By Gary Zustiak
When I do premarital counseling, I require a five-session commitment from the couple. Here’s what I cover in those sessions:
I get to know the couple by asking how they met, how long they’ve dated, and how long their engagement is. I have them answer the five questions from H. Norman Wright’s book, Before You Say “I Do.” Then I ask them to list 10 ways their families are similar and 10 ways they’re different.
Family Systems Therapy has found a number of characteristics, behaviors, ideals, and other factors are passed down from generation to generation. These are not necessarily spoken out loud, but the old adage “More is caught than is taught” comes into play here. Our family of origin becomes our “default” on how to resolve conflict, communicate, and so forth.
Their first homework assignment is for each person to fill out a three-generation genogram and bring it to the next session.
Session 2: Generational Issues and How to Fight Fair
We look over generational issues revealed in the genogram, and then I give basic instruction on conflict resolution—how to have a fair fight. Their homework assignment is to take the Taylor Johnson Temperament Analysis (www.tjta.com). Each person will take it twice, once for themselves and then once for their future mate.
The T-JTA evaluates each person on a series of nine key personality traits and then looks for compatibility issues, conflict, and potential problems. It’s a wonderful tool, but to administer it, you must become qualified through a day of training by a certified instructor.
Session 3: Financial and Budgeting Issues
We look over the results of the Taylor Johnson Analysis, and I introduce basic financial and budgeting issues. I encourage them to sign up for a Dave Ramsey financial planning seminar in their area.
Their homework assignment is to take the Prepare/Enrich Assessment (www.prepare-enrich.com). This evaluation tool provides a 10-page summary of their personalities, beliefs about marriage, concerns, and so forth. Again, in order to offer this test, you must be certified through a one-day training seminar. But it’s worth it. The counselor receives a 20-page summary that points out possible problem areas and areas of strength.
Session 4: Relationship Assessment Review
We go over the results of the Prepare/Enrich Assessment and talk about any key areas that came up. Their homework assignment is to read selected chapters from either The Act of Marriage by Tim and Beverly LaHaye or Sheet Music by Kevin Leman.
Session 5: Healthy Sexuality
I go over key issues of healthy sexuality from a biblical perspective.
Of all the great resources on premarital counseling, I like using H. Norman Wright’s book The Premarital Counseling Handbook. It gives a minister a good framework from which to do premarital counseling and provides lots of practical resources.
Gary Zustiak is professor of psychology and counseling at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri.