Life can be challenging independently, and when you’re in a relationship with another person, you may face their challenges on top of your own. Every couple comes with its own unique set of characters, behaviors, ideas, values, and challenges. With these differences or similarities, couples conflicts may arise.
Couples therapists are licensed professionals trained to support couples with various goals. Whether you’re experiencing a challenge, planning a family, or looking to improve your intimacy, a couples therapist can offer support. Understanding how to find a professional in your area can be beneficial when seeking services for the first time, as various types of couples therapy exist.
Not all couples therapists practice the same type of therapy, and each professional may have their own specialty or concerns they are experienced in treating. For example, some therapists may hope to work primarily with clients experiencing infertility struggles, whereas others might guide couples navigating an open relationship. No matter the reason you seek therapy, various options can be available.
Common reasons couples might seek therapy can include but are not limited to the following:
- Communication challenges
- Sexual dysfunction
- A lack of love or emotional closeness
- Mismatching values or morals
- Mismatching libido (sex drive)
- Mismatching love languages
- Family challenges
- Parenting conflicts
- Infertility and family planning
- Adoption and foster care
- A lack of time for dates and intimacy
- Open relationships or polyamory
- Infidelity (cheating or affairs)
- Lying and trust
- Life transitions
- Financial struggles
- Divorce and separation
- Long-distance relationships
- Mental illness
- Terminal illness
- Traumatic common experiences
- Traumatic individual experiences
Depending on the reason you seek therapy, you may benefit from a specialist. Doing your research before selecting a therapist can ensure you find the proper fit. In addition, note that couples therapy may not only benefit those living with a mental illness or severe relationship challenge. Couples therapy can be for any couple looking to improve or grow in any aspect of a connection.
There are several ways to find a couples and marriage therapist in your area. Most cities have couples therapy providers, but knowing where to look and how to choose the right one can be challenging. Consider the following tips when starting your search for a marriage therapist.
If you currently have an individual therapist, you may be able to ask for a referral to someone they know in your area that offers couples therapy. Your provider may have some history on the types of treatment that function well for you and may be able to let you know if there are therapists near you that could help you meet your goals.
Talking to your primary care provider can offer a similar benefit if you do not have a therapist. They might be able to refer you based on their knowledge of popular mental health service providers in your area. In addition, if you have a specific insurance plan, they may be connected with therapists in your network, so you don’t have to call and ask providers. A doctor’s referral may also increase your chances of being accepted by insurance, as it can be seen as a medical necessity.
Some couples look online for therapists by searching for the type of couples therapist they seek. Many providers list their business information and website on Google Maps. Others might be listed on internet psychology directories that list providers and allow you to contact them. If you use a psychology directory, filter your search by state, specialty, and preferred gender. You can also filter your search by insurance plans on some websites or search online for a phrase similar to "relationship counseling or therapist near me."
Some cities may have clinics or organizations of several practice therapists that work together under one practice name. Often, these organizations specify whether they work with couples, individuals, or a specific mental health concern. You can also try visiting a general mental health clinic and asking for suggestions on where to find a couples counselor accepting clients.
You can also reach out to your insurance company, if you have one, to ask about in-network therapists. Some insurance companies refer clients to therapists, which can cut down on your search time. However, you may have limited options finding a therapist, depending on where you live.
Once you’ve found a therapist you and your partner are both interested in, you might be invited to a consultation or an intake session. This session can be short and free or a paid full-length session. Depending on their session options, you might also partake in the session online or at the therapist’s office.
When you arrive, your therapist may ask you a few questions about your motives for seeking therapy, your goals for treatment, and the most significant challenges in your relationship. Some couples therapists may meet with each partner individually and then together to get an idea of why each partner is coming to therapy outside of their joint goals.
You might also be asked general questions about your life and character for the therapist to get to know you. Understanding your career, parenting status, education, and daily responsibilities can help them understand what conflicts could arise or how much time you have to commit to learning skills with your partner.
