When To Try Marriage Counseling And How To Find A Couple’s Therapist
By: Joanna Smykowski
Updated January 11, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers
Marriage counseling is a practical method of addressing problems between partners in a romantic relationship. Typically, when people consider going to marriage counseling, they are already aware that there are problems between them and their significant other that they don't know how to solve without professional help. However, if you aren't the one to notice the problems, you may need more information to determine if there really is a reason to seek help from a couple’s therapist.
Does Marriage Counseling Work?
Before you can consider marriage counseling, it's important to understand how the therapy sessions might help you. Ask yourself what you mean when you ask, “Does marriage counseling really work?” What criteria would you use to assess whether it works or not? If you mean, “Will couple's therapy improve my marriage?”, then the answer may be 'Yes,' or it might be 'No.' The reason for these answers is that once you get to the roots of the problems in your relationship, you'll be faced with the decision to recommit to the marriage and work through things, or end it.
The other thing you might think of is whether marriage counseling is right for you and your spouse/fiancé. For it to work for you, you must at least commit to attending couple's therapy sessions with your significant other. Sometimes, your marriage counselor might suggest you have a few individual sessions in addition to the joint sessions.
Another thing to keep in mind is that marriage counseling can only work if you are willing to participate fully. After all, couple's therapy isn't something that is done for you; you have to put in the work. It is a process you accomplish through the guidance of your therapist.
Types Of Marriage Counseling
The type of marriage counseling you choose may depend on the status of your relationship and/or your religious affiliations. If you are engaged or even in the initial stages of planning your life together, you can choose pre-marriage counseling. People who are in a love relationship but not yet married can use this time to learn more about the way the other person thinks and behaves. They can then learn techniques for building a strong marriage or decide that marriage is not for them.
For people who have children, marriage and family counseling might be more helpful than marriage counseling alone. Parents with dissimilar ideas about childrearing often have problems in their marriage as a result. Some sessions might be for the couple alone, while other sessions might include the children, too, or even members of the extended family.
If religion is an important part of your life, religious leaders who supply religious marriage counseling are available online, and often in your local community, as well. You can choose Christian marriage counseling, Catholic marriage counseling, or have sessions with a clergy member of another religion you are involved in.
Questions To Ask Yourself And Your Spouse Before Heading To Marriage Counseling
The following is a brief list of marriage counseling questions that will help you and your spouse prepare for your first session with a couple's counselor.
- What issues cause us problems in our marriage?
- What issues are most important for us to solve?
- Is either of us considering divorce?
- Is this a temporary bump in the road, or do we have long-term problems?
- What bothers us about each other?
- What are our feelings toward each other?
- Do we trust each other?
- Do we have a satisfying intimate relationship?
- Has either of us been unfaithful or considered seeing someone else?
- What do we expect will change if we go to counseling?
- Did our problems start recently, or have they been going on for a long time?
- How is our communication?
- Are we willing to change to save the relationship?
Be aware that you and your spouse might have completely different answers to these marriage counseling questions. You don't have to agree on everything, but you need to have some common ground if you want to improve your relationship, even if it's that you both recognize that you have marriage issues.
Questions for Pre-Marriage Counseling
Are you considering pre-marriage counseling? If so, you can prepare for your first session by answering a few questions of each other. Pre-marriage counseling questions are sometime future-oriented, but need to include questions about your past together and how you interact right now, as well. Here are a few of the questions you might ask:
- What attracted us to each other in the first place?
- What types of issues have we had in our relationship so far?
- What kind of marriage do we want?
- What did we learn about marriage from our parents?
- What kind of future do we want to build together?
- Do we want to have children together? If so, how will we raise them?
- What can pre-marriage counseling do for us?
- Are we willing to change if necessary to have a healthy relationship?
Marriage Counseling Costs
Marriage counseling costs tend to vary by location. If you're seeking marriage counseling in the NYC area or marriage counseling in Chicago, you'll typically pay more than for marriage counseling in the Columbus, Ohio area, marriage counseling Minnesota, or a similarly smaller and/or less densely-populated service area.
