What a Marriage Counselor Should Not Say

While some reports show that marriage counseling has a positive impact on 70% of couples, the journey to healing your relationship is not always easy. Even if you and your partner agree that therapy is the best move, the connection you have with your counselor can profoundly impact the health of your relationship with your partner as well. It’s hard enough to find a therapist in the first place, and then it can also be difficult to know how to evaluate them. It is also not common for couples that are new to counseling to know that they can leave their therapist, and find a new one. They are ultimately there to serve you and your needs, not the other way around. That is what has motivated us to create this piece on marriage counseling: what not to say. We want couples to have more confidence in being able to identify if they are in the right place to heal their relationship. 

What Are the Signs of a Bad Couples Therapist?

It can be easy to attribute the problems with couples therapy to the pair seeking help. This can lead couples to stay with the wrong therapist much longer than they should. Let’s take a look at some of the signs of a bad couples therapist.

  • Uses Too Much Jargon: Your therapist is not there to confuse you and show off that they have a degree. The language they use in sessions should be to help you discover the root cause of your issue(s) and progress to a positive future. The best help a counselor can give you is to guide you and your spouse through whatever challenges your marriage is facing without resorting to jargon that you don’t understand.
  • Has Little or No Structure: Couples therapy needs to be conducted in a structured environment, with a clear cut plan and a positive end goal for the relationship. Before you meet with a counselor, ask them how they structure their sessions. They need to step in and give ample time for each person to speak their mind. There are too many emotions in play for a therapist to sit back and let the couple talk in circles for the whole session.
  • Treats All Couples the Same: Inexperienced counselors will use similar treatment methods from couple to couple. While some healthy habits and practices can be recommended to couples across various circumstances, you want your therapist to treat your unique situation as such. The special dynamics of your relationship may fit a certain strategy on paper, but the right therapist will customize their process to fit your situation.
  • Is Not Marriage-Friendly: Whether or not you are married, counselors that push for divorce or breaking up as the top solution for your relationship may be too focused on you as an individual and not as a couple. So, what does marriage-friendly counseling look like? Other therapists may practice what is called “marriage-neutral counseling.” This means the therapist will take a neutral approach toward whether or not you and your partner should stay together. Within these kinds of sessions, it is not uncommon for the counselor to encourage couples to split up rather than put in the work to better their relationship. 

Can Couples Counseling Make Things Worse?

Simply put no, marriage counseling will not make things worse. The catch is that both parties must be willing to put in the work to fix the issues. However, there are therapists that can cause damage to your marriage and even you and your partner’s mental health. It all comes down to your work and how well you and your partner connect with your counselor. Although it’s not always easy to spot the signs of an ineffective counselor, if something feels off, talk to your partner and listen to yourself if the sessions just are not feeling right. Perhaps you’ll discover you’ve both been searching online, “when to stop marriage counseling” because neither of you feels you’ve made any progress after numerous sessions.

This can all sound a bit bleak, but before you jump the ship on counseling altogether, a shift in who you go to might be all the change you need. For example, if you feel your current counselor is discussing divorce too much, it would be a good idea to go to a team that practices marriage-friendly therapy like Well Marriage Center.

What are the Signs Marriage Counseling is Working?

 With a better understanding of what a bad situation can be, here are some clues that your counselor is a good fit: 

  • It Feels like Collaboration: You should feel like the therapist is on your team. For example, are they asking the right questions, are they truly wanting to get to know you both, do they demonstrate a good understanding of your relationship after multiple sessions, and are they focusing on the strengths of your relationship? If your couples therapist is taking sides, that is a sign that healing in your relationship will likely not occur. 
  • You Don’t Dread Going: If you and your partner are excited about going to therapy to work on creating the best situation, that is a great sign it is going well. Dreading going to counseling because you feel like all it does is start conflict could mean that your current session environment is not conducive to healing the relationship. 
  • You Are Doing the Work at Home: It is a great sign if all the hard work both of you put in does not end when you leave the session. You should be excited to put what you have been learning and practicing in therapy into action. When your therapist gives you a mindfulness activity to try the next time an argument starts, both parties should be excited to pause and implement it. 

Well Marriage Center: Where Happy Futures Begin

When you invest in relationship counseling with one of our therapists at Well Marriage Center, you can trust you’re getting paired with certified therapists that have a wide range of treatment frameworks. It can also put your mind at ease that all of our therapists have dedicated their careers to solely helping couples forward.  It is always beneficial to have a marriage counselor in your community: one who is deeply experienced with the nuances of committed partner relationships and who wants to see your marriage succeed and thrive. 

Contact us today to set up a consultation with our Intake Coordinator, Melinda. She is ready and waiting to answer any questions you may have to ensure you are matched with the right counselor. 

 

What Not to Say During Couples Counseling?

Before you decide to go to marriage counseling, it can seem a bit overwhelming. What are the right things to say? Is there anything you shouldn’t say? Of course, these fears can get in the way of open and honest communication between you and your partner. But couples counseling is about working together, and some things shouldn’t be said—like accusatory statements or hurtful comments. So, when it comes to marriage counseling and what not to say, it’s important to remember that it is a team effort and everyone’s feelings should be considered and respected. 

Most often, couples don’t feel worse after marriage counseling. In fact, it can be incredibly successful—75% of couples, on average, are able to rekindle their relationship through couples therapy. In this blog, we’ll talk about one of the common marriage counseling issues: communication.

3 Things You Should Never Say to Your Partner

In marriage counseling, tensions can get high when confronting complex  issues head on, even with a plan and a great  therapist. It’s important to remember that even in the heat of the moment, you should never attack or accuse your significant other. Remember the saying that you can’t take back what you say? That stands true, especially in vulnerable situations like couples therapy. While voicing your concern is important,  there are productive ways to speak with your partner, even in tense situations. Here are a few things you should never say to your partner. 

1. Attacks

In the heat of the moment, it might be tempting to say something you know will hurt your significant other’s feelings. Whether that’s something like “You’re so selfish!” or “I wish I never met you!” it’s important to approach those feelings in a constructive way. Attacks only produce resentment, hostility, and more distance. In a counseling session, the counselor should guide you through a productive discussion that avoids attacks and instead leads you to voice your frustrations in effective ways. 

2. Accusations

Accusing your significant other of things like intentionally hurting you or even “If you really loved me, you’d do x for me!” can place a huge burden on a relationship. If you have concerns about the way your partner approaches certain issues, you can make that known through techniques like the “I feel” statement. Try, “I feel…frustrated and overwhelmed when you don’t help me clean the house,” instead of, “You need to help me clean the house!” Of course, a marriage counselor can help you navigate those feelings and communicate them clearly and in a non-accusatory way. 

3. Blame

It might be tempting to make your partner feel guilty by bringing up something hurtful they’ve done in the past. But blaming them for how you feel isn’t fair. Significant others can hurt your feelings, but it’s often not an intentional outcome. Imagine you were out with friends and forgot to text that you were safe, and your partner’s response was telling you, “You must not love me because you don’t respect me and my feelings.” That’s a pretty harsh response to an honest mistake. Marriage counseling can help you avoid these reactions and fill your communication toolbox with healthy responses and approaches.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but avoiding these main three things is essential to building trust and healthy communication styles. You should aim to discuss things with your partner in a way that leads to healing inside and outside of the counseling session.  Well Marriage Center offers you several resources for the dos and don’ts of marriage counseling, so you can feel confident in your decision to work with a licensed therapist.  We want to help you renew your relationship and build communication skills in a safe and comfortable environment. 

