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Premarriage Counseling - online

by Tim Isbell     January 11, 2017

#counseling #wedding #premarriage

Visitors to my website occasionally contact me for online premarriage counseling. These requests come from couples where at least one is Christian, and they live in distant cities or countries. Usually at least one has a pastor, but not one who can implement online counseling. For years, my default recommendation was to urge them to independently use the resources in my Advice for Couples web page. I knew that was a weak solution, but it was all I had to offer. 

In 2016 I decided to try one online premarriage counseling project. The wedding date was only about two months out - way too tight for my taste. The bride lived in Maryland; the groom lived in North Carolina. We started using a Google Hangout, but the groom's father died, so the groom traveled to Kenya for a month - making a tight schedule even tighter. Then, Google didn't work in Kenya, at least not where he was. And Skype was marginal. So we used ooVoo, which was a weak alternative and new to me. It worked just well enough to fill the gap! Fortunately, the groom returned to North Carolina for the last of our 1.5-hour sessions. So we finished the program, and they sent me some delightful wedding photos!

I continued getting requests, so I decided to develop this web page as a way of communicating to such visitors that I am willing to do a few premarriage counseling projects, maybe 2 or 3 a year. 

For me to consider doing your premarriage counseling, please start by sending me your answers to the questions below. You can send them using the Contact Tim form (or if you have my direct email address, just use that). I'll get back to you:

  1. When is your wedding date? We need to connect at least 2.5 months before then. Six months is even better!
  2. In what city/country do each of you live? I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, in the Pacific Standard Time zone. So, we may need to accommodate some widely varying time zones.
  3. What is each of your religious backgrounds? If Christian, please tell me a little more about your particular tradition within the Christian faith, which I define very broadly as one that confesses both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. 
  4. Are you both okay with Christian counseling? I am a Christian pastor, so my advice is based on core Christian faith. You can read about the specifics of my tradition by browsing my website. 
  5. Do you both read and write in basic English? Unfortunately, that's all I speak. But I'm experienced with internationals from a WIDE range of cultures and who have weak English skills.
  6. Are you able to use a Google Hangout or Skype as the platform for our sessions?  Seeing each other on the screen greatly enhances communication, especially if we're working in someone's second language. Either Hangout or Skype allows the three of us to share our screens and even collaborate real-time on documents, which you will see adds another dimension to the counseling experience. I will also introduce you to a toolbox full of resources which you will use for years to come. 
  7. Are you confident that the minister who will officiate at your wedding will accept my counseling? Please ask your pastor first and give him the link to my website so he/she can assess my suitability. If your minister wants it, I'm willing to meet with him/her one time online. Depending on your minster's technical background, you may need to facilitate this meeting. If you or your minister want to know more about me, just provide this About Tim Isbell link.

I'll look at your responses to the seven questions above and get back to you. My decision will hinge on my calendar and my judgment of whether I adequately help you.

The strategy: I'll meet with you for a get-acquainted, introductory session to ensure that our video connections work. If the three of us decide to proceed, I'll ask you to fill out an online Premarriage Awareness Inventory (PAI) of about 119 short questions. For more about the PAI, see here (just the first section). I'll use the results to customize our path through another four sessions, each 1-1.5 hours. We'll aim to complete them at least two weeks before the wedding! 

I do not accept payment for counseling. However, the PAI costs me about $26, including the automated analysis. If you can cover that cost, excellent. If not, I'll cover it. Don't let a lack of money keep you from premarriage counseling.