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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 that pastor cannot implement online counseling. For years, my default recommendation was to urge such couples 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 bride lived in Maryland; the groom lived in North Carolina. We started with a Google Hangout, but the groom's father died, so he traveled to Kenya for a month. Unfortunately, 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! 

Subsequently, I decided to develop this web page as a way of communicating to such couples that I am willing to do a few premarriage counseling projects, maybe 2 or 3 a year. Since then I did another, using Skype, where the bride was in Nigeria and the groom was in the United Kingdom.

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. How did you find out about me? For example, was it through a search engine, or reference from someone, or some other way?
  2. When is your wedding date? We need to connect at least 2.5 months before then. Six months is even better!
  3. In what city/country and time zone do each of you live? I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, in the Pacific Standard Time zone.
  4. 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. So if your English skills are at least at the middle school level, we can probably make it work.
  5. Are you both 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 a Hangout or Skype allows the three of us to share our screens and even collaborate real-time on documents, which 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. 
  6. Are you both, separately, computer-literate enough to fill out a 119 question on-line Premarriage Assessment Inventory? This is a browser based tool we'll use to frame the sessions.
  7. How old are each of you?
  8. Do you have any previous marriage history? If you are divorced, is it legally finalized? Any children by a previous relationship?
  9. What are your religious backgrounds? I define Christian faith very broadly as any tradition that confesses both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. If you are both Christians, please tell me something about your particular traditions and experiences within Christian faith. If one of you is not Christian, what is their religious background and experience, if any?
  10. Are you both okay with Christian counseling? I am a retired, ordained Christian minister in The Church of the Nazarene, and with an appreciation of a wide range of Christian traditions. While I understand the value of Christians marrying Christians, I am willing to work with a couple where one may not currently profess Christian faith but is comfortable around it.
  11. Are you confident that the minister who will officiate at your wedding will accept my counseling? You pastor can learn more about me by checking the Church of the Nazarene link (above), by reading About Tim Isbell, and by browsing through my website. If needed, I'm willing to meet with your pastor online (by phone in the U.S. or by WhatsApp if elsewhere, or in a Google Hangout or Skype).

I'll look at your responses to the above questions and get back to you. My decision will hinge on my calendar, my judgment of whether I adequately help you, and my assessment of whether you have a better available option.

If we do go forward, here's 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 separately fill out an online questionnaire. 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.