What Should I Not Tell a Marriage Counselor

Being completely honest with your partner and therapist can be nerve-wracking. Vulnerability is tough to manage, but with a therapist, you should be able to explore your feelings more openly. Marriage counseling is a joint therapy plan that helps you navigate your relationship with someone else, which can be paired with individual sessions so you have the opportunity to share your feelings in both settings. You should always be honest with your counselor. They are there to help you, even if you sometimes disagree with their suggestions. 

While couples counseling is built to be open and honest with your partner, a therapist might inform your partner of something you’ve said individually. Counselors are there to help you and your partner figure things out together, not take sides. You shouldn’t expect to tell a therapist a secret during a session that you want to be kept from your partner. However, the urge to keep secrets might be a good thing to discuss with your therapist. They can help you plan a healthier way of dealing with or communicating secrets and feelings.

Strengths-Based Marriage Counseling

At Well Marriage Center, we believe in focusing on the strengths of your relationship. Marriage counseling is about finding renewal and success in your partnership, not tearing each other down. Our experience helping over 15,000 couples can lead you through communication, trauma, sex, forgiveness, and other issues affecting your marriage. If you want to begin your counseling journey today, fill out the intake form to connect with Melinda, our Intake Coordinator. We will tailor a plan specifically for your relationship to help you get the most out of your counseling.

What Should I Not Tell a Marriage Counselor?

All relationships go through phases. Sometimes, you’re perfectly in sync with your partner and your personalities just click. You are open when communicating with each other, and you are excited to celebrate their wins or weather their losses together. Then there are times when you can’t seem to agree on anything. Whether it’s spending habits or how they chew, sometimes your partner just irritates you. There are also the times in between, when you and your partner settle into your routines. You may start to feel more like coworkers and roommates while doing chores, running errands, or raising kids and pets. Whichever stage you’re in, you’re not alone. Couples across the globe struggle to keep the spark alive when everyday life gets in the way.

And, while you’re not alone in your experience, you also don’t have to be alone in working toward a more solid relationship. That’s where marriage counseling comes in. In fact, 49% of couples have attended some form of counseling with their partner, even if they aren’t married. A growing number of couples are seeing the benefits that sessions can have on their relationships, such as improving communication, identifying the root causes of conflicts, and strengthening emotional and physical intimacy. Yet, it’s not uncommon to feel hesitant to open up about your private life to a professional. Lacking answers to questions like “What do you say at marriage counseling?” and “Why does marriage counseling fail?” can prevent couples from seeking help, even when they truly need it. 

At Well Marriage Center, our goal is to make the benefits of couples therapy accessible to all, so we’ve put together this guide on marriage counseling: what not to say

What Not To Say During Couples Counseling?

While you shouldn’t hide anything from your couples therapist, there are certain phrases or ways of saying things that will harm your relationship further instead of healing it. Oftentimes, these phrases are ways of lashing out about problems rather than identifying and working to solve them, which causes both sides to feel worse after marriage counseling. Here’s a list of phrases you should avoid in favor of more reflective ones:  

“No, You’re Wrong…”

While both you and your partner should feel comfortable expressing how you feel, shutting down the other party’s perspective or playing the blame game closes off communication and leaves no room for growth. The same situation could be interpreted completely differently by you and your partner. If they start to open up about what they experienced and you interrupt with “You’re wrong,” you won’t get the chance to understand their perspective. You don’t necessarily have to agree with your partner’s version of events, but it helps to know what they are in order to get to the root cause of your disconnect. 

“Don’t Tell My Partner This…”

You don’t want to create a situation with your couples therapist taking sides. Asking your therapist to keep a secret from your partner can put them in a tricky situation. Should they take your side and keep your secret or should they take your partner’s side—revealing your secret and possibly compromising the relationship while betraying your trust? If you have information that you aren’t sure how to share with your partner, however, it is okay to ask your therapist to help create a plan to have that conversation. 

“I’m Done. I Want a Divorce.”

Often, this is purely an expression of frustration and a way to try to make your partner feel small. We can tell because if you really wanted to end the relationship, you would be meeting with a divorce lawyer instead of a couples therapist. Instead of this phrase that can only result in your partner getting defensive or shouting back the same, it’s more constructive to explain the feelings behind those words. Are you struggling to believe that things could get better, or has your partner hurt you in a way that you don’t feel you can move on from?  

What Do You Say During Marriage Counseling?

If you find yourself ready to lash out with words that you hope will do some damage, then you should say something different. When you feel like using any of the above phrases, here’s a list of what you could say instead:

“No, You’re Wrong…”

  • Instead, say “I understand why you feel this way, but I had a different experience during this situation.”

“Don’t Tell My Partner This…”

  • Instead, say “I’m not sure how to tell my partner this. Can you help me bring this up once our relationship is strong enough?”

“I’m Done. I Want a Divorce.”

  • Instead, say “I don’t feel that you’re trying to understand my concerns as we work on our relationship.”

Using these alternative phrases doesn’t just help prevent tense situations from escalating, they can also help you rekindle your trust and respect. Choosing to not be reactive gives you the chance to learn more about your partner and their experience, which can bring you closer to one another. 

Relationships Are Hard. Navigate the Ups and Downs with Well Marriage Center. 

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may be sound advice for your garage door, but it isn’t for your relationship. Even if you aren’t experiencing major problems in your relationship, couples therapy can still benefit you and your partner by opening up communication. At Well Marriage Center, we view couples therapy as preventative care. We help you uncover and deal with underlying challenges in your relationship so you can fix them early or heal from unresolved issues. 

That’s why we’ve made getting started with a couples therapist easy. All you have to do is schedule an initial consultation online with our Intake Coordinator, Melinda. Then we create a customized plan to help you meet your goals through consistent appointments. Are you ready to build the foundation for a more healthy, intimate relationship? Schedule an appointment to get started! 

Marriage Counseling: What Not To Say

Beginning marriage counseling means you are committed to doing hard work to restore your relationship. That work includes speaking your truth about hopes, fears, hurts, and happiness. Reigniting joy in your relationship requires clearing some debris along with rekindling the spark. Counseling is meant to be a safe space where you can express your needs and frustrations. But bringing trauma and challenges to the table means you and/or your partner might already be walking on eggshells trying to avoid making things worse. You might be so afraid of saying the wrong thing that you don’t want to say anything at all.

Are there things you should not tell the therapist, but wait to discuss with your partner in private? Are there things you should keep to yourself and not tell anyone for the sake of getting along? Will your honest answers to the marriage counseling session questions do more harm than good? These questions and others might be circling in your brain, losing you sleep, and increasing your anxiety as the appointment date gets closer and closer. 

Pause. 

It’s totally natural and healthy to feel these concerns and generally be nervous about the first marriage counseling session. Now, take a breath. Well Marriage Center has put together this guide to help you prepare for the journey ahead. After reading this, you will be better-equipped to balance your statements in the moment with your long-term goals for the relationship. We want to support you in making your own best judgments about what to say to both the therapist and your partner, when to say it so it can be constructive, and how to say it with love. 

What Do You Talk About in Marriage Counseling?

When you start marriage counseling, what to expect can be a little confusing. You might worry that the main topic of discussion during marriage counseling will be all your problems and everything negative that has happened in your relationship so far. If you are working with a less-experienced counselor or a therapist who does not specialize in couples therapy, they might even mistakeningly guide you in this direction. But only talking about the problems is itself a problem. While you can’t address and move past your issues without talking about them, you should also talk about positives. 

