How Much Does Marriage Counseling Cost?

Marriage counseling is a great way to create a safe and comfortable space for partners in which they can express their feelings, thoughts, needs, and wants. Especially for newly-married couples, it is not uncommon to be shaken by the real world and bring stress into the marriage. The problem occurs when this stress grows so great that partners start to disagree on small issues over and over, causing unhealthy conflicts in their relationship. At this point, asking family and friends to help will just stir things up more since people tend to take the side of the person they are closest to, leading to even more conflict.

A professional marriage counselor does not take sides in therapy and helps couples find solutions to their problems to recreate a sense of peace in their marriage. Acting as mediators, marriage counselors help couples discuss and overcome the barriers in their marriage.

Are you feeling lost in your marriage? Do you have the same arguments over and over, struggling to communicate clearly while hurting each other?

Every married couple runs into obstacles in their relationship. Some couples overcome these problems more easily, while others need a little push. If you want to find a way out of  the problems that have arisen in your marriage, consider that this might be the perfect time to seek help from a professional marriage counselor.

A good professional will help you work through the problems and build a satisfying relationship you both love. In your marriage counseling sessions, you will learn how to


  • Understand your needs and wants.
  • Express your thoughts.
  • Learn different ways to communicate.
  • Learn to listen and really hear each other.
  • Learn healthy ways to resolve conflicts in your marriage.
  • Improve intimacy and reconnect as partners.
  • Find more in common and share more moments together.

Determining the Cost of Marriage Counseling

First of all, you need to remember that you will need more than one session. Marriage counselors usually recommend that married couples come in consistenly for at least 3 months. Furthermore, costs vary based on a variety of factors.

Costs vary based on location.

It is worth keeping in mind that the cost will vary based on your location. The best way to find out how much marriage counselors charge in your state is to Google “marriage counselors near me” =and check out the prices.

Costs vary based on experience.

Costs also vary based on the credentials and experience of your marriage counselor. For example, the higher education level a marriage counselor has reached and the more years of experience they have, the more they will typically charge. Counselors who are licensed will charge more, while others who are still working towards gaining their license, under the supervision of a licensed counselor, often charge less. It can be also cheaper to see a counselor who is still earning hours towards licensure, but they will have less experience. It is very important when choosing a marriage counselor to ask about their credentials and their experience.

Is the cost really worth it?

Without the help of marriage counselors, many couples who are struggling end up eventually turning to divorce. Apart from the obvious emotional costs, marriage counseling incurs fewer expenses than a divorce. The average cost of a divorce in America ranges from $15,000 to $30,000, depending on what is involved. When you compare the costs of the two, they don’t even come close.

So, how do you know if marriage counseling is worth the investment? First, marriage counseling costs vary across the country. As we discussed, couples counseling can range anywhere from $80 to $275 per session, depending on the level of training and experience of your therapist. Listed below are the fees for therapy services at Relationship Counseling Group:

Services Price
60 Minute- Couple, Family, or Individual Session $125 to $250
90 Minute- Couple, Family, or Individual Session $190 to $375
120 Minute- Couple, Family, or Individual Session $225 to $500

* Pricing varies depending on clinician skill level and experience

Now let’s look at the cost of couples therapy from a different angle. The average cost of divorce in the state of North Carolina is roughly $13,100. This may include attorney fees, the cost of maintaining separate households, child support, and childcare, and the list goes on. Many couples make the decision to invest in couples therapy when it is already too late, meaning one or both partners in the relationship have mentally and emotionally “checked-out” of the relationship. Divorce often feels like the only option for couples experiencing trust issues, infidelity, or exhaustion from trying to make the relationship work. However, choosing to invest in your relationship early on through trusted couples counseling can prevent an expensive divorce in the future.

Let’s suppose you and your partner decide to invest in couples counseling early on when you notice an increase in arguments and a decrease in relationship satisfaction. As a couple, you decide to invest in weekly 60-minute sessions priced at $100 per session. Your total at the end of treatment will be $1,000, compared to the $13,100 average cost of divorce in North Carolina.

The short-term cost of couples therapy is priceless if it means saving the future of your marriage or committed relationship.

Questions to Answer Before Seeking a Professional Marriage Counselor

Is marriage counseling covered by insurance companies?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Insurance companies will cover the cost of marriage counseling only when one or both  partners are diagnosed with a mental health disorder. That means that most of the time, you’ll end up paying for marriage counseling out of your own pocket. But, don’t let this stop you from seeking counseling; we’ll discuss possible solutions in just a minute.

Why does marriage counseling take longer than individual therapy?

Relationships are complicated and their dynamics are complex. Marriage counseling takes longer than individual therapy. The assessment process alone can sometimes take up to three sessions. In addition, if you waited until the last minute to get help, the problems may have grown much bigger and more complicated, requiring a longer time in therapy to resolve.

Is marriage counseling worth it?

There is no way to guarantee that marriage counseling works every single time. Looking at the numbers, you can see that the chances are high, but keep in mind that marriage counseling is not just about the money. It’s about reliving the love and care within your relationship and bringing those positive emotions back into your lives. Compared to what money can buy, there is nothing that will bring you the same happiness that a healthy relationship can provide. Investing in counseling to keep your relationship healthy and strong can be priceless.

Is there a less expensive alternative?

Like we already discussed, higher prices usually dictate higher qualifications, more experience, and potentially more of a chance for successful therapy. That said, for many married couples with already huge expenses, financial issues can cause a tremendous amount of stress and tension. Many who seek marriage counseling turn away when they see the costs.

Be open with your prospective counselor. Not all marriage counselors are in it for the money, and if you explain that you are seriously interested in counseling, some may even negotiate their fees.

You can also look into government-funded mental health centers, which usually offer discounted or even free counseling services. If you are near a university or counseling training center, you can also look into your options there. Professionals who work under supervision will definitely charge less.

Another option is online marriage counseling. Without the costs of human resourcing and renting an office, online marriage counselors can offer counseling at much lower costs than counselors who offer their services in person, especially with the recent surge in telehealth offerings.

Finally, if you are struggling financially, you may be able to find a counselor with sliding fees, or take part in group therapy.

Not doing anything means the biggest loss.

You’re at risk for a lot of losses when you decide not to see a marriage counselor. First, there are the costs of divorce. The average cost of a divorce is $13,000, and that doesn’t include the legal fees or other assets you might lose, like your car, house, savings, and more. It also doesn’t include the divorce’s effects on the emotional and mental health of everyone involved, including your kids.

What is your marriage worth to you?

When it comes to marriage counseling, timing is important. It can be the difference between saving your marriage and walking away. Even if there is no guarantee of saving your marriage, it is to your advantage to invest in it. Marriage counseling is worth the cost, whether you are trying to save your marriage, or you just want to strengthen your relationship.

Are there are any other options?

Although marriage counseling can be costly in general, it is always less expensive than the alternatives, so it is undoubtedly worth it. If you are not sure if it’s right for you and your partner, you can always just commit to a first visit. Making the effort to find the help your marriage needs is a good idea. When you commit to marriage counseling, be sincere and truthful, and you will come to see that counseling is a profitable investment for your marriage. Maintaining a loving and caring marriage is not easy. It takes hard work and patience. Committing to an initial marriage counseling session is the first step to restoring the marriage or committed relationship you love.


When Will Marriage Counseling Not Work?

Every year, thousands of couples go to counseling in an effort to save their marriage. In many cases, the strategies use in counseling, such as listening and communication, will help couples in the short term, but in some cases, they can be insufficient. It is also possible that a counselor lacks the skills and knowledge to work with couples who have serious problems in their marriage. Failing to understand the reasons for conflict and the resulting inability to move toward a resolution will force counselors to let the partners take turns talking week after week, with no end to the therapy, or to slowly lead them to divorce.

Although marriage counseling has proven effective for many couples, there are times when marriage counseling may not be your best option. Marriage counseling is not recommended for couples struggling with domestic violence or for those who are already “checked out” of the relationship. Couples struggling with active domestic violence are often recommended to attend individual therapy prior to engaging in couples therapy to ensure the safety of both individuals.

If one or both partners has “checked out” of the relationship, it is not likely that marriage counseling will be effective. It is important that both partners are on the same page and are committed to making positive changes in their marriage or relationship in order to see positive results.

Couples who are going through major problems and not getting along believe that marriage counseling is the way to go. While it’s not a bad idea to try marriage counseling, there are some times where it just won’t work. Let’s discuss some of these scenarios.

“Marriage counseling is just not working for us.”

People think that by just attending counseling, they will fix their marriage. Sessions will not automatically fix your problems and will not erase your past. Counseling will not magically bring you closer to your partner. Marriage counseling is just a tool that will help you better understand the roles you and your partner play in the relationship. Furthermore, mistakes and misconceptions around marriage counselingcan cost your marriage. For example:

1. Sessions are not going to do the work for you.

Marriage counseling is not going to magically erase the past or fix any problems with little or no effort from you. Marriage counseling will provide you with the tools to help you communicate better, but you and your partner also must put in the necessary work between sessions. Keep in mind that these changes take time and practice and you need to invest in trying the new things you learn about in your sessions and be willing to make the effort.