Marriage counseling in Utah often offers religious-based couple's therapy, but there are also non-religious counselors available. In fact, nearly every area in the country answers the question, “is there a Christian marriage counseling near me?” with a “Yes.” These services may or may not offer free marriage counseling, so it's important to ask up front if the counselor you are considering offers free marriage counseling.
Many people have a problem with religion-affiliated marriage counseling because much, or all, of the advice the couple gets follows the rules of the religion. If you are a devout follower of the religion, this may not be a problem for you. However, if you aren't religious but only choose it because it's free, you might be happier with a counselor who can look at your problems from a perspective that is more appropriate to your beliefs and practices. Either way, counselors are available with offices near you, or as close as your household computer in the case of online counseling.
Online marriage counseling is unique in that whether you are seeking marriage counseling in Virginia, San Francisco, New Jersey, or even marriage counseling in NYC, the price is the same low rate for everyone.
Finding A Couple’s Therapist
If you do decide it's time to move forward with marriage counseling, the next step is answering the question, “where can I find marriage counseling near me?” No matter where you live, you can find online marriage counseling or marriage counseling offices in your local community.
You can get a referral from your primary care doctor. If you are already working individually with a therapist, they can refer you to a counselor who specializes in marriage, marriage and family, and/or pre-marriage counseling.
One of the easiest ways to connect with a marriage counselor is by visiting the BetterHelp website to learn more about their online marriage counseling. You'll be assigned a therapist based on your needs and preferences. However, if you feel uncomfortable with that therapist or you just don’t seem to “click,” you can always request a different online counselor.
In fact, whether you go local or online, you should always ask for a different counselor if the first one you see isn't meeting your needs. One advantage of online marriage counseling is that the process of making the change is fast, easy, and stress-free. You don't have to worry about running into the counselor you rejected and not knowing how to react to them. You can move on to your new counselor with no guilt or hassle.
Marriage Counseling Online
A study conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2016 on internet-based couple’s therapy found that it was not only able to significantly improve “both relationship and individual functioning,” but it also helped with tertiary issues such as anxiety, depression, and their ability to function at work. It also found that relationship satisfaction was “statistically significantly higher” for those who utilized online therapy programs than for those who used in-person therapy programs.
When you choose online marriage counseling with BetterHelp.com, you can talk to a licensed couple's therapist in your own home. This serves two main purposes. First, you can make yourself more comfortable than you would be if you were sitting in a therapist's office. Second, you are in the house or apartment where the problems typically show up most readily. You can deal with them openly and honestly as they arise rather than talking about the past or putting on a fake front. Alternatively, you can choose to have sessions in a more neutral location, such as a park, coffee shop, or anywhere else you and your partner may feel comfortable. If you have a partner who is resistant to therapy, or you yourself are unsure, the idea of online therapy can be much less intimidating than the idea of going to in-person therapy, as well.
Continue reading below for reviews of some of our licensed therapists, from people seeking help with their romantic relationships.
“Steve has helped me personally in so many ways to better myself and tackle life's struggles and navigate me through tough times. Not only me personally but my wife as well and our marrige as a whole. I truly believe that without Steve's help and guidance our marriage would not be where it is today.”
“Pam has been an excellent resource for me and my husband. We truly appreciate her expertise. We feel like she truly understands why we chose to pursue counseling and we work very well with her. We highly recommend her!”
A professional marriage counselor online can give you the same types of marriage-building exercises to do as you would do in a therapist's office. They can ask questions that help you explore the causes for your joint problems and suggest ways for you to resolve them. They can validate both of your feelings in the marriage and support each of you whether you choose to leave the marriage or make it better. Best of all, they can help you move beyond old resentments to a happier, healthier union if you decide to continue with the relationship. Marriage counseling can change your relationship, and it can change your entire way of life. Take the first step today.
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