At Well Marriage Center, we employ a strengths-based approach, taking the time to learn what you admire about one another, what drew you together, and what has kept you together despite difficulties. Our counselors respect your desire to preserve and strengthen your relationship, and work to heal and restore the connection between you and your partner. 

One of the biggest signs of a good couples therapist is that they do not take a one-size-fits-all approach to their work. What you talk about will depend on what brought you into counseling to begin with. And whatever the subject of discussion, you deserve a therapist who is as committed to fighting to protect your relationship as you are. What Statements Cause Problems With Couples Therapy?

There are statements from both the participants and the therapist that can cause problems with couples therapy. Let’s start with some of the things you should not say.

  1. “It’s your fault…”

There are many issues and challenges that bring couples to therapy, and some come with blame from one or both sides. Infidelity, lack of intimacy, disconnection…both parties in the relationship might tell a different story about why these situations have come to pass. In each of these scenarios and others, the initial fault or bad action might even lie with one partner over the other. But part of the work of therapy is understanding the broader dynamics of your relationship. Once a couple works past the need to place blame, they can release bitterness and begin to heal. Though it may sound scary to put a pause on blame, this is a liberating experience that can effectively reveal more strength in your relationship. All in all, continuing to focus on the faults of the past keeps you trapped in the old relationship that you are trying to repair and restore into something better than ever. 

  1. “Don’t tell my spouse/partner…”

It’s important to understand you should not expect your therapist to take sides. Asking your therapist to keep something a secret from your partner or spouse is a request which can actively hold back your healing. If there is something you do not want your partner to know, but you do want the counselor to know, it’s important to explore why that is. What are you worried might happen if this secret becomes known in the relationship? Talking through what you want to keep hidden in the safe space of therapy can help you and your spouse deal with the emotional pain, questions, and/or fears that are driving your hesitation. 

In some cases, it might still be a good idea to talk with your therapist individually about big reveals you would like to make. Past infidelity that is not known to your partner, hidden feelings and experiences–these can require planning to make known, and it might be the opinion of your therapist that more healing is needed before certain things come out. It’s not to say that a therapist will keep your secret, but they can help you plan bringing it to light in a positive way that does not further damage your relationship.

  1. “I want a divorce/breakup.”

Since marriage counseling is a safe space to express your feelings, you might wonder why this statement is something you should not say. Ultimately, if you do want a divorce, or a breakup for those who are in couples therapy while dating, then this might already be known to the spouses and counselor. But continuing to repeat it reflects that therapy may not be working. 

More often, we find that when this statement is made during a counseling session, it is a threat coming from a place of deep distress and frustration. While you might later decide you did not mean this statement, your partner will remember what you said and might even take you seriously. Your marriage counselor is on your side to help solve and work through negative feelings within the relationship to preserve the good while healing the bad. Threatening to end the relationship in the middle of counseling is expressly working against this effort. 

There are also some things your therapist should not say. Your therapist should never be the one to tell you that your relationship needs to end. They should also never say anything that makes you feel judged,, belittled, or otherwise unsupported. At Well Marriage Center, we practice marriage-friendly counseling, listening to your specific mutual needs, goals, and concerns to tailor an approach that can help you and your partner find your way back to each other.

How To Handle Feeling Attacked in Couples Therapy

Feeling criticized is one of the four main predictors of relationship unhappiness, according to Dr. John Gottman, a foundational researcher in the field of relationships. Dr. Gottman also researched defensiveness that emerges when we feel attacked. When you speak up to defend yourself against the perceived attack, your partner then speaks up in defense of their initial criticism, trapping you each in your own perspectives trying to prove you are innocent. Luckily, in addition to describing these dynamics with his research, Dr. Gottman also came up with an Antidote to Defensiveness:

  1. Seek the truth within the criticism. When criticism is given, it’s because your partner has something important they are trying to tell you. What is that?
  2. Give the benefit of the doubt. Your partner is not trying to make you feel bad about yourself. In fact, the criticism might be more about what they are feeling than what you did or did not do. 
  3. Validate your partner’s perception, even if you do not agree. Telling them they are wrong or becoming argumentative/defensive is only going to deepen the rift in the relationship. You don’t have to agree with their perspective, but you do have to accept that it exists. 
  4. Tell your partner what you can agree with. Are they right about a way you behaved, an outcome that occurred, or something that could have gone differently? Repeating back something they said lets them know you were listening. 
  5. Bring up your difference of opinion. Of course, your feelings are equally valid and deserve to be equally heard. Leaving this part until last allows you time to process and avoid having too extreme of a reaction based on your defensive feelings.

Depending on the circumstances which have brought you to this point, it may be very difficult to validate your partner’s perception and accept the truth within criticism. Remember that when your partner is speaking, you should be listening to understand their perspective, not already planning what you will say in response. That work is exactly what experts like the therapists at Well Marriage Center are here to help you do!

How To Prepare for Marriage Counseling

As you get ready for marriage counseling, questions to strengthen your relationship and topics for conversation might be top of mind. Or you might be anxious about telling your side of the story or hearing your partner’s. Remember going in that it’s important to find the foundation in the strengths of the relationship. If the goal is to try to stay together, be ready to start by exploring why that is. Preparing for marriage counseling means preparing to welcome gratitude, respect, passion, and compassion back into your relationship. It won’t happen with the first session, but we have seen it happen for many couples. 

Contact Well Marriage Center for Effective Marriage Counseling

There are many factors that impact whether a certain marriage counselor is right for each couple. Well Marriage Center may not be right for everyone, but with a diverse group of specialists we do believe we can lend perspective to a tense, lonely relationship. We have 21 offices across the US, so it’s possible we might already be in your area or be delivering telehealth marriage counseling in your state. 

Our counselors study many different methods and schools of thought to deliver unique approaches that are tailored for each relationship. Sometimes the strengths-based model reminds a couple immediately why they continue to choose each other. When working through deeper trauma or infidelity, coping with the recent events might require strengths to be explored as they are revealed through the healing process. Whatever pace of treatment and specific tuning your relationship needs, Well Marriage Center is your partner on the journey to a fresh start. Our intake coordinator Melinda can work with you to answer any questions, learn more about what your needs are and match you with a therapist. Fill out this short intake form to get some time on the calendar and get started!

What Are Common Goals In Couples Therapy?

The idea of going to marriage counseling can feel like the first domino falling for a failing relationship, but this is a tired and untrue sentiment associated with the practice. Deciding that therapy is the right move for the health of your relationship is one of the best actions you can take as a couple. Our team at Well Marriage Center puts our all into helping couples establish healthy practices they can implement every day so that you can find your way back to one another. 

Every couple we see is unique. Some come in with goals and a plan to attack the hurdles in their relationship, and others feel that something is off but want a professional to talk with. Whether you are in one of these camps or another altogether, there is hope for your unique relationship. Our aim with this blog is to cover the more common goals related to couples counseling so you can go to your sessions with confidence and a plan of action. 

What Is The Most Common Problem Addressed In Couples Therapy?

There is not a single problem that comes up more often than others. Normally, we see a combination of elements that has led a couple to our offices:

  • Communication Issues
  • Emotional Disconnect
  • Affairs & Infidelity
  • Intimacy Issues
  • Significant Life Events
  • Overcoming & Processing Trauma

What Are Examples Of Goals For Therapy?

