Therapists and Counselors

A "List of Therapists" who are specifically effective in dealing with affairs was posted on this site for many years, but it is not included on this legacy site since the list is dynamic and needs to be updated regularly. At Peggy's death in 2012, the list was passed on to Anne Bercht, Peggy's chosen successor. Please visit Anne's new site, BeyondAffairsNetwork, to find her current therapist list.

Peggy also undertook a study aimed at determining how therapists could be more effective in dealing with this issue. Below you will find the overview of her results:

Help for Therapists and their Clients.

Note that you can download a FREE copy of the full 147-page report
(in PDF format) by clicking on the link on the above page.
Those who prefer a printed version can purchase it at

            You can also listen to a podcast of my interview with Dr. Tammy Nelson
            of the Imago Think Tank, where we discuss the material in this book.

I also invite you to read an article pointing out the longstanding (erroneous)
Media Advice that this report tries to correct.

Sample of "Advice for Therapists" offered by Survey Participants

As mentioned above, I used my survey to gather some input/feedback/advice from the 1,083 participants that I could pass on to therapists. At the end of the survey, I asked the people who responded to send whatever open-ended comments of "advice" they would like to offer to therapists in response to the question: How could therapists be more effective in dealing with affairs?

The "Help for Therapists" report includes many pages of the raw comments from participants. I have included a few of them below—followed by my effort to organize all of the hundreds of suggestions into a "list" of about 11 key points.

    Deal with the pain, sense of loss, sense of aloneness, overwhelming sense of disillusionment. In other words, first-aid and damage-control first, please. Therapists need to look for it: the damage, the personal trauma; it may not be apparent.

    I was suicidal and put in the hospital, totally worthless. I felt worse than when I went in. After being betrayed by my husband, I was treated like a prisoner with no rights. Counselor was very uncaring and rough. I needed to know I would survive this great pain.

    I needed immediate help on the healing of the pain inflicted upon me. Every counselor or therapist I visited started with the basics of my early childhood and why something like this would hurt me. I became very frustrated during the whole experience of therapy and finally stopped after 1 year.

    I feel our counselor is on my husband's side; she hasn't offered or told my husband to hold on to me when I feel bad or cry. He has left the house to get away to deal with it, and to let me think about it. I feel he is just running away. When I cry he says I just want sympathy; I feel betrayed by the only person I thought I loved and loved me too. She wants to see me alone to help me deal with the situation. Well I feel she should also tell him how to help me feel wanted and loved again if he really wants to stay with me. We are the victims here but we're the ones that need help? Something sounds wrong with that to me. I'm the one that's hurting and need love, not therapy. Just help to deal with the feelings of betrayal and feeling unloved, that another younger girl took away from me.

    A counselor should try to help talk through the pain and let the faithful spouse realize he/she is not the only one going through this pain. It doesn't help that person but at least there is reassurance that they are not alone. I think at this same time, the counselor should make the unfaithful spouse knowledgeable about what kind of emotions follow this type of pain.

    Really wish my therapist had focused on how to deal with lingering anger and hurt! He focused more on my personal growth, but I needed help with the marriage more at the time.

The following comment was submitted by a participant who also happens to be a therapist:

    I am a trained psychologist, familiar with personal relationship research and counseling myself, and I only now realize how little professional counselors and even marital therapists know about affairs and how to deal with them. Like friends and relatives, professional helpers essentially seem to base their interventions on stereotypes, generalizations and folk wisdom about affairs, rather than on sound research. It is extremely painful if your partner had (or has) an affair to be confronted with the axiom that "something must have been wrong with the spouse or with the relationship" to explain the affair happening. It is like blaming a rape victim for having seduced the rapist, and it feels very wrong. Dealing with the affair of a spouse is a traumatic event, and clinically is very comparable to a post-traumatic stress disorder. Professional help would probably be much more effective if counselors would deal with the issue as a trauma and draw on the literature on the treatment of PTSD, rather than to systematically regard affairs as signs of underlying relational problems.
Note: As you can see, one of the key messages from the participants was a desire for therapists to deal with the emotional impact of the affair, not just focus on general marital issues. I hope that by sharing the specific words of some of those who responded, therapists will be able to recognize the importance of dealing directly with the pain of this situation.

Finally, here is an overview of the major points from the "advice" from the 1,083 people who responded to the survey in response to the question:
"How could therapists be more effective in dealing with affairs?"

    1. Deal directly with the affair, not just ordinary marriage counseling.
    2. Deal with the emotional impact of the affair.
    3. Don't "blame" the affair on the hurt spouse.
    4. Be supportive of those couples who want to try to save the marriage.
    5. Don't keep secrets or too quickly believe lies of the one who had an affair.
    6. See both parties together.
    7. Be aware of the impact of your gender/beliefs/experience on therapy.
    8. Don't expect the hurt party to forget the affair or "set it aside and go on."
    9. Help clients connect with others who have "been there."
    10. Be well-informed about affairs and provide good information.
    11. Encourage honest communication and answering all questions.

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