2. Often, individual therapy is the best place to start.

Sometimes, individuals’ problems may be so serious that they affect the couple’s relationship. There are cases where a partner’s mental disorder is causing frustration in the marriage, while in other cases, trust issues from both partners shake the foundations of the relationship. Whatever the case, in times like these, individual therapy should be the first step.

3. Maybe you just haven’t found the right marriage counselor.

It is not uncommon that, the first counselor you visit will not be a perfect fit for you and your partner. The marriage counselor who fits your needs should make you both feel comfortable, feel seen and heard, and will assist you as per your specific needs. If your counselor is not meeting your needs, it is okay to find someone else. Therapy should work for you.

4. You are only there to tell your side of the story.

Marriage counseling should provide a safe space for both partners to express their thoughts and feelings. For marriage counseling to succeed, partners should understand that it is important to take turns expressing their thoughts. If a person is not there to listen to their partner’s thoughts, needs, feelings, and concerns, they may not find a way to help their relationship. Both partners need to be willing to listen and understand each other. Finally, understand that a counselor will not take anyone’s side, so you are not there to prove a point or win the case.

5.  The purpose is not to change your partner to be the way you want.

In many cases, people enter marriage counseling because they feel that it will change their partner. In marriage counseling, you can only control yourself. Neither you nor a professional can force your partner to change. Instead of investing in counseling to try and change your partner, invest by acknowledging your behaviors in the relationship and pursue how you want to change to better your marriage.

6. Partners go into counseling with different agendas.

Marriage counseling will not work when the two partners have different agendas. For example, if one partner is more committed to doing the necessary work than the other is, then counseling is not going to work. If any of the partners is not completely honest, it’s not going to work, either. If one partner commits to counseling with the goal of  divorce, then it is destined to fail. To make things work, both partners need to engage in counseling with the mindset that this process requires equal commitment and effort from both sides to succeed.

7. There is emptiness between the two of you.

When there are no emotions left, it is hard for any professional to revive the passion. Sometimes, when there really is no love left, partners need to make the hard decision to go their separate ways. Only then can healing be achieved.

Every situation is different, so it is important to do whatever suits your situation. If you still have questions or concerns, read on to have a look at more issues that can affect the success of marriage counseling:

An Abusive Marriage

Marriage takes time and effort to work. If one partner is abusive, marriage counseling is not the solution you need. Don’t waste your time; seek help from your loved ones to get out of your abusive marriage.

Substance Abuse

Addiction can have physical and psychological effects on individuals but can also have devastating effects on a marriage. The partner who suffers from addiction often denies being the problem in the relationship. Substance abuse puts a lot of pressure on the marriage and often leads to distancing and isolation. Furthermore, substance abuse frequently leads to financial issues, which, in turn, will put even more strain on the marriage.

No Trust

Trust is fundamental to all relationships, especially marriage. If the trust is broken in a marriage, the relationship will also break. Sometimes, trust can be repaired, but most of the time, it requires belief and effort from both people. For example, one person must be willing to take responsibility, and the other person has to be willing to forgive.

Bad Habits

People who display problematic behaviors in their marriage, such as contempt and disrespect, can cause resentment and anger on both sides. Those who put in the effort to change these habits and employ healthy communication and understanding can fix their marriage. Couples who can’t or won’t will see their marriage end in divorce.

More Bad Memories Than Good

Happily married couples display their happiest moments around their home. On their anniversaries, partners reminisce about all the good times they have had together over the years. Partners who remember more bad times than happy ones will fall apart. In addition to lack of trust or willingness to change from the couple in therapy, there are mistakes that counselors can make that can impact the effectiveness of marriage counseling.

Mistakes Marriage Counselors Make

  • Lack of Structure

The most common mistake made by counselors is providing too little structure. Some counselors allow sessions to generate a lot of negativity, which leads to zero change. Partners will interrupt each other and talk over each other while the counselor loses control. Finally, the counselor loses hope and ends counseling, while the partners lose hope in turn.

  • No Plan for Change

Counselors may play it safe by neglecting to recommend changes to the couple’s day-to-day life. Good counselors will give out homework, while a bad counselor doesn’t pursue change.

  • Thinking All Couples Are Equal

Counselors who believe that all couples are the same will not be able to meet their needs, and are doomed to fail. It is a fact that all couples are different. For example, married couples with children have different dynamics than married couples without children. Inexperienced counselors may apply the same or similar treatment plans to all their clients. Failing to meet a couple’s unique needs will cause counseling to fail.

  • Making Things Complicated

A marriage counselor who fails to explain things in a simple way that’s easy to understand will make repairing the relationship seem more difficult than it really is.

  • Choosing Sides

Resolving issues and healing a wounded marriage requires objectivity on the part of the counselor. Good marriage counselors understand that unconditional positive regard for both partners is of the utmost importance. Bad counselors may take sides and favor one partner over the other during counseling, which can be destructive to the marriage.

Does that mean that marriage counseling fails all the time?

A wide range of issues can be worked out through counseling, especially if you feel like you have the same arguments over and over again, you feel isolated, or if sex and intimacy are just not there anymore. But it also won’t work if one or both partners are not genuinely committed to the counseling process. Healing the wounds in your marriage and improving your relationship is a slow process, but it doesn’t have to go on forever. Marriage counseling is a healthy way to work through problems in your marriage; you just need to truly want to be an active part of it. If you don’t see your marriage reflected in any of the above situations, then with hard work and commitment, there is hope.

How Long Does Marriage Counseling Last?

Before we start talking about how long marriage counseling lasts, we need to understand a few things about marriage counseling. If you are considering marriage counseling but are unsure whether it will work, you are not alone. There are many questions you may have, but let’s address the most common questions regarding marriage counseling.

Why are so many people still skeptical about marriage counseling?

Understandably, many people who are skeptical about marriage counseling worry about its effectiveness. It is a fact that before the 1980s, most methods used in marriage counseling had limited success. The average success was about 50% and counseling taught useful skills like how to listen and understand each other. The good news is that with new methods, marriage counseling is now over 75 percent effectiveness, according to statistics from the American Psychological Association. But what about other 25 percent? Married couples in abusive relationships should not expect improvements from counseling until the abuse ends. At that time, separate therapy sessions for each partner are ideal in order to work toward self-control and safety. Furthermore, specific types of marriage counseling requiring secure attachment are not recommended for couples in the process of separating.

How can a couple improve their chances of success?

Marriage counseling is most likely to be successful when the two partners are willing to learn the skills and become more self-aware, as well as emotionally vulnerable and understanding of each other. Many people have difficulty distinguishing emotions from thoughts; however, communication skills can be learned with a little bit of effort. Another important thing to increase your chances of success is that you and your partner stop seeing each other as opponents, but rather as teammates working to improve your relationship. Another important factor in successful marriage counseling is empathy. Both of you need to have empathy and feel for your  partner to be able to understand their emotions and vulnerabilities.

Finally, another prerequisite is for partners to be willing to work on the part they play in the relationship’s problems and the process of healing their marriage. Many couples come to marriage counseling with a list of complaints about their partner, expecting the counselor to validate their complaints. Although, most of the time, these complaints are valid, nothing can be resolved unless both individuals commit to working on their own behavior.

How long does marriage counseling take?

The length of marriage counseling can vary based on the counselor’s choice of treatment model, as well as the strength of the couple’s commitment to therapy. Some couples can get what they need in as little as 4 to 6 sessions. There are often couples who need just a little push to improve communication, meet common goals, or solve day-to-day problems centered around parenting, responsibilities, and so on. Sometimes, married couples face more complicated problems or there are other issues that require longer-term therapy.

At Relationship Counseling Group, our clinicians use a variety of evidence-based models, including the Gottman Method and Emotional Focus Therapy (EFT) to assist clients in meeting their goals. Your commitment to therapy contributes to the overall success of marriage therapy. Weekly sessions are recommended, especially early on in treatment, so that both partners can learn new skills and implement them in everyday practice. Some couples may prefer biweekly or even monthly sessions, though this often means much slower progress. It is imperative that couples seek marriage counseling sooner rather than later, as timing is essential when it comes to solving persistent problems in your relationship.

Increasing Recovery Speed

Many couples wonder how long marriage counseling takes to work. The best marriage counseling is strategic and focused on helping a married couple reach their goals. Without plans and goals in mind, marriage counseling can turn into an opportunity for partners to bash each other instead of treating their problems. It is also important to find a good marriage counselor who uses evidence-based models of marriage counseling to ensure that couples are hitting their milestones. 

Speeding Up Sessions

In terms of counseling sessions, couples usually start out by attending sessions weekly, then every other week as they start making positive changes and focus putting the things they discuss in sessions into practice. Sometimes, even after successful counseling, couples still like to schedule periodic sessions focused on maintaining the quality of their marriage.

Factors That Affect Time in Counseling

Sometimes, over the course of marriage counseling, partners find that part of the problem affecting their marriage is that one or both partners may be struggling with more serious issues. For example, substance abuse and mental health illnesses can have a major impact on a marriage. In these cases, it is necessary to have longer-term counseling for marriage, as well as individual therapy for each partner.

Partners’ learning styles are also a factor that affects how long marriage counseling will take. For example, partners who consistently take an active part in sessions, complete their homework, and follow through on the things that are discussed into therapy are typically going to need less time to repair their marriage.