Therapy goals help outline each session and create a structured path towards a happy relationship. Here are several examples our therapists see that can lead to successful results. 

  • Identify the Root Cause of the Problem: Couples may come to our office for one major issue or a host of irritations, but there is usually more under the surface that has led them to this point. Finding the root of an issue will shed light on all the related topics that both parties need to address. For example, you may be frustrated that your partner never plans anything for both of you to do. But perhaps at the root, you find there is an imbalance of relationship responsibilities that neither of you has addressed head-on. 
  • Better Understand Your Partner’s Perspective: Everyone has a lot going on in their life, and it is easy to lose sight of one another. Therapy creates an environment where both of you sit and hear each other honestly. A past situation that seemed trivial to you could have had a profound emotional impact on your partner, turning a molehill into a mountain. Coming to counseling to understand each other more deeply is a fundamental goal that is a great indicator of success. 
  • Enhance Intimacy: Intimacy is vital, as we thrive on close personal relationships with one another. However, intimacy is often solely thought of as a sexual relationship between two people. Couples counseling will expose you to other types of intimacy, such as experiential, emotional, and intellectual intimacy. Couples can have great sexual intimacy, but if the other types are not being met, your relationship could lack key elements of trust and vulnerability.
  • Achieve Better Communication: It is not uncommon for someone to feel blindsided by couples therapy. In some cases, one party may be ignoring important issues and feel that the relationship is fine. This lack of communication is something consistent sessions can fix over time. Keeping what is bothering you bottled up will lead to festering resentment towards your partner. Therapy can teach you healthy and straightforward communication methods that help avoid meaningless arguments. 

Is It Normal For Unmarried Couples To Go To Counseling?

It is absolutely normal for unmarried couples to go to counseling. Regardless of your marital status, holding off on discussing issues can lead to other, more significant problems. This is only one of the many stigmas around couples counseling that we are working to do away with here at Well Marriage Center. Additionally, we believe that heading into couples therapy even before problems arise can help you build a foundation that lasts.

Practicing healthy communication through therapy at any stage in a relationship enables couples to be better equipped when challenges do arise. Think of it like this—couples therapy is like taking care of your body by going to the gym. You don’t start going after you pull a muscle or break a bone. You go before problems start to appear to ensure that you are capable of surviving, healing, and then moving on.

What Is The Best Therapy For Relationship Problems? 

There are many different forms of couples therapy that counselors will attempt to implement to fix complex relationship issues. Some counselors will keep divorce on the table early on as an option for the couple. That is not how our team sees a successful change for a couple. Well Marriage Center believes that couples enter counseling because they want to get their relationship back to a point where respect, love, and affection are front and center. The best way to achieve this is through what we call “marriage-friendly” counseling. A marriage-friendly counselor always advocates for saving, healing, and restoring your relationship. Our team uses clinically proven methods and is committed to avoiding divorce or separation whenever possible.

Well Marriage Center: Where Happily Ever After Begins

Your relationship is special, which is why we refrain from cookie-cutter questions like “what seems to be the problem?” Over our 30+ years of experience with over 15,000 couples, we’ve repeatedly seen our marriage-friendly and strength-based approach work. When we meet with a couple, we start with an extended session (90 minutes) and begin our time with a structured relationship strength-and-wellness assessment. Our counselors are committed to helping you build a brighter relationship future. 

Get started here to put the spark back in your relationship. 

What Questions Does a Marriage Counselor Ask?

So, you’re thinking about marriage counseling – that’s great! Marriage (or pre-marriage) counseling is a fantastic way to create or renew a healthy, happy relationship with your partner. But it can also feel like a big, scary step to take; especially if you’re new to therapy or your marriage is presenting big challenges. It’s okay to feel shy or unsure before you get started, but knowing what marriage counseling questions are most commonly asked can help alleviate much of this anxiety.

Let’s jump right in and see some examples of what questions are asked in marriage counseling so that you can better understand the process and feel of what will happen. 

What Questions Are Asked in Couples Counseling at the First Session?

In most cases, couples therapy (also called marriage counseling) will start with your counselor asking some basic questions about your relationship. There are several different approaches that can be taken with these first, groundwork questions with your therapist. We at Well Marriage Center use strengths-based marriage counseling techniques so the focus will be on the positives in your relationship rather than issues. Our first session begins with questions like:

  • What brought you two together?
  • What are some good times that you’ve had in your relationship?
  • What did you originally admire, enjoy, and respect about your partner?
  • What was your relationship like at the beginning?

After your counselor has a better understanding of the history of your relationship and what its strengths are, the first session will help identify some of the current issues you may be struggling with as a couple. These questions may be things like:

  • What are the current dynamics in your relationship?
  • What does it feel like for you in your present marriage?
  • How do you feel about the communication in your marriage now?

By answering these questions, you will help your therapist better understand the history and current state of your marriage. Next, let’s go through some of the issues that may come up in your sessions.

What Is the Most Common Problem Addressed in Couples Therapy?

One of the most common problems talked about in marriage counseling is communication. Teaching couples to speak honestly and respectfully to each other is often a top priority. Once a couple begins talking about the current challenges in their relationship, it is especially important that each partner feels safe and confident enough to share openly so they can get the most benefit from the counseling session. 

However, we know some issues in a relationship can seem impossible to discuss. The good news is that while each relationship is unique, there are marriage counseling questions to strengthen your relationship, and questions that do address the most common problems that other couples have experienced. If you’re curious how to prepare for couples counseling, consider these similar issues from other couples so you can begin your path back to a better relationship.

  • Communication
    • What ways do you think you communicate well, now or in the past?
    • What happens during a conversation that seems to make communication break down for you?
  • Sex and Intimacy
    • What parts of your sex life and intimacy are you happy with, now or in the past? 
    • What is something that could change that would make you more satisfied with intimacy in your relationship?
  • Money
    • What are your expectations when it comes to financial security?
    • What is your ideal way to discuss and make decisions about money as a couple?
  • Children and Parenting
    • What do you imagine as the right family size and age spread for you?
    • What are some parenting philosophies or examples you really look up to?

What Does a Marriage Counseling Session Look Like?

Just like every relationship is different, every marriage counseling session will also look a little different. It will depend on the personalities of the couple and the marriage counselor, the specifics of the relationship, the style of counseling, and where in the process everyone is. Here is an example of how our counseling sessions might look:

First Session

This discovery phase starts with a relationship strengths-and-wellness assessment before moving to what the challenges are for each person. This is an extended, 90 minute session.

Early Weekly Sessions

After the first session, it is common for couples to have weekly, 50 minute sessions so they are able to see fast progress in the relationship. These will focus on and are designed to help:

  • Stopping cycles of toxic behavior, like frequent arguments, conflicts, criticism and blame.
  • Creating positive momentum and reigniting “the spark” for disconnected or sexless couples.
  • Dealing with trauma in the relationship or for the individuals, like infidelity or loss. 

Later, Less Frequent Sessions

Once the major issues are addressed, therapy sessions become less frequent and delve into deeper work. At WellMarriage Center, we work closely with researchers and experts in their fields to help couples with topics like:

  • Emotionally focused couples therapy
  • Developmental model of couples therapy
  • Eroticism and Desire

WellMarriage: Relationship Specialists Who Make a Difference

Couples therapy can work wonders, and we want to help you have the great relationship you deserve! We have worked with over 12,000 couples and have the expertise, wisdom, and passion to help you and your partner get back on track. 

