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Dr. Joseph Harrington
24 York Street
Andover, MA 01810































Copyright Dr. Joseph Harrington
All rights reserved.


Marriage Counseling

In the early 1960’s, I was hired by Merrimack College to start their Psychology Department and to develop Psychological Services and to Direct the Counseling Center. These were services for the Faculty, Students and Staff of the College.  At the end of the 60’s and early 70’s, I was one of a very few Doctoral Level Psychologists in the Merrimack Valley and I began to get a great many referrals for private therapy.   The most frequent were for couples dealing with marriage problems and came from many sources including Clergy, Lawyers, Business Associates, Family Members, Friends, etc.

Because many of these individuals had great difficulty dealing with the possibility of divorce (kids - money - religion - fear - in-laws) they tried very hard to make their marriage work.  I, therefore, had a wonderful population to combine my Doctoral Psychology with practical approaches to helping these couples explore what went wrong in their relationship and what to do about it.  (You might call it “on the job training" -  and it was intense!)

Couples had only three real choices: (1) recover a good marriage; (2) divorce; or (3) stay together and continue to be unhappy.  We asked the question:  How could something that started out with such promise and expectation, end up in such a troubled state?  It was not long before I realized a most important fact: 



Oops --- have I lost you? --- I hope not!.....  Think about it for a moment -- one doesn't counsel “a marriage” -- one counsels individuals in a marriage..... and it is up to those two people, in that special relationship, to determine how to understand and deal with each other.  So, what are the possible causes of the “developed” difficulties? Think about it for another moment:

1. We each grow up in a particular home with thoughts, feelings, values and behaviors, that are usually passed on from our parents and/or other significant adults.

2.  In the beginning of a relationship, we are usually so focused on the new and exciting aspects of our being together, that the everyday aspects of married life are not yet something that we have to deal with, much less think about!

3.   As time goes on, more and more functional and value oriented decisions come into play - decisions about where to live, what the home should be like, how to spend discretionary money, how to raise and discipline the kids etc. (and - why do I FEEL so unhappy?)   ***And then the potential problems begin!!!***

It is at this point where Professional Counseling can help:

1.  By systematically reviewing and gaining an understanding of what and how YOU and YOUR SPOUSE learned to learn; and,

2.  By seeing where and how your learning and values system differs: (seeing things differently).

3.  YOU are then able to understand the background and present basis for your concerns.

4.   It is in this context that I try to help couples (individuals) understand how they got to the point where their marriage is in difficulty and might even end; and, therefore, how to deal with these pressing issues.

Often a couple is able to recover their relationship and go on to have a wonderful marriage into the future.  But that is not always the case.   If there are no children involved, the situation can be resolved without too many complications, although it is most always a sad and difficult time.  With children, the couple is committed to a long term relationship - whether they stay married or get divorced - and should learn to continue the relationship in a productive and positive way. (Most parents still really do love their children). The resolution of these and many other issues are what we deal with in Counseling.

I would also point out, that the tensions and demands of professional and business careers often lead to marriage problems. This has become a more prevalent issue in recent years with the complexities of family life, the world economy, two career parents, information overload, and seemingly endless choices (who can really keep up with 50+ cable TV channels?)   I find that more and more of my consulting with Business, in Organizational Development and Executive Coaching, gets into the realm of helping busy people find appropriate ways to develop and deal with their marriage and family commitment.

If you feel that I might be of help, please call or email and arrange for an introductory session.  I would hope to be the right person to counsel with you, but if another option would seem better, we will explore alternatives and suggest an appropriate referral.

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