Counseling Offers Readers Deeper Support

DEAR ABBY: You often give advice to readers about seeking professional counseling for challenges like the death of a loved one or substance abuse. How successful is it when they have sought counseling, mainly for divorce or other serious relationship issues?

My experience is similar to those I hear about from friends who have gone to counseling with their spouse or significant other. The outcome seems to have been the same as tossing a coin: Heads it worked, tails it didn't.

After decades of reading your column, and 10 years after trying counseling to save a marriage, I'm still ... SKEPTICAL IN TEXAS

DEAR SKEPTICAL: When a loved one dies, some survivors become "stuck" in the grieving process and are unable move through it without professional help. In the case of substance abuse, addiction creates problems that affect all of the abuser's relationships. This is why I often recommend 12-step groups. While the abuser may be in denial, those around him/her can find help for themselves, reassurance that they are not suffering alone and skills to help them cope.

I'm sorry counseling has not helped you to heal your marriage. With a troubled marriage, a counselor can often facilitate broader communication than couples can achieve on their own. However, like most relationships, marriages can be "saved" only when both spouses are willing to do the work to make it happen. When I advise readers to seek counseling, it's usually because I feel they need more ongoing support than I can offer in a letter.

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