When both partners are invested in doing the work to improve their marriage, our approach empowers you to communicate better, resolve negative behavior patterns, and strengthen your relationship. Our marriage-positive counselors use a variety of proven techniques to let you spend less time in therapy and see the real results you’re looking for. The number one predictor of marriage therapy success is the experience of the therapist, and our therapists devote their entire careers on couples counseling, giving you the best chance for success.

Ready to get started? Spend just a few minutes on our website, filling out our intake form, and scheduling your consultation with Melinda, our Intake Coordinator. She will take you through the steps of our process, connect you to the best counselor for your situation, and answer whatever questions you might still have.

50 Marriage Counseling Questions for Before and During Marriage

Marriage counseling—to some, it indicates failure. To others, it’s a sign of hope. And to many, it’s new and unknown territory, one that might have you Googling “marriage counseling tips” or “ground rules for couples therapy” on your phone in the middle of the night. 

At Well Marriage Center, we’re all about debunking couples therapy myths and showing people the very possible and positive outcomes that can result from counseling. This is why we love answering questions like, “How can marriage counseling help a couple improve their relationship?” and “What can we expect during couples therapy?” Clients who ask these kinds of questions and who are willing to work through issues are usually the ones who find the most success from relationship counseling. 

With that in mind, we’ve put together 50 of our favorite counseling questions for the different stages of a relationship. We hope this will help you feel a bit more comfortable and prepared for the journey. Plus, we’ll give you a few tips to make the most of each therapy session. 

Premarital Counseling

Premarital (aka “pre-marriage”) counseling is an excellent way to embark on the adventure of marriage with your partner. Even if your relationship has gone relatively smoothly so far, time and the pressures of married life can introduce new and unforeseen issues. 

Those who are new to the concept of premarital counseling might wonder—does it actually work? Will it create more problems instead of solving potential issues? Many scholars, psychologists, social workers, and beyond have asked these same questions, and there are plenty of studies demonstrating the positive effects of premarital counseling. 

For example, one clinical research study entitled “Marital Satisfaction: The Impact of Premarital and Couples Counseling” found that “participants who had taken part in premarital counseling do show a trend toward high marital satisfaction.”

Another study, “Using What Premarital Couples Already Know to Inform Marriage Education” found that, “…marriage education may assist in the couples’ identification of factors that enhance and hinder their relationship. Furthermore, couples may be able to apply this knowledge to make lasting

changes in their relationships.”

So we ask you—why not try it? Why not start your marriage off with the tools to enhance your relationship? Why not identify possible roadblocks and ways to overcome them? Any married couple will tell you marriage isn’t easy, but it can be an easier, happier, and more fulfilling experience through premarital counseling. 

What Kind of Questions Are Asked in Pre-Marriage Counseling?

To get started with our 50 relationship counseling questions, let’s check out some of the more common pre-marriage counseling questions for couples we like to ask at Well Marriage Center:

  • When you are about to see your partner, what thoughts and feelings go through your mind?
  • If you had to name your partner’s top three dreams or aspirations, what would they be?
  • How important is wealth to you, and how do you feel about debt?
  • What are your plans for financing large purchases, such as a house, cars, or your children’s college education? 
  • How do you plan to budget and organize your money? For example, will you keep separate or joint accounts?
  • Do you have any retirement plans currently in place? And how are you planning for retirement together as a couple?
  • What rituals do you currently have, like date nights, daily routines, weekend getaways, or vacations? And how have you shared these rituals with one another? 
  • How do you currently celebrate special occasions now, like anniversaries or holidays? And how would you like to blend or take part in those traditions together? For example, if your extended families live far apart, how will you choose where to spend time for major holidays?
  • How do you plan to sustain intimacy throughout your relationships? 
  • How would you describe your sexual needs and desires, and are there specific ways you’d like your partner to meet those needs?
  • Are you both on the same page when it comes to having children? If you want children, how many would you like to have? If infertility is an issue, how do you plan to address that?
  • What is your sense of humor like? Does your partner experience humor in the same way?
  • How do you plan to divide household chores?
  • Do you both have the same values or religious beliefs? If not, how do you plan to navigate those differences?
  • What does “infidelity” or “cheating” mean to you, and what are your fears or expectations about this in your relationship? 

Pre-Marriage Counseling Tips

Coming to premarital counseling having done your research is a great way to start the process. You’ll have time to consider questions beforehand and know what to expect. During the actual counseling session, here are some other tips to keep in mind:

  • Seek to know each other deeply. When we’re dating someone, we have a tendency to be on our best behavior. But nobody is perfect, and everyone has flaws and weaknesses. Use premarital counseling as an opportunity to understand each other on a more meaningful level—the good and challenging parts!
  • Make sure you address the big stuff. Money, sex, children, religion, substance abuse, politics—these areas can create serious problems if you and your partner have different viewpoints. For example, if your partner is a practicing Buddhist and you’re an atheist, or you’re a recovering alcoholic and your partner drinks regularly—these are not necessarily deal breakers, but they are definitely issues that should be addressed and fleshed out before marriage.
  • Don’t ignore any nagging feelings. You may learn things about your partner you didn’t know before, and anything that bothers you now will no doubt continue to bother you as time goes on. If something new comes up and it worries you, premarital counseling is the perfect place to address it. 

Marriage Counseling and Couples Therapy

The topics addressed in marriage counseling (aka “couples therapy”) are usually a bit different than premarital counseling. Newer relationships can use premarital counseling to fully discover and understand one another, while married couples or those in a committed, long-term relationship might be past the discovery stage and looking to find their way back to one another. 

However, many of the themes in both types of counseling are the same. Both seek to address potential or present issues, overcome those challenges, and prevent them in the future. We see married and unmarried couples at Well Marriage Center looking for proactive ways to make their relationship better.

What Are Some Couples Counseling First Session Questions?

The questions and discussions topics in your first counseling session will allow your counselor to get to know you and your partner. Even as you answer these icebreaker questions, though, your counselor will be observing how you interact with one another to better inform their advice and approach in future therapy sessions.

At Well Marriage Center, all of our first sessions are extended to 90 minutes, since our counselors will need a little extra time to get to know you and your partner. In that initial session, your Well Marriage Center counselor will begin with a structured relationship strengths and wellness assessment. We like to think of it as starting on a positive note to remind you both what brought you together in the first place. The following sessions will dig progressively deeper, but that first session is a time for discovery between you and your counselor—and you and your partner.

Curious about the kinds of questions to expect during your first session? Here are a few your counselor may start with:

  • What is the story on how the two of you met
  • What initially attracted you to each other
  • What were some of your initial “admirations” of each other
  • What are 3 good times you’ve had together…and what made them good
  • In general, how would you describe your life and marriage together?
  • What does the timeline of your relationship look like? Can you tell me about major life events (new jobs, traumas, kids, etc.) from when you first met up through present day
  • What strengths do you bring to the table in your relationship? And what strengths do you think your partner has? 
  • Do you have any prior experience with marriage counseling or other types of therapy?
  • What made you decide to seek marriage counseling?
  • Have you tried anything to resolve present issues before seeking counseling? What did you try and how did that go?
  • What do you expect to get out of couples therapy?
  • Do you currently want to stay with your partner? Why or why not?
  • Are you willing to put in the work and make changes to improve the quality of your marriage?

What Do Couples Talk About in Marriage Counseling?

The good—but sometimes tough—talks can begin once you and your partner have brought your counselor up to speed. However, answering the question of “What do you talk about during marriage counseling?” is a little challenging due to the varying needs of each couple. 