Willingness and commitment to the process are also important. Partners who are committed to attending weekly sessions will move through the process faster. It’s like doing private tutoring or going to the gym. When you do things consistently and frequently, you will see greater results. This makes it important for couples to make counseling sessions their priority.

The healing process will be enhanced when both partners are truthful about what they want. If one participant is ambivalent about their goals, it will create discomfort and eventually diminish their hopes for success. If there is ambivalence or even a slight doubt, this must be resolved before committing to marriage counseling. This will increase your chances of success and will reduce the overall time involved in marriage counseling.

Fact Sheet

  • High levels of satisfaction.

According to a survey by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, families and couples who have attended family or couples counseling sessions indicate high levels of satisfaction. Over 98 percent of those who took part in the survey reported that they received good or excellent couples counseling, and over 97 percent of them said they got the help they needed. After working with a marriage or family counselor, 93 percent of couples said that they had more effective tools for dealing with their problems.

  • Marriage counseling takes less time than individual therapy.

Statistics show that most of the time, couples or family counseling is faster and more effective than individual therapy alone. When married couples go to marriage counseling together, they work faster and more effectively on their group dynamic, which in turn helps them to heal faster. Typically, it takes fewer sessions to reach your goals in marriage counseling than it does in individual therapy. This means that not only do you repair your marriage faster, but you will also pay less for the benefits.

  • Working with a licensed marriage counselor is often cheaper than seeing a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

While searching for options, many couples feel stressed about the financial cost. Worrying about your counseling bill can put an extra strain on your already shaken relationship that can eventually lead to worse consequences. Many people who are looking at prices may decide to turn to a more budget-friendly solution such as inexperienced psychiatrists and psychologists. Keep in mind that if you look hard, you will surely find a professional who offers reasonable rates. If you choose a licensed marriage counselor, you will definitely pay less in the long run than if you opted for an inexperienced psychiatrist or psychologist.

  • Marriage counseling is not magic and may still not be able to prevent a divorce.

When people hear the phrase “marriage counseling,” they tend to think that it is a magic solution that will automatically save their marriage. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In cases of milder relationship problems, marriage counseling will work by repairing the marriage, but in some other cases, marriage counseling works by helping partners understand that staying together in an unhealthy relationship is detrimental and that the only solution is to end their marriage for the sake of both parties’ mental wellbeing.

  • Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is the most successful type of marriage counseling.

There is no magic trick to repair your marriage, but there are few types of marriage counseling that are proven to have great success. One of the most successful types of therapy is called Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), and it works by helping couples understand and reprogram their emotional responses, leading partners to better understand and communicate with each other.

  • The sooner you start marriage counseling, the better.

Another factor that reduces the time you will need for successful counseling is how soon you commit to starting marriage counseling. Couples who wait until their problems have piled up or people who have already given up on their marriage may struggle to repair their relationships. For better chances at success and getting back the fulfilling marriage you once had, couples should seek counseling as soon as possible.


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Can Marriage Counseling Save My Marriage?

Many couples report that therapy saved their relationship when they were on the brink of separation or even divorce. Couples therapy is hard work and requires dedication from both partners. During couples therapy, partners are asked to discuss the events in their lives and in their relationship that led them to seek therapy. Processing these events may give rise to difficult emotions like anger and disappointment. Because of this, it may seem that the relationship is getting worse before it gets better. As with any form of therapy, there are no guarantees, but a couple’s success in therapy is directly related to the motivation of both partners and their willingness to stay the course when things get tough.

So, Will Marriage Counseling Save My Marriage?

One option when a marriage isn’t working out how you planned is marriage counseling. When it comes to keeping your marriage alive and you have tried everything else, marriage counseling is usually the last step for struggling couples. Overcoming tough times in a marriage can be hard, and marriage counseling may be the only thing that can save your marriage, or at least make you aware of your other options.

When trying to fix your marital problems, remember that if you are not 100% committed and focused on saving your marriage, you are very likely to fail. Therefore, whether a marriage can be saved or not depends on various factors that the two partners bring to the counseling sessions. If both partners have the motivation and the will, you can expect positive results. Unfortunately, most couples lose the passion or the drive, making their marriages difficult to repair.

Factors That Affect Therapy’s Outcomes

The Point of No Return

One of the biggest issues that overshadows marriage counseling is that couples tend to let their marriage fall to its lowest point before they visit a marriage counselor. Thus, there has often been substantial damage done to the marriage by the time they decide to seek professional help. One of the major characteristics of successful marriage counseling is that issues are detected and fixed early, before the marriage is too broken.

Communication Collapse

The collapse of communication is one of the main causes for the need for marriage counseling. Sometimes, couples have been burying their issues for years, failing to tell their partners how they feel. This will lead to a huge buildup of emotional suppression, which will result in psychological and even physical stress. This lack of communication is one of the main causes of affairs in marriages and can lead to a divorce before any of the issues are fixed. Staying silent in your marriage will kill your relationship, which, in turn, will kill your marriage.


It can often take a huge dramatic episode to motivate a couple to seek counseling, but the truth is, in these situations, counseling should have begun a long time ago, before things got out of control. These dramatic episodes often include affairs and threats of divorce and are usually the last straw before seeking help from a marriage counselor.

The Importance of Marriage Counseling

If issues in marriage are left untreated, it may be too late for reconciliation. Marriage counseling offers the best results when issues are detected early and communication skills are taught early in the process. To find a solution to your problems, both of you need to be motivated to do so. With the help of your marriage counselor, you will bring attention to the issues you are facing and discover the solutions. The key component here, though, is that you both must be 100% willing to listen, accept, self-reflect, and learn from your mistakes.

The Marriage Counseling Process

The first step in marriage counseling is to eliminate the out-of-control issues that are destroying your relationship. These immediate issues need to be stabilized for the process to move to the next step: working out the underlying causes of these problems.

In your session, your counselor will mention the importance of you and your partner’s willingness to learn new things about your relationship, yourselves, and ways of communicating with each other. The counselor needs to know whether you and your partner can let go of selfishness and accept responsibility in areas where you may have previously failed in your marriage. Marriage counseling requires commitment and motivation.

Ways to Predict Whether Marriage Counseling Can Save Your Marriage

Most of the time, when people seek marriage counseling, they are wondering about the success rate. Even if it were possible to answer this question, the results will not encompass a marriage counselor’s skills, knowledge, and abilities. What you need to keep in mind is that whether or not a marriage can be saved lies in a combination of factors that the two partners bring to the counseling sessions. In short, if you have the commitment and the will to change, there is a high chance that you will succeed.

Not everyone has what it takes to save their marriage.

One thing that makes repairing a marriage difficult is that most people seeking help come much later than they should have and a lot of problems have already been cemented. Usually, the partners have been silently suppressing their thoughts and emotions, not expressing to their partner how they feel until one day when the issues all come out. In some cases, one individual may express that they cannot stand their partner, while in other cases, one of the partners has had an affair, and in others, one of the partners decides that they don’t want to stay in the marriage, requesting a divorce. Keep in mind, it almost always takes a destructive episode for couples to acknowledge their problems and take the first step in accepting marriage counseling.

When the marriage reaches this stage, simply teaching communication skills is not enough. Instead, the couple is going through the worst side effects of their problematic relationship, with the partners not in the mood to be nice to each other. It takes a professional marriage counselor to help process these problems and manage the crisis to ensure that partners will not do more damage than they already have. As mentioned earlier, the first step in counseling is to stabilize the situation. This happens after an evaluation of each partner’s mental and physical history, family history, values, and beliefs. The counselor explores each individual’s thoughts and assesses their will and motivation.

Factors That Affect the Results of Marriage Counseling

– Are the partners willing to learn new things about their relationship and new ways of communicating with each other?

– Can partners let go of their ego and accept responsibility for parts of the marriage where they have fallen short? Can they stop blaming each other? Can they accept the guidance of a professional and capable marriage counselor concerning their marriage’s crisis and recovery?

– Can both partners be flexible in the face of life’s challenges?

– Will both partners commit to the healing process and keep their word to be true to each other all the time? Commitment is a combination of a “want” and a “need” to stay in the marriage, with research indicating a positive relationship between marriage commitment and improvements in the marriage (Christensen et al., 2010).

– Can both partners be empathetic and put themselves in their partner’s shoes to see and feel how the other person sees and feels? Will the partners understand the effects of their actions and accept responsibility?

– Will partners who suffer from mental health issues invest in treating and managing themselves? For example, research found a bi-directional association between depression and marital discord, meaning that depression may cause marital problems, and vice versa (Denton et al., 2003).

This list could go on and on, and some factors are hard to describe. These characteristics are required from both partners in a marriage so they can work through things in a healthy way and reach an outcome that will satisfy them both. For partners who lack some of these characteristics, it is a good idea to start working on them along the way.

Marriage counseling is not for the faint of heart and takes commitment, willingness to change, and hard work. Furthermore, successful marriages require respect, communication, consideration, and mutuality.

Interesting Statistics on Marriage Counseling

The results of studies on marriage counseling consider marriage counseling to be an effective approach that can significantly reduce marital distress (Dunn & Schwebel, 1995; Shadish & Baldwin, 2003).

