A Popular FAQ: How Much Does Marriage Counseling Cost?
By Toni Hoy
Updated January 23, 2019
Reviewer Jeffrey Craven , MA, LMHC, LPCC, LLC
In the past few years, online marriage counseling has become a very popular choice for many marital issues. Although traditional marriage counseling is still used quite often, online counseling is beginning to have a great following. Regardless of the method, or venue, of the marriage counseling you choose, qualified help is available. Here are some things to take into consideration regarding respective costs, what to expect, and value, as you make your decision.
What to Expect in Marriage Counseling
Your counselor is likely to recommend that the first session always include both of you when you know you want couples' counseling. This helps set the foundational dynamic of the therapeutic environment as being 'our,' or joint, counseling, as opposed to really being for only one of you. Many individual clinicians also provide couples' counseling, so it is certainly possible for you to use a professional who has provided individual counseling for one of you in the past. But it is also quite understandable that your spouse may not feel completely comfortable receiving marital therapy from 'your' counselor. Either way, after that initial joint session, it is pretty common for a couples' counselor to want to see each of you, individually, at least one time as well. This helps provide valuable context for your counselor, by allowing him or her to observe you alone and together. It also allows each of you to share important information more freely, without sensing any need to edit yourselves, out of respect for the other person; or without worry about how your partner may be interpreting your comments. This is, of course, not intended for keeping secrets. It is only a way for your counselor to have as much, well-rounded information about each of you and the dynamics between the two of you.
Just to illustrate this in more detail, let's consider the situation in which a wife seems to almost cower in the session with her husband. That might seem to suggest pretty strongly that she is afraid of her husband, right? But what if she seems exactly the same in her individual session? Now, with more complete perspective, the clinician is able to determine that the timidity of the wife is more about her, inherently, and may actually have nothing to do with the relationship, or actual experiences, between her and her husband.
How Long Might We Be in Marriage Counseling?
It may also be helpful, as we are considering the cost of marriage counseling, to think about how long you might expect to remain in counseling. It can certainly be tempting to hope for a quick fix. But the reality is that couples' counseling is likely to take longer than individual counseling, on average. When two persons are involved, each with their own personalities, idiosyncrasies, and possible growth edge, plus the dynamics between the two, it seems reasonable to allow some greater time-frame for success in marriage counseling, as compared to individual counseling, right?
Humans seem to just resist change. This is true when we are committed to personal growth, having nothing directly to do with anyone else. We are the primary source of our own greatest resistance to change. In marriage counseling, we not only tend to resist our own efforts and intentions, but we will likely interfere with our spouse's efforts to change as well.
For all these reasons, it may be helpful to expect to invest at least a few months in your marriage counseling. Many couples' counselors recommend a minimum of three months. Perhaps one way to think about it is to allow one month of intentional effort and work, to correct each year of deterioration in your marriage.
What it Costs
The cost of marriage counseling varies a great deal depending on the type of counseling. The charge for couples counseling may be exactly the same as individual therapy, or it may be higher because of experience of the clinician, length of couples' therapy sessions, or the going rate for couples' therapy in your area. There is no specific regulation for what a couples' therapist, or any therapist for that matter, can charge. Some clinicians are in higher demand, so can simply charge more; others charge more because of their additional, or advanced, training and expertise
In a survey done by the National Directory of Marriage and Family Counseling, the rates of both marriage and family counseling can run you between $80 to $225 per session. Online therapy is a less expensive alternative, with an average cost of approximately $125 - $200 per month for a subscription, which could be as little as $30 - $50 per session, assuming a weekly appointment. Subscription services usually include unlimited access to texting, email, and chat rooms. This can include both spouses. You can talk or text from your computer or phone wherever you are, which makes online counseling very user-friendly.
So, in evaluating the costs of a more traditional setting for your marriage counseling, let's apply an average of $150 per session, 2 sessions per week, over three months or 12 weeks. This amounts to $3600. This is only one estimate, and could, of course, be significantly lower (for instance if your counselor only charges $75 per session, or if you only attend one session per week, which is more the norm), or higher if you need longer for your counseling. Our purposes here are really only to offer some points of comparison for you to arrive at your own well-informed decision for what is best for your marriage.
Even with the growing interest in, and acceptance of, mental health care, marriage counseling is not covered by any insurance. This is because medical insurance covers only clinically accepted, 'billable' diagnoses. No such billable diagnosis exists for relationship counseling. If one spouse does have a legitimate, diagnosable, mental health condition, then marriage counseling may be included as part of that intervention. But marriage counseling, in and of itself, is not reimbursable by health insurance.
It is worth noting that the extent to which you may be reimbursed by your health insurance for even mental health disorders which are clearly billable is completely dependent upon your actual policy. Many policies have additional limits for mental health coverage, like only so many sessions per year; or coverage only up to a specific dollar amount.
Is It Worth It?
Perhaps at this point, it is reasonable to ask yourself a couple questions:
- How much did we spend on our wedding? Of course, this has changed dramatically over the decades, so if you have been married more than about 20 years, your answer may not be quite so persuasive. But in recent decades, it has become completely 'average' to spend $25,000 - $50,000 on at least a first wedding. If we are willing to spend so much to start a marriage, does it not seem appropriate to be willing to spend a fraction of that amount to improve, strengthen, or even save, our marriages?
- How much would a legal separation, or divorce, cost us? While this may not at all be your hope or intent, it is certainly where many marriages end up.
- What do we have to lose? Marriages rarely remain static. They most often are either growing or deteriorating. What is the most likely outcome if you do not seek marriage counseling, or delay longer? Is it worth the risk?
If you are having any kind of marital issues, there are plenty of choices for you and your spouse, both online and in person. Successful marriage counseling is priceless. Isn't your marriage worth it?