Every counselor will have their own couples therapy techniques to better understand their clients and get to the root of each problem. These techniques might include answering basic questions that prompt discussion, taking turns to be active listeners, engaging in activities to reveal new things about your relationship, and more.

Ultimately, depending on which counselor you work with and the particular nature of your relationship, every discussion in couples therapy will be unique. And because each counselor will work a little differently, you might find that one counselor is a better fit over another. That’s okay! If one therapist isn’t working out, it doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed or all hope is lost. It simply means another counselor may have a different approach that works better for you and your partner. 

What Questions Are Asked in Couples Therapy?

Even though every couples therapy session will look a little different from couple to couple, there are some general questions you will likely work through as your counseling sessions progress, like:

  • What made you fall in love with your partner originally? And why do you think your partner fell in love with you? 
  • What are the biggest similarities between you and your partner? And what are the biggest differences?  
  • If you could resolve any of your relationship problems in an instant, which problem would you choose? 
  • Think about your communication with your partner when you’re experiencing different emotions—happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disappointment, etc. How does this affect your and your partner’s ability to communicate? 
  • What are some ways that you show your partner you care, love, and appreciate them? How do you feel they demonstrate this back to you?
  • What is your favorite and least favorite childhood memory? Do you know your partner’s favorite and least favorite childhood memory?
  • Do you ever find yourself lying awake at night thinking about your relationship? If so, what is the number one thing that crosses your mind?
  • How would you describe your sex life? Is there anything your partner could do to make your sexual relationship better? What have you done to improve sex in your marriage?
  • If your partner does something that bothers you, how do you address that with them? And when your partner brings up issues they may have with you, how do you handle or act on that? 
  • Does your partner treat you with the level of respect you desire? Is it the same, better, or worse than the beginning of your relationship? Why do you think that is?
  • Are there any dreams you or your partner have yet to accomplish? If so, what’s stopping you from accomplishing them?
  • Have there been any times in your relationship where you felt you could not be your genuine self? Why did you feel that way?
  • Do you and your partner enjoy any activities or shared hobbies together? Are there any that you do alone? And do you like having your own hobbies, or do you like to share them with your partner? 
  • Which topic or area do you have the most trouble opening up about with your partner? Why do you think that is? 

What Are Questions to Ask During Marriage Counseling to Your Counselor?

Therapy is always a two way street—between you and your partner, but also between you and your counselor. Don’t be afraid to ask your therapist questions before starting counseling and during your sessions. Here are some questions that you might want to consider asking your therapist at different points during your counseling journey:

  • What is your education, training, and background as a marriage counselor?
  • How many years of experience do you have, including the required supervised clinical experience you had to complete to obtain your license?
  • Are you a licensed clinical social worker, licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed professional counselor, or something else? And how does this background influence your work?
  • How many couples do you see a week? Have you made couples counseling your sole speciality?
  • Do you have any client testimonials or stories you can share with us?
  • What’s the average number of therapy sessions your successful clients go through? And how many would you recommend for us after understanding our present issues and goals?
  • Do you feel that we are making progress? Why or why not?
  • Are there additional resources you offer that we can take advantage of along with attending counseling sessions?

How Do You Have a Successful Marriage Counseling Session? Try Well Marriage Center

Trust us, we get it—relationships today face numerous hurdles, expectations, and pressures. With so much negativity weighing down on us everyday, our counselors like to take a positive, marriage-friendly approach to couples therapy sessions. This means we focus on the good that you bring to your relationship, how to harness your strengths, and ultimately advocate for a successful marriage. 

With this approach, we have found our clients spend less time in therapy and can more effectively navigate relationship challenges. Our experienced and licensed counselors have a wide variety of techniques and marriage counseling questions to strengthen your relationship, tailoring every experience to your unique story.  

If you’re ready to take that first step, start by filling out our short intake form and setting up a consultation with our Intake Coordinator, Melinda. She is happy to answer any questions you may have, walk you through the process, and ensure you are connected with the best counselor for your needs. 

Is couples therapy easy? No—it takes work from both sides. But is it worth it for a happier, stronger, and healthier relationship? Absolutely. 

How Long Is Too Long for Couples Therapy?

It can be intimidating and scary to join the 49% of couples who attend marriage counseling (or to be part of the 52% who are interested in trying it). Whether you’re currently going to sessions or considering starting, you may be wondering how long this process will take. What’s the average length of marriage counseling? Can you stay in couples therapy too long? 

Don’t worry! All your questions will be answered. From our experience working with over 15,000 couples here at Well Marriage Center, we know that the topic of couples counseling can be sensitive, especially when the stakes feel so high. Let’s get started with some of the most common questions about couples counseling. 

Note: At Well Marriage Center, we use the terms “marriage counseling,” “couples counseling,” and “couples therapy” interchangeably, and we offer our services to any couple—regardless of their marital status. The term “marriage” can be exclusionary or uncomfortable, and we aim to provide an environment that’s welcoming to all couples. What matters most is you, your relationship, and your desire to rediscover joy with your partner.

How Long Do Couples Usually Go to Therapy?

In general, the average length of couples therapy that we see at Well Marriage Center is 12-25 sessions. This takes place over the course of 4 to 10 months. However, the specific number of how many marriage counseling sessions are needed will be determined by your therapist, your unique relationship, and how you and your partner are progressing. Each individual session is typically around the 50 minute mark, although this will vary depending on your therapist.

How Long Is Too Long for Marriage Counseling?

There really isn’t an exact answer to this question because every relationship is different, and every marriage counseling provider has a different approach based on each couple’s unique needs. It’s also important to keep the end goal in mind: a healthy, thriving relationship. Couples therapy is typically designed to be a shorter-term commitment, as opposed to individual therapy, which many people benefit from attending for years. If you’re worried about  couples therapy dragging on forever, be sure to ask your provider about the timeline. 

If you’re feeling like you have been in couples therapy for too long, be sure to consider if you have met your end goal. Have you and your partner learned and implemented communication skills? Are there any unresolved trust or commitment issues lingering? Have you addressed the problems that brought you to couples counseling in the first place? Has your therapist given any guidelines or suggested a potential end goal?

If you and your partner are confident that you have met your end goal, then it’s definitely appropriate to have a conversation with your counselor about wrapping up your sessions. However, if there is still work to be done, then you may want to consider trying a different approach or provider. 

How Long To Try Marriage Counseling Before Divorce

Here at Well Marriage, our focus is on helping couples find their way back to each other. When you’re in the midst of a relationship with serious challenges, we know it can feel overwhelming or even impossible to heal and restore things. But rest assured—there is hope! Our counselors practice marriage-friendly counseling, an approach that prioritizes the revitalization of your relationship. We’ve seen so many couples who are convinced they are on the road to splitting up realize through the process of couples therapy that their journey together isn’t over yet. 

When To Stop Marriage Counseling

No matter if you call it “marriage counseling” or “couples therapy,” the fact is that your sessions are not going to last forever. There will come a point where you and your partner have learned how to communicate better and are building a healthy relationship together. In general, look for signs that marriage counseling is working

  • You and your partner don’t have as much conflict
  • You have great communication strategies in place (and are practicing them!)
  • You’ve settled on realistic solutions to issues
  • Your relationship is happier and healthier

Your goals will vary, of course, and it’s also a fantastic idea to talk with your counselor about when to stop marriage counseling. After all, they want the same thing that you do—a thriving relationship. The goal of couples therapy isn’t to stay in couples therapy forever, so it’s completely appropriate to ask your therapist about the process and what signals they look for. 

