to go, then I think it's a good idea. Canceling soccer lessons, mmm, not sure. The kids need structure and normalcy if the marriage isn't so secure. Maybe if Sally offers the compromise that the ward will help pay for the counselor if the counselor is not LDS, then the kids might be able to stay in soccer while their parents talk in a huddle.

  17. Something to consider is that therapy from any source, LDS or not, isn't always successful. I've seen studies which indicate less than 50% rate of success.

    If the couple feels pressured to see an LDS therapist and the marriage then fails anyway, they stand to lose not only their marriage but their faith as well. I've seen this happen several times.

    I think they need to choose somebody they can agree on, without undue pressure to go to somebody who is LDS. They also need to know that it is OK to shop around until they both feel comfortable.

  18. First off, the kids need their parents more than soccer, so if it's an issue, use the kids' soccer money to save the marriage. (Especially if Sam would be unhappy about Church paying for it.)

    Second, find a non-LDS therapist recommended by an LDS one, or vice versa. That way you'll have a therapist who wouldn't make Sally's Mormon-ness the first obstacle to overcome. I know too many of that profession who would. Myself, I was lucky enough to have a therapist, who understood that faith can be a positive thing. Although, I also think that I could have dealt with one that belittled faith, because I never really wavered in my faith in the gospel, I just had none in myself.

    Having "a friend at work" suggest a therapist for a couple without knowing both sides of the troubled relationship could be a problem in itself. Too many "friends at work" turn out to be real losers, who would give anything to see their "friends" unhappy. Been there, done that (not marriage counselling-wise, though).

  19. 3 is the correct answer. An LDS social services therapist has no freedom to do what he thinks is right. His mandates come out of a manual just like the bishops does. A qualified therapist will understand how you both feel and be able to help without the interference of a church manual.

    Perhaps you should renew your vows? This time around you could vow to love, honor and cherish one another instead of having a vow to the church only like in the temple ceremony. Maybe that is even part of the problem. A good non LDS therapist would be best in my opinion.

  20. Richard,
    I don't know what on earth you are talking about. LDS therapists may not necessarily be the best choice, however this church manual, of which you speak, I don't believe exists.

  21. Richard, my closest friend is an LDS therapist and has been for many years. How exactly did you get your information, because it is not true? Of course they have ethical guidelines, as all therapists do, but to make a blanket statement that they have "no freedom to do what" they "think is right" isn't true or fair. I would love to know where you got your information.

  22. June,

    Troll? 🙁 My information only comes from being there. I'm not talking LDS therapist, I'm talking LDS social services therapists. Perhaps they have changed their procedures in the last ten years. However, 10 years ago they had manuals and guidelines dictated to them by the church.

  23. In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

    All done, Richard.

    edited to add: I actually don't doubt the existence of the manual you mention. That claim isn't a problem. But your tone in criticizing the temple ceremony definitely is. Maybe not on other blogs, but we have different standards here.


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