Stats from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy present interesting numbers regarding marriage counseling, showing that, after receiving marriage counseling, almost 90% of couples report an improvement in their emotional health, and nearly two-thirds report an improvement in their overall physical health. Furthermore, in another study, satisfaction in marriage after counseling was assessed and it was found that 66% of partners presented an improvement after counseling (Byrne et al., 2004). Finally, results from a similar study displayed that approximately 48% of couples exhibited either improvement or complete recovery in marital satisfaction at a five-year follow-up (Foote, 2014).


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Shadish WR, Baldwin SA: Meta-analysis of MFT interventions. J Marital Fam Ther. 2003, 29: 547-570. 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2003.tb01694.x.

What Is Premarital Counseling and How Does It Help?

93% of Americans today believe that a healthy marriage is one of the most important things in life. Research shows that couples who attend counseling have a 30% better chance of enjoying a successful and healthy marriage. Also, meta-analytic reviews suggest that premarital education programs are generally effective in producing immediate and short-term gains in interpersonal skills and overall relationship quality (Carroll & Doherty, 2004). Finally, a meta-analytic study found that premarital education programs appear to be effective at improving a couple’s communication (Fawcett et al., 2010).

Many people believe that counseling is only for couples who are actively experiencing problems in their marriage or committed relationship. However, premarital counseling is a type of therapy that helps couples prepare for marriage. Premarital counseling can help ensure that you and your partner are equipped with the tools necessary to have a successful and satisfying marriage. During premarital counseling, you may discuss topics including, but not limited to, finances, conflict resolution strategies, and communication skills to prepare both partners for their commitment to one another and the relationship.

What Exactly Is Premarital Counseling?

Premarital counseling is a specialized form of therapy that helps couples prepare for marriage. By undertaking premarital counseling before the wedding, you and your partner have the chance to build a healthy relationship that will provide a strong foundation for your union. Premarital counseling can help couples of any gender, race, or religion address their expectations and concerns about their marriage.

Who Can Benefit From Premarital Counseling?

Many people assume that counseling is only for people with problems or for couples in crisis. This is far from the truth. Participating in premarital counseling helps you and your partner learn how to identify issues and handle problems that may arise at some point in your marital life.

Therefore, premarital counseling is highly recommended for couples who are engaged and aiming to get married. Premarital counseling is a form of family therapy designed to help couples stay connected during difficult times. This type of counseling offers partners a variety of tools and strategies to resolve conflicts.

Issues Addressed in Premarital Counseling

Let’s talk about common topics and issues addressed in premarital counseling.

Conflict resolution: Premarital counseling addresses the ways each partner resolves conflicts and how you can improve your ability to compromise on issues where you disagree.

Communication: You will discuss communication with your partner and address any adaptive or maladaptive methods of communication you may have.

Expectations: Premarital counseling encourages each partner to discuss their expectations for each other and the marriage so you can work toward finding ways to compromise. Furthermore, it helps partners understand what constitutes a successful marriage.

Values and needs: Research has shown that partners with similar values and needs have a better chance of staying together. Counseling addresses this important factor and helps partners acknowledge their values, personal beliefs, and needs.

Finances: Premarital counseling also addresses financial issues. Are you able to discuss your financial problems? Partners often avoid discussing sensitive topics like money, especially when one of the partners is overspending. This can create conflict, so a premarital counselor will address issues like this and assist you resolve them as a couple.

Family: Do both partners want to have children? If not, are both partners aware of this? If you both want kids, how many does each partner want? When is it time to start a family? These and many other issues regarding families are addressed in counseling.

Intimacy and sex: Are you and your partner comfortable or uncomfortable discussing sex? Do you both feel intimate? What does each of you expect in terms of a sexual relationship? In a successful marriage, couples can talk freely and honestly about sex, so premarital counseling raises these sensitive topics and explores each partner’s limits.

The Goals of Premarital Counseling

Premarital counseling examines your relationship in an objective manner and helps you learn how to interact in a healthy and productive way. Premarital counseling also addresses cultural issues and how they affect the relationship. It examines how personal values and beliefs or family history affect how each partner perceives the relationship and behaves during everyday life, and how cultural differences might cause crises in the relationship. Counseling will help you identify your differences and develop methods to manage them successfully.

Address and Eliminate Dysfunctional Behaviors

Premarital counseling helps couples identify and eliminate dysfunctional behaviors, such as control issues, addiction, and dependency.

Improve Communication

Good communication is the secret ingredient for a healthy marriage. Premarital counseling helps couples learn effective ways of communication, letting you and your partner express your thoughts and feelings openly, in a healthy, supportive, and safe relationship.

Identify Couples’ Strengths

Premarital counseling can help partners identify the positive aspects of their relationship and their overall strengths. Understanding of the stronger aspects of your relationship and acknowledging the positive parts will help you build resilience and a stronger foundation upon which to maintain a healthy marriage.

Eliminate Emotional Breaks, Isolation, and Avoidance

Many couples have difficulty expressing their feelings, so they end up avoiding each other. This type of avoidance will eventually lead to serious problems in the relationship. Premarital counseling will assist you in learning how to openly express your feelings in a way that brings you closer together rather than leading to further avoidance behavior and, in the end, isolation.

The Benefits of Premarital Counseling

Premarital counseling offers many benefits to ensure your marriage will be stable and happy, which is obviously the main benefit of counseling before marriage.

Another important benefit is that it helps couples develop and strengthen the skills that are necessary for resolving conflicts in a marriage and maintaining a healthy relationship. You and your partner may have different ideas of what it means to be happy. By discussing this beforehand, you can set common goals to work toward together.

Also, premarital counseling helps partners identify any possible issues that could negatively impact  their marriage later on, giving you the opportunity to discuss your wants, needs, and expectations before marriage. With the help of a counselor, you can work to cope with your differences.

No matter how much a couple love each other, they may still have some anxiety over the thought of a lifelong commitment. Counseling can help partners deal with this anxiety by giving them the opportunity to deal with possible causes for anxiety and work through them.

Finally, couples often approach their marriage with fears about the longevity of their relationship. Premarital counseling can help you identify and confront your fears about forming and maintaining a healthy marriage.

Understanding the Aspects of Premarital Counseling

Education, Expertise, and Experience

Couples seeking premarital counseling should accept services only from specialized and certified professionals who hold the required education and experience. A premarital counselor needs to have specific knowledge and expertise, so couples should be careful when choosing a counselor.


All professionals are obliged to protect their clients’ information, so couples should expect that the counselor they choose will explain their right to confidentiality at the outset of therapy. Counselors should also explain when they may need to disclose some specific information, for example, to authorities.

Types of Premarital Counseling

There are different types of premarital counseling depending on your personality or your background. Choosing the right type of premarital counseling will increase its chance of effectiveness and ensure that you will benefit from the experience as much as possible.

Online Premarital Counseling Sessions

For couples who would prefer to receive counseling in the comfort of their own home, online premarital counseling will bring them closer to achieving their marriage-related goals in privacy and comfort. Online premarital counseling may include online counseling and self-guided sessions, among other methods.

One-on-One Premarital Counseling

This is the most traditional and commonly-used method of counseling. Premarital counselors conduct face-to-face sessions and help couples tackle their issues and develop the appropriate tools to resolve any future problems in their marriage.

Group Sessions and Open Discussion

While group sessions don’t focus solely on one couple, they can be a valuable experience. Group sessions can be used by couples for engaging purposes and to elicit helpful discussions that will teach them different perspectives and ideas. Couples will have the opportunity to learn how others deal with problems and how others maintain a happy marriage. Couples should keep in mind that privacy is at risk here, due to participation of other people.

Give yourselves the chance to build a strong foundation.

You and your partner need to understand that committing to each other can be challenging. You may find yourselves facing and discussing issues that you would rather ignore, but facing and resolving these issues is how you and your partner grow in your relationship. Don’t try to ignore issues in your relationship, and never isolate yourself from your partner. You and your partner are allies in life. Banish the idea that there are winners and losers in a relationship. You are both equals in your partnership, and you have 50-50 stakes in whatever makes you happy or shakes your relationship. Take advantage of the time you spend with a counselor to create a safe zone that you will nourished for years to come to build a healthy, trusting, and loving relationship with your spouse.


Carroll, Jason & Doherty, William. (2004). Evaluating the Effectiveness of Premarital Prevention Programs: A Meta‐Analytic Review of Outcome Research. Family Relations. 52. 105 – 118. 10.1111/j.1741-3729.2003.00105.x.

Fawcett, Elizabeth & Hawkins, Alan & Blanchard, Victoria & Carroll, Jason. (2010). Do Premarital Education Programs Really Work? A Meta-analytic Study. Family Relations – FAM RELAT. 59. 232-239. 10.1111/j.1741-3729.2010.00598.x.

What Should We Expect From Marriage Counseling?

You may be wondering what to expect from marriage counseling. Seeking marriage counseling can spike your anxiety levels, which often stops couples from getting help. Knowing what to expect from the process and therapeutic sessions can take some of the mystery out of the process, and it will help you make the right decision and seek help.

Why Marriage Counseling?