Is It Worth Going to Couples Therapy?

Absolutely! In fact, we think it’s one of the most beneficial steps you can take for your relationship. We believe that almost every relationship can be transformed into a vibrant partnership, as long as both people are willing to put in the work. 

Often people ask things like, “can couples therapy save my relationship?” It’s important to remember that there are so many variables involved, and every relationship will be different. Because of this, it’s difficult to properly assess the effectiveness of couples therapy and impossible to answer this question with a direct yes or no. However, one study found that going through couples counseling can improve outcomes for couples, like relationship satisfaction, communication skills, and general well-being. 

Well Marriage: Couples Therapy Customized for You

Through our experiences at Well Marriage Center, we’ve seen incredible results time after time. We specialize in couples and use a variety of techniques to meet the needs of each unique relationship. Our counselors use empirically-backed approaches and interventions like:

  • Dr. Ellyn Bader – Developmental Model of Couples Therapy (our personal favorite)
  • Dr. John Gottman – Gottman Institute
  • Dr. Sue Johnson – Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)
  • Dr. Harville Hendrix – Imago Therapy
  • Dr. Esther Perel – Eroticism and Desire
  • Dr. Terry Real – Relational Life Institute

We’ll work closely with you to make sure that your couples therapy is the right length and uses techniques that are fitted to your relationship goals and challenges.  If you’re interested in learning more, we invite you to privately explore our website and learn more about what we offer, where we’re located, and what our services cost

Average Length of Marriage Counseling

There’s no sugar-coating it—successful relationships sometimes require genuinely hard work. In some cases, adding the pressures of married life (not to mention kids, a lost job, family tragedy, and so on) to the mix can create new challenges for an otherwise healthy-enough seeming couple, or exacerbate those that already exist. The good news is that help is available in the form of marriage counseling. But how do you know if marriage counseling is really worth it? How much time and effort does the process require? And can you expect to find a better, healthier relationship on the other side, or is there a chance you’ll find yourselves just spinning your wheels without seeing real progress?

At Well Marriage Center, we understand these anxieties and want to help couples of all types to rediscover the joys of a healthy relationship. We’ve put this particular blog together to help you answer some of the most common questions we hear from couples considering counseling who want to make sure they get their money’s worth and, more importantly, improve their relationships. 

In this piece, we’ll not only answer the question of how long marriage counseling tends to take—we’ll also provide you with some pointers to ensure that if you commit to counseling you’ll have a positive and productive experience.

How Do You Know When It’s Time for Couples Counseling?

While every relationship is as unique as the two individuals themselves, it’s worth knowing the types of signs that your marriage or relationship could benefit from counseling. There are many, many factors that can create relationship problems, but here are a few of the most common, foundational signs that your relationship might be improved through counseling:

  • Communication is breaking down (or has been broken for a while): A huge subset of marriage problems center around issues related to communication. When couples lose the ability to consistently engage in open, honest communication, it can exacerbate existing issues, create new issues, or both. A major component of marriage counseling is the re-opening of communication channels and the development of healthier communication methods. 
  • You’ve lost that loving feeling: For many couples, changes to how they demonstrate affection and cultivate intimacy can signal one or more issues. For example, perhaps one partner withholds affection or allows resentment to fester. Maybe it’s gotten to the point that one or more partners is considering infidelity as a means of fulfilling their needs for intimacy and security. Even at this stage, counseling can help repair relationships.
  • Trust has eroded: Once one partner begins to lose trust in the other—whether due to infidelity or other factors—it can become a slippery slope toward conflict and divorce. Negative feelings can quickly snowball, especially when they’re not properly explored, expressed, and worked through. In these situations, a marriage counselor can help reset the dynamic nature of a partnership, build new foundations for communication and trust, and lay the groundwork for a better, happier relationship.

When Do Most Couples Consider Marriage Counseling?

All too often, couples begin marriage counseling weeks, months, or even years after problems begin to emerge within the relationship. This is perfectly understandable, as it can be difficult to know (in the present) whether relationship issues are serious or not. It can also be difficult from an emotional standpoint to acknowledge that there are problems in the relationship. Finally, especially for those who have never experienced any form of professional counseling before, it can be an intimidating prospect. The time component can seem overwhelming, as can the anxiety of delving into deeply personal, emotional matters. This is where humanity’s well-documented “fear of the unknown” comes into play, as well. 

All of that being said, when it really comes down to it, according to the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, most couples aren’t exactly prompt in seeking out counseling at the first signs of marital issues. In fact, most couples wait two years from the onset of a problem. That’s two years for issues to manifest even more deeply, and for the relationship to potentially become even more damaged. The good news is, there’s no time like the present to take the first step in healing the relationship by connecting with a marriage counselor. 

Should Every Couple Go To Therapy?

No, we don’t believe every couple necessarily needs therapy—but we also don’t necessarily think it could hurt. However, we understand that there’s a certain stigma around couples therapy and marriage counseling when private thoughts question whether the fact that you’re considering therapy means your relationship has failed. It doesn’t! 

Even couples—including married couples—who would say their relationship is good (if not great) could potentially benefit from the communication and trust-building strategies that come with counseling. It’s also worth noting that Well Marriage Center also offers premarital counseling, which can help couples strengthen their relationship (prior to getting married) by establishing a solid foundation for communication and openness.

Is It Appropriate To Undergo Marriage Counseling When You Want a Divorce?

It’s absolutely appropriate! Just because one or both of you might be considering divorce, it doesn’t mean the marriage is a lost cause. If both parties are open to reconciliation and willing to put in the work, marriage counseling can be a relationship-saver, especially with a marriage-friendly counseling approach (like Well Marriage Center’s).

How Long Should Marriage Counseling Last?

While many variables may impact how long a specific couple spends with their marriage counselor, you can generally expect, on average, anywhere from 12 to 25 counseling sessions. These will normally start off with a discovery-based focus, with the counselor asking baseline-type questions to better understand the relationship’s strengths and weaknesses. From there, individual sessions can be more tactical, working through specific problems and developing patterns for better relationship-building.  

What Is the Average Length of Counseling Sessions, and How Frequently Do They Occur?

Counseling sessions typically last for around 50 minutes, and they’re often scheduled on a weekly basis to start and eventually move to twice a month and then just once a month. This frequency allows us to spread out the course of counseling (keeping it more affordable) and stay with you longer, anywhere from 4 to 10 months. A counselor will often work with you to determine a cadence that will fit the participants’ schedules.

What Percentage of Marriages Survive After Counseling?

If you’re one of the many people or couples asking yourself questions like “Does marriage counseling work?” and “Is marriage counseling worth it?” then this section’s for you. 

If you’re particularly results-driven, you’re probably wondering, “What percentage of marriages survive after counseling?” Fortunately, counseling does work a majority of the time. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, 90% of counseling clients report an improvement in their emotional health after receiving treatment. More specific to the marriage counseling success rate, over 75% of marital or family therapy clients report an improvement in their relationship as a result of counseling.

What Factors Impact the Length of Counseling?

For many people considering counseling, the time component is just one piece of the puzzle. In reality, several distinct factors impact how long a particular couple may need to attend marriage counseling. Of these, one of the most important is how well the counselor and participants establish rapport and trust. When a trusting bond is established early on, individual sessions can focus on specific, relevant topics, prioritized by importance. With that in mind, then, let’s next explore a few variables related to both the counselor and the participants. 