You may also be invited to ask questions and get to know your therapist to ensure you’re the right fit. Intake sessions may not detail techniques or treatment planning, as they’re often reserved for getting to know each other and setting the stage for future sessions.
In your first session or during a quick consultation with your prospective therapist, there are a few questions you can ask to learn more about their practice, including the following.
Each therapist may take their own unique approach to treatment. You may find that understanding their therapy techniques can help you decide if the therapist services would be effective for your concerns. For example, some therapists use a training and homework method, providing couples with training on a specific skill and worksheets to take home for practice. Others might take a more hands-on approach, instructing couples on activities to try in session, such as roleplaying, art projects, or reimagining conflicts.
Forbes found that the average cost of couples therapy in the US is around $175 to $275 a session. Although the cost may be split between partners, it can be an investment for many couples. For some, insurance companies may pay for couples therapy if deemed medically necessary. However, insurance may be less likely to pay for couples sessions than individual ones. If you struggle to afford therapy, ask the provider if they offer a sliding scale system for couples with a lower income. Sliding scale means the cost you pay for therapy depends on your monthly or yearly income.
Although therapists are there to help you and your partner meet your goals, couples can also put in the work to make therapy function. Being willing, open-minded, and considerate can help couples counseling sessions offer the most benefit. Therapy is not an activity that is done to you but one that you and your partner actively participate in with the guidance of a licensed therapist. Ask your prospective counselor how you can support them as they support you.
Many qualities can make or break a therapeutic relationship. When seeking a couples therapist, consider the following categories.
Psychologists and counselors abide by a code of ethics under the American Psychological Association, American Counseling Association, and their state licensing board. For many, being an ethical therapist means practicing professional subjectivity and reducing bias during sessions. Bias can look like inserting opinions, favoring one partner over the other, or discussing unprofessional ideas. Subjectivity can reduce bias by allowing therapists to consider all sides of a situation, fairly evaluate each partner, and provide respectful insertions of opinion based on research and educational background.
Subjectivity can be essential in couples therapy because partners may be sensitive to certain opinions or preferences from their therapist.
Many couples seek a specific type of therapist to best understand their circumstances, identity, and beliefs. When looking for a professional for couples therapy, ask yourself if you’d prefer them to have any of the following identities:
- Black Indigenous Person Of Color (BIPOC)
- Spiritual or religious
- Non-English speaker
- Transgender or non-binary
Having a therapist with a similar identity to you or your partner may allow them to use their life experience as an individual in the same identity category to support you in a way that may not be as effective from another provider. For example, polyamory can be controversial for some, and a therapist with experience with this type of identity may be more knowledgeable in the techniques to treat problems arising from it instead of judging the situation. If you struggle to find a therapist with your identity in your area, you can also consider finding one online.
Finally, consider the modality your therapist practices. Common forms of couples therapy include the following:
- Emotionally focused therapy (EFT)
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior couples therapy (DBT)
- Sex therapy
- The Gottman method
- Family therapy
One recent study on internet-based couples therapy held over videoconference found that couples felt the video format enhanced the therapeutic connection more than in-person therapy and gave them a sense of control and comfort over their situation. Through an online platform, couples can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions and meet from two different locations, allowing flexibility that in-person therapy does not offer.
In addition, couples may be able to partake in individual therapy through a platform like BetterHelp if they’re looking for individual sessions outside of their couples therapy. Platforms like BetterHelp offer over 30,000 therapists trained in various modalities and specialties.
Frequently Asked Questions
For examples of questions that might be beneficial to explore in therapy, please see below.
What kind of therapist is best for couples?
Is couples therapy worth it for dating?
What should I not tell a marriage counselor?
What do couples do in couples therapy?
What kind of therapist is best for couples?
Is it healthy to go to couples therapy?
Can couples therapy help a toxic relationship?
What questions do they ask in couples therapy?
What is the success rate of couple therapy?
Why do most couples go to therapy?
What approach is most common in couples therapy?
When should you avoid couples therapy?
What are the disadvantages of couples therapy?
Can an unhealthy relationship be fixed?
How do I know if I'm in a toxic relationship?
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