Marriage counseling is for couples that seek to improve their relationship or have become unsatisfied in their marriage. They may feel that their relationship is stuck and fixated on the same issues over and over again. Marriage counseling is useful in helping couples move on from conflict and create an environment which is both emotional and intimate for both partners. Even if the relationship is already considered relatively good, marriage counseling can improve emotional connection and intimacy, transforming the relationship onto a satisfying and more fulfilling. Marriage counseling offers a neutral and safe place for partners to explore their relationship.

Marriage Counseling FAQ

What will we learn in marriage counseling?

Marriage counseling will first of all uncover the real causes of distress in your marriage and will help you quickly resolve issues before they escalate to resentment. Partners will find ways to support each other’s goals and dreams, and will offer a supportive and positive environment. You will both look at past experiences, including your childhood, old habits and defenses that may impact your relationship, and you will explore each other’s empathy and learn how to understand and forgive each other. Furthermore, marriage counseling will give you the tools in order for you to improve emotional connection and through learning, you will both learn how to love each other again.

Is marriage counseling only for couple sessions?

You may be wondering whether marriage counseling requires only couples sessions. In fact, marriage counseling will not always be as a couple. While couples sessions are the basis of marriage counseling, there are usually some issues you need to work on by yourself, especially when one of the partners has certain skills and the other needs to take their time to build up to that level. Also, there are times when partners need to work out trust issues from their past. However, keep in mind that marriage counseling does not work when it is delivered only individually. For marriage counseling to be successful, you need to make sure that both you and your partner are committed to the therapy.

How many sessions will we need?

This is a difficult question to answer because every couple is different. However, good marriage counseling stimulates changes within a few sessions. You should be able to notice an improvement in how you understand your problems and deeper insights about yourself and your partner early in the counseling process.  

What will the process be like?

Going into your first session of couples counseling can be intimidating at first. There are three separate phases of treatment in marriage counseling, as follows:

Initial Phase: The beginning of treatment focuses on building a relationship or alliance between the counselor and each member of the couple. The first session is spent learning more about each individual person and your relationship as a couple. Your counselor may inquire about your relationship history and assist you in identifying goals for treatment. Here, the counselor will get to know each of you on a personal level and may ask about anything from your childhood to how you met each other. Many people feel discouraged after the first session, thinking that counseling is just a bunch of questions without actual change happening. But while these questions may seem unimportant, they are essential to the therapist understanding your story and how you got to where you are.

As your sessions continue, counseling explores the root of your problems. Some of the most common problems that couples face include arguments, avoidance behavior, and intimacy issues. No two couples have the same problems, but identifying your problems is an important step towards healing. As you share your concerns, your counselor will look for the underlying issues and will develop goals, reaching the working phase of marriage counseling.

Working Phase: During the working phase of treatment, the counselor will use evidence-based models to assist you and your partner in reaching your identified treatment goals. You may be asked to complete interventions during sessions to practice skills such as active listening and healthy communication. Often, your therapist will even assign homework so you can practice these skills outside of your sessions, as well.

Closing Phase: Finally, the working phase leads to the closing phase. The closing phase consists of reviewing the couple’s progress toward reaching their identified goals. The counselor ensures that the skills learned during therapy can be applied to the couple’s life outside of therapy as well. Successful marriage therapy occurs when couples demonstrate an ability to solve problems on their own without the help of their counselor.

How to Make the Best of Your Search for Marriage Counseling

Research for the counselor that fits your needs.

It is important to go out there and find the appropriate counselor that will help you fix your marriage. You can discuss with others and get references or you can use the internet to search through counselors’ profiles. When you have an idea of what you want, make a small list of the possible counselors. Include both male and female counselors and have a visit both individually and as a couple or call them. Compare and contrast. It is always a good idea to ask counselors about their approach on the assessment and the treatment process. Have your questions ready, because counselors will not spend a lot of time listening to your story.

Marriage counseling can be a therapeutic process, but there are some things to prepare for before committing to counseling with your partner. Here is a list of things to have in mind:

Both you and your partner should commit 100% to attending counseling together and have common goals.

This may be obvious at the beginning, especially during the enthusiasm phase, but both of you should take time and discuss your concerns with an open mind. There are times where partners approach counseling with ‘mixed agenda’ meaning that one of the partners seeks reconciliation while the other seeks divorce. Not saying that approaching counseling differently will lead to failure, but if you both decide to proceed with counseling keep in mind that the more dedicated you are to the process and the more common ground you have, the more effect counseling will have on your relationship, resulting in healing and growth.

You and your partner should aim to create a comfortable and safe counseling environment.

It is important that you and your partner find a counselor who offers the environment you both want. In marriage counseling, both partners should feel safe and comfortable expressing their needs and wants. Each partner should feel heard.

Signs That Marriage Counseling May Not Be the Answer

Individual therapy may be your best solution instead.

Even if you have some troubles in your marriage, marriage counseling might not be the first step. Sometimes, each partner needs to resolve their own individual issues before stepping into marriage counseling. Unresolved issues from the past can affect relationships in the present. By resolving individual issues first, you can then step into marriage counseling, focused on working out the remaining issues with your partner.

The counselor is not fit for you and your partner.

It is possible that a certain counselor is not an ideal match for you and your partner. A good counselor will both make you feel comfortable and safe in the therapeutic process. Don’t waste your time with unfit professionals.

Just going to sessions without commitment does not count as work.

Counselors will not magically fix your problems. They can teach you skills and help you communicate more effectively, but you need to put in the work. If you are not focusing on the homework and time between sessions, then counseling is not for you.

Don’t go into counseling thinking it will change your partner the way you want.

Many people think that marriage counseling will change their partner, but in reality, you can only change yourself. Neither you nor a counselor can force your partner to change. Your partner will change only if he or she wants to.

You are there to speak, but you won’t listen.

Marriage counseling should be an environment where both partners can express their thoughts, feelings, fears, and concerns. If you are there just to speak and not to listen to your partner’s thoughts, feelings, fears, and concerns, then you may not find a way to improve your marriage.

There is no more love.

You cannot force a marriage to work. If you are no longer happy and you have tried all your options, but you feel that there is no love left, it may be time to admit that the marriage is simply not working anymore.


Doherty, W.J. (2011). In or out: Treating the mixed‐agenda couples. Psychotherapy Networker, 45–50, 58, 60.

Doss, B. D., Simpson, L. E., & Christensen, A. (2004). Why do couples seek marital therapy? Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 35, 608–614.

Kanewischer, E. J., & Harris, S. M. (2014). Deciding not to Un‐Do the “I Do:” Therapy experiences of women who consider divorce but decide to remain married. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. doi: 10.1fi11imft..12064

Owen, J., Duncan, B., Anker, M., & Sparks, J. (2012). Initial relationship goal and couple therapy outcomes at post and six‐month follow‐up. Journal of Family Psychology, 26, 179–186.

When Do You Need Marriage Counseling?

Couples seek marriage counseling for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to infidelity and issues with communication, or for pre-marital counseling. According to research by Dr. John Gottman, an expert in the field of marriage therapy, the average couple waits 6 years before seeking help for marital problems. Yet, half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years. Waiting too long to seek marriage counseling allows negative patterns of interaction, as well as resentment, to build up over time. This often results in divorce or separation that could have been prevented with marriage counseling earlier in the relationship. If both partners are willing to commit to each other and to the process, marriage counseling programs have a high rate of effectiveness in helping them recover from most relationship issues.

When is the right time to consider marriage counseling services? Here are some signs you may need to act fast:

There is negative communication or no communication at all.

Negative communication includes anything that leaves one partner feeling emotionally drained, judged, shamed, and insecure. Negative communication also includes your tone; it is not always what you say, but how you say it that matters. In relationships, negative communication can escalate into emotional abuse.

Furthermore, while maintaining healthy communication can become a challenge in the strenuous livee of a modern married couple, major problems arise when there is no communication at all. A marriage counselor can help you discover new ways to communicate with each other. Once communication is lost, it is hard to get it back, so you need to act fast.

You are afraid to express your thoughts.

It becomes a problem for the relationship when one or both partners is afraid of talking. This may involve anything from expressing thoughts about everyday activities to discussing money, or even annoying habits. A marriage counselor will help you and your partner put thoughts into words in a healthy way within a safe environment and will help you understand what you are truly talking about and accept each other’s thoughts respectfully.

Partners see each other as enemies.

You and your partner are on the same team, providing each other with support and someone to lean on. If it begins to feel as if you are enemies, constantly at odds, then it is time to seek help from a professional to guide your marriage’s recovery.

Partners keep secrets from each other.

Not spending 24 hours a day with each other and enjoying different habits may be beneficial for the relationship, but when partners keep secrets from each other, something isn’t right.

One partner has had an affair or is fantasizing about one.

Having an affair or fantasizing about one may be a signal that you want something different from what you have. While it is possible for a married couple to survive after one partner has had an affair, it is better to get professional help before acting upon your thoughts. When both of you are honest and committed to the counseling process, the marriage may still be repaired.

One of the partners has lost financial control.

Losing control of your finances can be just as damaging to your marriage as a sexual affair. If one partner keeps the other in the dark about spending money or needs to control everything, then the matter should be discussed over counseling so it can be solved.

Partners argue over the same things over and over again.

Everyone has their own behaviors and things that drive other people crazy. Small things, like laundry and untidiness, among others, can be the cause of fights. Partners don’t always recognize why these fights keep happening or what they can do about it. A marriage counselor can help you and your partner discuss these issues and figure out the real cause of your problems.

