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.

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.

The State of Marriage Counseling [Study] (2017). https://www.mnu.edu/graduate/blogs-ideas/the-state-of-marriage-counseling-study.

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.