A partner feels that everything would be okay if the other person changed.

You need to keep in mind that the only person you can change is yourself. If you are waiting for your partner to change, you will be waiting forever. When you seek marriage counseling, your counselor will help you better understand who you are and what your goals are.

Act fast when there is:


When communication is absent, one or both partners consistently react negatively to the other, and any efforts to resolve issues become a negative experience. That being said, toxicity in relationships includes physical and emotional abuse. If your relationship has reached this point, act fast and seek help before it progresses to the next stage.

A Frozen Marriage

After a while, toxicity freezes your marriage. This means all arguments and breaks in trust are preserved, leading your marriage to plateau. If you are in this phase, seek help fast and let a marriage counselor help both of you find the willingness to try again.

What Not To Do

According to the literature, distressed couples take an average of 6 years to decide to seek marriage counseling. Waiting too long to receive professional help allows negativity to become a habit. Years of negative interaction can damage your marriage, creating a toxic relationship with mistrust, resentment, and avoidance that can be difficult to heal. The sooner you break this habit, the better. Any couple can reach a positive outcome through marriage counseling,  and getting help sooner rather than later is an investment for you and your partner.

How Counseling Can Help Your Marriage

You may feel that your marriage is constantly challenged and are seeking counseling in the hope of turning things around. At this moment, you may be wondering whether marriage counseling can really help and whether it is worth the time and money. If dysfunctional patterns of behavior are identified early, the process of change can begin. A married couple will begin to explore their problems from a new perspective and will recognize and resolve conflicts. Partners will build trust and improve their communication, and this, in turn, will lead to healthier interactions. All this is the result of marriage counseling. In a safe environment, both of you can decide to repair your marriage and start over or end the marriage and move on. Furthermore, you can:

Improve communication.

One of the goals of marriage counseling is to improve communication. Whether you are newly married or are new parents, maintaining healthy communication is key. Through marriage counseling, you will learn specific skills and techniques that will help both of you listen, understand, and respond to one another effectively, respectfully, and with more empathy. Your counselor will initially help you practice these skills in your sessions, and then you will be asked to practice them at home. Over time, you and your partner will learn new healthy and respectful ways to interact with each other.

Improve intimacy.

To be intimate it means to be open, vulnerable, and able to share your thoughts and emotions. Marriage counseling will help you improve intimacy so that you can both feel safe and have fun. Sex will no longer feel like a chore, and the relationship will make you feel both satisfied and complete. Through marriage counseling, you and your partner will learn how to feel more connected to each other, both physically and emotionally.

Transform a boring marriage into a fun marriage.

Marriage counseling is not always about problems. In fact, some couples seek counseling because they just feel bored. It is important to always try to bring fun and excitement back into your relationship. Marriage counseling will help both of you discover new interests and experiences you can share with one another. Having fun in your marriage will make you fall in love with your partner all over again.

Now that you know all about marriage counseling, let me help you make your choice.

Choose your style of counseling.

There are many different therapeutic approaches out there. What you need is a marriage counselor who is experienced and knowledgeable, but who is also a professional who does not try to impose a static approach. There are several methods out there, but a skilled professional will be able to use a variety of methods to meet your needs and ensure the best results. Marriage counseling is not a one-size-fits-all approach; it should be tailored to your needs.

Spend your money wisely.

Most couples want to save money and feel like they are getting a good deal, but at the end of the day, you get what you pay for. Think of the cost of marriage counseling as an investment. If you put your money into a profitable investment, you will earn positive returns. Spending your money wisely by choosing a highly skilled professional ensures that you get results. You are not only increasing your chances for a positive outcome, you are also saving money in the long run.

Your relationship is what matters most!

You may have been together for some time, and your marriage has problems, but you love your partner so much that you still want to spend the rest of your life with them. A marriage counselor will help both of you look closely at your problems. Through marriage counseling, your marital life will be assessed, and you will understand any problems that exist and how they are impacting your relationship. You will open up and share your problems while the skills you gain—empathetic listening, understanding, and forgiving—heal your marriage. The most important thing is your own commitment and the will for personal growth, even during the most vulnerable of times.


John Gottman, Ph.D., (1999). The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy (Norton Professional Books), WW Norton & Company, Inc., p. 6.

Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (2015). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. Random House: New York.

How Successful Is Marriage Counseling?

First, let’s discuss the reasons that drive couples to seek marriage counseling. Many couples consider getting help when the tide is high and commit to marriage counseling when their issues are at their peak. Problems in marriages come in all shapes and sizes, the most common being physical and emotional abuse, infidelity, substance abuse, mental health problems, finances, and poor communication. However, there are also married couples who simply want to make their relationship stronger. Whatever the case, there are times when marriage counseling does not work, like when the physical and emotional safety of one or both partners is threatened. This is usually in cases of domestic violence. For a wide array of other problems, marriage counseling can be the solution.

Before committing to counseling, be clear about what you want from it. Most couples commit to marriage counseling after problems have been building up for months, or even years. It is no surprise that some professionals say the average couple waits six years longer than they should to begin marriage counseling. Therefore, it is important to know what you want from the beginning. Are you and your partner both committed to be truthful and to the process of saving your marriage, no matter how much work it takes? Or is one or both of you leading the marriage to a divorce? Answering the questions will help you define what success looks like and realize your goals for marriage counseling services.

Let’s have a look at the relevant research and see how successful marriage counseling is.

A study in 1991 compared the outcomes of two types of counseling on 55 couples and found out that between 58% and 61% of couples improved from the beginning of counseling to their follow-up 6 months after counseling finished.

According to research conducted by Lundblad and Hansson (2006), couples therapy contributed to improved relationships, improved individual mental health, and enhanced coping abilities for couples involved in the study. In fact, emotion-focused therapy (an experiential and evidence-based model for treating couples) is 75 percent effective, according to the American Psychological Association. In addition to your therapist using evidence-based models to improve your relationship, the success of marriage counseling is directly related to the dedication and commitment of both partners. Without participation from both partners during sessions, as well as outside of therapy, couples may not achieve the results they hope for.

Results from a 2010 study of 134 married couples with serious chronic distress show that 48% of the couples involved displayed clinically significant improvement at 5 years after receiving 26 weekly sessions.

Another study suggests that most married couples who take marriage counseling will have better immediate gains at the conclusion of counseling than 70-80% of couples who do not receive counseling. Other research suggests that marriage counseling has positive results on 70% of couples receiving counseling from a trained marriage counselor.

In a survey from the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, 98% of people said they received good or excellent therapy, while 97% said they got the help they needed. One study showed that 80% of those who made and retained gains over two years and even 100% of those who relapsed said that marriage counseling had a positive impact on them.

Finally, research on the treatment of couples in distress in 2012 revealed that that couples therapy positively impacts 70% of couples who receive it.

As you look at marriage counseling statistics and wonder whether marriage counseling will work for you and your partner, remember that most couples don’t go to counseling until their problems have become severe and their marriage is likely heading for divorce. For the best chance of repairing your marriage, you need to commit to marriage counseling as early as possible. While marriage counseling statistics for a particular method may look good, you need to understand that what works for other couples may or may not work for you and your partner. You need to consider yourself, your partner, your therapist, your specific marital problems, the environment you live in, finances, and other factors that can be difficult to determine. The outcome of marriage counseling cannot be calculated, but success comes down to your commitment and willingness to make it happen.

Types of Marriage Counseling

Now you may have questions about what type of marriage counseling is right for you. Research suggests that different problems are better treated by different kinds of therapy. First of all, it is important to look for a counselor who is experienced and highly qualified in the treatment that suits your needs. A well-educated and highly experienced professional will help you choose the best technique for your needs. Most counselors take an eclectic approach to marriage counseling, meaning that they borrow components from different treatment approaches to meet a couple’s needs. Below, you can find the most common therapeutic approaches to marriage counseling.

Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy

This approach focuses on emotional acceptance and behavioral changes, helping couples recognize their ineffective behaviors and the interactions that are harming their relationship.

Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT)

These techniques focus on a couple’s emotions, creating secure and safe attachment bonds, resilience, and healthy relationships.

Behavioral Couples Therapy (BCT)

BCT focuses on helping partners understand how their behavior influences each other. Statistics drawn from 30 randomized experiments comparing behavioral marital therapy (BMT) to no treatment suggest that behavioral couples therapy yields more benefits than no treatment.

Traditional Behavioral Couples Therapy (TBCT)

This approach focuses on creating stronger communication and enhancing both partners’ problem-solving skills.

Discernment Counseling

Discernment counseling addresses the needs of couples when one partner is considering divorce and the other wants to work on saving the marriage. The main purpose of discernment counseling is to clarify each partner’s thoughts and whether there is a desire to work on their marriage. If a couple chooses to work on their marriage, the counselor will proceed to a more extensive therapeutic plan.

The Gottman Approach

The Gottman approach helps couples build a stronger relationship by teaching partners to attune themselves to each other’s needs. The Gottman approach really helps partners grow in trust and commitment while learning to become more emotionally intelligent.

So, How Successful is Marriage Counseling?

Most marriages go through periods of severe crisis where divorce is a likely outcome. Statistics regarding marriage counseling can help you decide whether or not you want to commit to marriage counseling. Successful marriage counseling is determined by several other factors, such as how early the couple begins counseling, if the type of counseling chosen is ideal for their needs, and if they are both willing and fully committed to work hard to repair their marriage. Working hard to save your marriage requires commitment, will, and communication. Additionally, it requires that each partner contributes in a healthy, positive, and productive way. Also, success is more likely when you, your partner, and your counselor communicate honestly, truthfully, and openly with each other. Couples who communicate well with their counselors are most likely to achieve the desired results. Giving feedback while being open to receiving it will help you and your counselor know what does and does not work for you and address concerns you may encounter along the way.

Increase Your Chances of Success With These Tips

There are things couples can do to ensure success in marriage counseling. First of all, marriage counseling takes a lot of work and requires constant effort from both partners. Many couples receive counseling for two or three sessions and expect miracles. If they don’t see an improvement, they quit. If you quit counseling too soon, therapy will not work, and it’s likely that neither will your marriage.

Also, couples often go into counseling with common goals, but during the course of their sessions, one partner is focusing on how to fix their partner or what they are not getting from their partner. If you go into counseling with this mindset, how can you focus on your own growth? How can you learn to be patient and assertive? How can you be open and expressive? It doesn’t matter if you feel that it’s unfair. Marriage counseling provides an opportunity for both partners to grow and improve. You are only responsible for yourself. Your partner will be responsible for him or herself.

Always commit to marriage counseling with realistic expectations. Just like unrealistic expectations may have led your marriage to the point of destruction, unrealistic expectations for counseling will affect therapy, too. Don’t expect miracles from one day to another, and don’t expect your partner to fix your marriage on their own. This also rings true when you are looking at the numbers. What you can take away from the statistics is that marriage counseling can really help you and your partner improve your marriage. But it is just that. Don’t expect miracles. Like anything else, marriage counseling pays off when you work constantly and not just during the sessions. Even after ending therapy, you and your partner still need to put in daily effort not to let your marriage deteriorate again.


Andrew Christensen, Ph.D., et al., (2010). “Marital Status and Satisfaction Five Years Following a Randomized Clinical Trial Comparing Traditional Versus Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 78 (2).

Douglas K. Snyder, Ph.D., et al., (1991). “Long-Term Effectiveness of Behavioral Versus Insight-Oriented Marital Therapy: A 4-Year Follow-Up Study,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 59 (1).

John Gottman, Ph.D., (1999). The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy (Norton Professional Books), WW Norton & Company, Inc., P. 6.

Lebow JL, Chambers AL, Christensen A, Johnson SM. (2012). Research on the treatment of couple distress. J Marital Fam Ther.; 38(1):145-168. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0606.2011.00249.x.

Lundblad, A. M., & Hansson, K. (2006). Couples therapy: effectiveness of treatment and long‐term follow‐up. Journal of family therapy, 28(2), 136-152.

Marriage and Family Therapist: The Family-Friendly Mental Health Professionals,

Shadish, W. R., & Baldwin, S. A. (2003). Meta-analysis of MFT interventions. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 29, 547–570.

How Does Marriage Counseling Work?

How does marriage counseling work? How does it help? These are big questions, and the answer depends on many factors outside the therapist’s office. It is a fact that 50 percent of married couples have gone to marriage counseling with their spouse at least once (MNU, 2017).

Like someone lost at sea, many couples know when they want their marriage to end or when to fix it, but they don’t have the tools or the guidance to get there. Marriage counseling is proven to be a successful tool for healing a relationship and saving a marriage from divorce. If you are ready to fight to keep your marriage alive, marriage counseling could be the choice for you. But, to make this happen, you need to explore why people start therapy to understand how it helps, and where to seek help.     

Myths About Marriage Counseling

Myth: Only dysfunctional married couples need counseling.

Fact: While most couples go to a therapist when their relationship is approaching a dead end, there are many benefits to improving your marriage through prevention, and having a safe place to talk things out (Ginsberg, 1997). Having a safe place to open up about your feelings, needs, and wants can solve key issues in your marriage, even if you’re not heading for divorce.

Myth: Seeking help from a therapist is a sign of weakness.

Fact: Seeking help from a therapist is a sign of strength because, while it’s not easy, you need to open up and reveal your sensitivities and thoughts.

Myth: A therapist won’t help me.

Fact: A nonjudgmental therapist and their professional expertise will help you share what is going on and how you feel about your marriage.

Myth: Therapists do not have anything to say.

Fact: While therapists are good listeners, they also have the expertise and knowledge to help you overcome your issues by teaching you communication skills and helping you use the tools that you and your partner need to have a successful and happy marriage. Therapists are highly-trained professionals who will challenge your thinking and help you adopt healthier, realistic cognitive and behavioral patterns in your marriage.

Myth: Therapists always take the side of one of the partners.

Fact: During marriage counseling, therapists address problems, gather information from both partners, and judge only the situation and not the individual partners, seeking the best for both partners by maintaining a neutral stance.

Statistics on Marriage Counseling

Marriage counseling has been shown to significantly reduce relationship distress (Locke & Wallace 1959) and improve relationship satisfaction, communication skills, and general well-being (Hahlweg & Klann, 1997; Lundblad & Hansson, 2004; KKlann et al., 2011).

Furthermore, a 2017 study examined the effectiveness of couples therapy in a group of veterans and found it to be effective, with relationships still improved after 18 months, while another study from the same year showed improvements in relationships lasting 24 months after treatment (Nowlan et al., 2017; Wiebe et al., 2017)

Why Married Couples Ask for Help

Many couples falsely believe that they will not benefit from counseling because their issues are “not so bad.” You don’t have to be in crisis or struggling with infidelity in your marriage to ask for help. It is better to deal with problems in your marriage proactively, before they get even harder to overcome.

On the other hand, there are people who decide against counseling because their relationship emotionally ended some time ago. In reality, it doesn’t matter whether marital problems are simple or complicated; if a problem between you and your partner is causing trouble in your life, marriage counseling is a good option.

Here are some common reasons people seek help from a marriage counselor:

– Premarital counseling.

– Communication problems.

– Lack of an emotional or physical connection.

– Intimacy issues.

– Infidelity.

– Complicated family matters.

– Lack of trust.

– Divorce.

These are just some of the reasons couples seek help. As time passes, married couples inevitably deal with problems in their relationship that they didn’t have before. Don’t let a sense of shame or the fact that your relationship doesn’t have serious issues keep you away from the help you deserve to improve your marriage and your mental health.

Ways Marriage Counseling Can Help You

The truth is that only you and your partner can save your marriage. Marriage counseling is a unique, if not the best, tool to assist you in your journey to a better, stronger relationship, but the choice is always essentially yours. Think of your therapist as a guide and the counseling process as a map. They will help you reach your destination, but you have a long way to go. Whether your marriage is saved or not depends on various factors, and is ultimately up to you.

Marriage counseling is frequently used to help couples improve their communication skills, explore differences in their communication styles, and develop new, more successful ways to communicate. This leads to positive changes that can have a great positive effect on your marriage.

Many married couples seek the help of a therapist when they feel that their marriage is in crisis. For example, a couple who used to feel emotionally and physically connected may now they feel that they have lost this connection. This is not unusual, but this concern usually leads to other issues, including infidelity. A good therapist can help a couple look at the big picture and collaborate in ways that will enhance intimacy and marital bonding.

Married couples also seek marriage counseling to overcome instances of infidelity. When one or both partners are unfaithful in the marriage, the results can be disastrous. Even when a partner decides to stay and work their issues, the anger, dissatisfaction, and resentment will undermine the. Marriage counseling provides support during this process so that you can overcome emotional and physical infidelity.

Counseling will help you trust in each other again, especially when you have trust issues in your marriage. It may be hard to lean on your partner and trust them, especially after things that have happened in the past. Your therapist will help you leave behind the things that hurt you and rebuild trust in each other.

Finally, marriage counseling can help you set boundaries within your marriage in order to stop negative behaviors from threatening the relationship. Both partners should feel free to express their needs and wants, together with the limitations regarding to what they will accept from their partner.

What Does the Counseling Process Involve?

Marriage counseling does not require a specific number of visits, but rather is tailored to each couple’s needs. Most marriage counseling can be completed in anywhere from 12 to 20 sessions. Couples usually attend sessions once a week for about an hour.

During the first session, your therapist will review the therapeutic process, confidentiality, and costs. After that, your therapist will take the time to get to know both of you and the nature of your relationship. During this phase, your therapist will gather information regarding your relationship, also called your relationship history, and ask about concerns you may have regarding your relationship. You, your partner, and your therapist, will lay out goals for treatment. In this phase. you should get comfortable and start talking about yourselves. The evaluation of your relationship will include what is stressing your relationship, the nature of your conflicts, strengths and weaknesses, and any dysfunctional behavioral patterns in your relationship.

You and your partner, with the help of your therapist, will set realistic goals,  from learning how to be more empathetic to figuring out new ways to negotiate problems or deciding how to share household and parental responsibilities. Your counselor will use a variety of therapeutic techniques until your goals are met or until you reach a point where either you or the therapist want to terminate treatment.

In the next sessions, also known as the “working phase” of treatment, you can expect to improve your communication and understanding of your partner as your therapist assists you in exploring new ways to interact with each other. During this phase, in addition to in-session practice, expect to take home assigned activities designed to facilitate a faster change and improvement in the skills and behaviors learned in your sessions.

Finally, during the closing phase of treatment, your therapist will review the work you have done in therapy—as individuals, but also as a couple, and work with you to maintain the progress you’ve achieved. Problems arise in everyday life, so during this phase of counseling, you will ensure that after ending therapy, you will have the appropriate tools to deal with these problems as a team.

Signing up for marriage counseling can be hard, but if you have a troubled marriage, seeking help is more effective than ignoring your problems or waiting for them to get better on their own. Sometimes, taking the first step by admitting that your marriage needs help is the hardest part, but most couples find the experience to be empowering and a savior for their marriage.


Ginsberg, B. G. (1997). Relationship enhancement family therapy. New York: Wiley.

Hahlweg K, Klann N. The effectiveness of marital counseling in Germany: a contribution to health services research. J Fam Psychol. 1997;11:410–421.

Locke HJ, Wallace KM. Short marital adjustment and prediction tests: their reliability and validity. Marriage Fam Living. 1959;21:251–255. doi: 10.2307/348022.

Lundblad A-M, Hansson K. Outcomes in couple therapy: reduced psychiatric symptoms and improved sense of coherence. Nord J Psychiatry. 2004;59:374–380.

Nowlan, Kathryn & Georgia Salivar, Emily & Doss, Brian. (2017). Long-Term Effectiveness of Treatment-as-Usual Couple Therapy for Military Veterans. Behavior Therapy. 48. 10.1016/j.beth.2017.05.007.

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Wiebe, Stephanie & Johnson, Susan & Lafontaine, Marie-France & Moser, Melissa & Dalgleish, Tracy & Tasca, Giorgio. (2016). Two-Year Follow-up Outcomes in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy: An Investigation of Relationship Satisfaction and Attachment Trajectories. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. 43. 10.1111/jmft.12206.

Is Marriage Counseling Covered by Health Insurance?

Marriage counseling is not one specific approach that fits all couples. Therefore, if your requirements are different, the costs  may be different, too. Many counselors charge a fixed cost for all couples, while others charge based on a couple’s household income. It is not cheap to undergo marriage counseling, especially if long-term counseling is needed, but in general, therapy is less expensive than a divorce.

What is the average cost of marriage counseling?

First, how much does marriage counseling cost on average? Some professionals charge one session as one hour, so the hourly cost is also the cost per session. Others offer complete packages and bill accordingly. Marriage counseling can range anywhere from $80 to $275 per session, depending on your therapist’s level of training and experience. Most marriage counselors recommend at least 10 sessions (1 per week) and will most likely use the first couple of sessions to assess your marriage and the problems that concern you. Then, they will design a custom-made plan for you and your partner, depending on what they learned from the initial sessions. Therefore, the average cost of marriage counseling is $1,000 for 10 weeks of therapy, but could end up being anywhere between $800 and over $2,750.

Is marriage counseling covered by health insurance?

Most couples who seek marriage counseling are concerned whether their health insurance will cover it. Many couples would like to go through marriage counseling, but are worried about the cost and hope that their health insurance will cover it so they can get the help they need. Being able to use your insurance to cover the costs can make marriage counseling much more accessible and is preferable when dealing with your marital problems. Unfortunately, the answer is no. Insurance companies will not cover the cost of your marriage counselor unless at least one of the spouses is suffering from a mental health disorder. That means, in order for your health insurance to pay for your marriage counseling, either you or your partner need to have a diagnosable mental illness. Furthermore, your marriage counselor has an ethical commitment to resolve the symptoms of the diagnosed spouse, not focus on improving your marriage.

That means that the therapist will view one of you as the “identified patient” or “sick partner” and will help that person get “better.” Sometimes, when there are mental health issues involved, relationships do suffer, but generally, therapy aimed at a mental health disorder is not what most couples want when they seek marriage counseling. Furthermore, most therapists who bill health insurance companies are specialized in treating individuals with mental illnesses and are not licensed or trained to be marriage counselors. So, while you’ll have your bill paid by your health insurance company, your therapy would be focused on one of you, not on treating your marriage; otherwise, your counselor would be at risk of committing insurance fraud.

Basically, keeping all the above aspects in mind, someone could use their health insurance to cover the costs of therapy. However, most couples are not looking for disorder-focused treatment, but for marriage counseling that will strengthen or repair their relationship. They want to learn new ways to communicate, enhance their emotional connection, improve their intimacy, and strengthen their bond.

5 Disadvantages of Having Your Health Insurance Cover Your Marriage Counseling

  • Finding a specialized marriage counselor through health insurance.

Accessing therapy through health insurance requires one of the partners to be diagnosed with a mental illness, and therefore, that therapy will be focused on treating them. Therefore, therapy will be focused on the individual and their problem instead on the marriage and the problems you really want to solve. These professionals specialize in pathology and therapy for mental health disorders, and thus, you are less likely to find a professional who is a licensed marriage counselor and knows how to properly treat your marital problems in a focused way.

  • Your medical record will show a diagnosed mental health disorder.

Covering the costs of marriage counseling sounds good, but the truth is that if you have a mental health disorder on your medical record, you may face issues in your professional life, especially if you are a high-level professional like a pilot, a law enforcement officer, or a doctor. In fact, a University of Illinois study revealed that half of Fortune 500 corporations admitted to using employee medical records in making employment decisions, 20 percent of which did not inform the employee. Don’t let your mental health record shape your future for the sake of paying for marriage counseling.

  • Confidentiality issues and concerns.

Did you know that therapists and counselors can share the information discussed in therapy sessions with insurance companies? Would you be okay with him or her sharing intimate information about your marriage, like your problems with sex, affairs, and so on? You’re probably thinking, “No!” That’s another reason couples should not use health insurance to cover their therapy; counselors who are working with insurance companies often have to disclose confidential information about what is being discussed in the sessions when they submit their billable notes. This can end up being problematic and can feel invasive for most couples, since marriage counseling explores sensitive topics such as affairs, substance use, and sexuality, to name just a few.

  • Labeling one partner as the “sick” or “problematic” person.

When a couple is undergoing therapy under the terms of their health insurance, there is a risk that one of the spouses will be labeled as the “problematic” partner and the one responsible for the problems in their marriage. Furthermore, it may affect the other partner’s will and commitment to do their part in therapy to repair the relationship.

  • Insurance limits the number of sessions you can attend.

Using health insurance to pay for marriage counseling places one important limitation: you have a specific number of sessions that you can enjoy with one counselor. Many couples require long-term therapy because of the nature of their problems, but their marriage counseling may have to end too soon because they have a limited number of sessions available through their insurance company. Counseling takes time to treat a marriage, therefore, short-term sessions may not work and won’t be worth your time and effort.

You get what you pay for. The same applies to therapy.

We all get excited when we think we can use our insurance benefits for freebies, but unfortunately, this means that many couples have to settle for any therapist who is able to see them. Too many of these so-called therapists have no training or experience as marriage counselors, yet they accept couples for treatment. When couples trust these therapists to fix their relationship, they may not see the life-changing results they were hoping for. In the end, while worrying about the cost of marriage counseling, these couples often end up worrying about the financial consequences of divorce, instead. Consider whether marriage counseling through your health insurance is really worth it. Here are some tips to help you with your decision:

  • Read the contract thoroughly. Most people do not read their contracts because they seem too lengthy and technical, but it is important to read the contract thoroughly to understand your rights and obligations and to understand how insurance works. If you’re having difficulty understanding the terms, ask your insurance company to clarify the contract.
  • Consider the costs of marriage counseling versus the expenses of a divorce. The costs can vary depending on which counselor you see and what treatment program you choose. Marriage counseling is cheaper and healthier in the long run. Divorces end up traumatizing the spouses and kids and incur expenses like monthly child support and alimony. Gathering information from both counselors and lawyers will definitely help you choose where to invest your money.

Is marriage counseling worth the cost if you are the one paying?

If you are teetering between getting a divorce or treating your marriage through marriage counseling, go with counseling. Marriage counseling is always cheaper and much more emotionally fulfilling. You will get the opportunity to learn about yourselves as a couple and become better partners. Let’s look at the cost of couples therapy from a different angle. The average cost of a divorce in the state of North Carolina is roughly $13,100. This includes attorney fees, the cost of maintaining separate households, childcare, and the list goes on. You will have to fight over your house, your cars, and your savings and other belongings. On top of all that is the emotional trauma placed on your kids—and we still haven’t mentioned about alimony or child support.

As you can see, divorce should be avoided unless your safety is at risk. Even if you are about to give up, give it one more chance and go to marriage counseling with your partner. It will be worth it if you can get things back on track.

Let’s say you and your partner decide to invest in marriage counseling. You are looking to invest in weekly 60-minute sessions priced at $100 per session. At the end of treatment, your total will be $1,000, compared to the thousands of dollars involved in the average divorce. Regardless of whether your health insurance does or does not cover marriage counseling, you should still consider the other options open to you. Talk with professionals from both fields (both marriage counselors and lawyers) and weigh your options. Getting your relationship back is the most valuable payoff of all.


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