What To Look for in a Marriage Counselor

Signs of a Good Couples Therapist

A good couples therapist or marriage counselor is an advocate for repairing and strengthening relationships (as opposed to throwing in the towel). At Well Marriage Center, our counselors practice what’s called marriage-friendly marriage counseling (as opposed to marriage-neutral counseling). This means our number one goal is to help couples stay together. This approach helps alleviate some of the anxiety couples might feel toward counseling, where they fear that counseling might make the relationship worse—if not lead to divorce. You can learn more about our Wellness Model here. 

Additional signs of a good couples therapist or marriage counselor include:

  • A specialization (supported by specific training) in relationships and marriages
  • An approach that focuses on couples succeeding and staying together
  • Experience working with different types of marital problems
  • A communication style that is relatable and builds trust

Signs of a Bad Marriage Counselor

To be effective in their work, a marriage counselor needs to be able to build trust with their clients, ask probing questions, listen carefully, and get to the root of their problems. In other words, just like in a marriage, communication is key to the counselor-participant relationship. Without open communication, the possibility of positive outcomes greatly decreases. 

Additional signs of a bad, or ineffective, couples therapist or marriage counselor include:

  • An over-reliance of jargon, rather than personalized communication
  • Jumping to premature, general-type conclusions or making recommendations before hearing the whole story of each participant’s experiences
  • A lack of concrete, actionable information/perspectives
  • A lack of demonstrable progress or defined goals after multiple sessions

Ultimately, even the most highly-qualified and well-intentioned marriage counselor is going to struggle to make headway if one or more of the participants is unwilling or unable to participate constructively. To improve the chances of success, then, it’s also important that you’ve prepared your heart and mind for the difficult but important work of strengthening the relationship. 

How To Prepare for Couples Counseling

As with any type of therapy or counseling, what you bring to the process certainly impacts what you’ll get out of it. Even the best marriage counselor can’t help an individual (or couple) who is unwilling to open their heart and mind to be present and engage with the process. If even one partner closes off or becomes antagonistic, it can wreck the process (and even the marriage). So, how should you prepare for marriage counseling,  to maximize the time? Here’s a brief overview of what to know before going to couples therapy, so you can make the most of the opportunities it presents.

Get yourself mentally ready. It would be inappropriate for us to claim that marriage counseling is going to be a breeze. The truth is, an effective counselor is going to broach some difficult topics and ask some tough questions. Especially if you’ve never worked with a therapist or counselor before, this can be uncomfortable and intimidating. This is why it’s important to mentally prepare, not just for an individual session but for the overall, ongoing counseling experience as well. 

Sort out your thoughts and feelings. For many married couples who take the step to work with a marriage counselor, it can feel overwhelming to get your thoughts together. It’s also very normal for participants to think about their relationship outside the confines of their counseling sessions. To ensure that nothing too important slips through the cracks, a counselor might recommend personal journaling throughout the week, so you can come to the next session with specific things you want to ask or talk about, new insights or revelations, and so on.

Familiarize yourself with the counselor’s approach. As you start to learn more about your counselor’s general approach, you can better anticipate what to expect in future sessions. This should not only reduce anxiety, but help make the most of your time with the therapist or counselor as well.

Have realistic expectations. Nothing is necessarily guaranteed in this life, so while we want clients to be optimistic about counseling outcomes, we also know it’s best for you to expect growth and improvement, not an immediate, 180-degree turnaround. This is especially true for ongoing, persistent issues. It can be difficult work, but it can also be truly transformative. At Well Marriage Center, we’ve seen couples who thought all hope was lost find their way back to one another.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. All too often, marriage counseling participants feel like the counselor is the one who should be asking all the questions. This simply isn’t the case. While you obviously shouldn’t interrupt the counselor or disrupt the flow of the conversation with random questions that cross your mind, you should certainly ask any questions that might help you to better engage with and understand the counseling approach.

When your partner shares, keep an open mind/heart—and assume positive intent. Just as important as it is to begin the counseling process with an open mind, you should also make sure to assume the best possible intention(s) of your partner and counselor, too. This means, for example, taking your partner’s contributions at face value—assuming that they, like you, are there to put in the work and save the marriage.

What Makes Well Marriage Center’s Marriage-Friendly Counseling Work So Well?

At Well Marriage Center, we provide a strengths-based, marriage-friendly approach to counseling. This means getting to know our clients and their relationships, exploring root issues, developing effective communication, and providing personalized counseling recommendations. 

It all begins with the understanding that no two couples are the same. That’s why our process builds its foundation on a relationship’s strengths and works to develop those strengths into better, healthier relationships. Here’s how our process works:

  • First, you’ll schedule an initial appointment with one of our counselors. Rather than asking vague questions like “What seems to be the problem today?”, we instead start with a structured assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses in the relationship. This, then, provides the foundation for further sessions, in which identified strengths can be further developed into the fabric of the relationship.
  • Next, our team will create a customized plan around your goals. Leveraging our experience working with over 12,000 couples, we focus on relationship science. Based on what’s working in the relationship—and what you want to improve—we’re uniquely trained to adjust and improve the course of counseling as needed.
  • Finally, we’ll work together to establish specific relationship objectives and develop an action plan. This might mean identifying and then working through how to interrupt toxic cycles a relationship might be stuck in, or remedy an uneven dynamic. Or, it might mean recapturing—and then maintaining—the relationship’s original spark. It could also mean digging deeply into specific traumas that might be impacting the quality of the relationship. 

If you’re ready to start the process of finding your way back to each other, the first step’s easy. You’ll simply need to fill out our short Intake Form, and then set up an appointment with Melinda, our Intake Coordinator. She’ll help to answer any questions you have and connect you with a therapist in your area who is available to work with you.  

What is the Difference Between Marriage Counseling and Couples Therapy?

The adage that tells everyone, “50% of marriages end in divorce,” does not have to be your reality if you find the right couples specialist. It all depends on what you do when your relationship feels rocky, tense, or stressful. 

The terms “couples therapy” and “marriage counseling” have likely come across your web search if you have done any form of research on the topic of relationship therapy. This prompts many couples to pause and question the terms rather than diving in and finding the best fit for their counseling journey. While some practices focus differently on marriage counseling than couples therapy, we see them as two sides to the same coin, interchangeable, and the same process regardless of what you want to label it. . 

To help couples begin their healing journey, we have created a guide to marriage counseling or couples therapy to offer a detailed look into common questions and concerns. 

Does Marriage Counseling Really Work?

Call us biased, but we stand by the fact that marriage counseling for all types of relationships, no matter the label, works to put those relationships in a better position than when they walked through the door. At Well Marriage Center, we believe two major factors can significantly impact the outcome of the counseling sessions. 

  • The Right Time: It can be hard to decipher when the right time for therapy is. But, the longer you wait to get the proper help, the more strained current problems can become. If both parties are questioning whether now is the right time, it probably is. 
  • The Why: The motivation or “why” for seeking marriage counseling can affect the outcome tremendously. Both parties must be willing to work together to make a positive change in their relationship. When a relationship is not in the best place, it helps the entire process run smoothly if everyone can look at the relationship through an honest lens.

If you are still skeptical and wonder, “what percentage of couples who go to therapy stay together?data supports our efforts. It is reported that couples counseling using emotionally-focused therapy (one of our focus areas) is roughly 75% effective. 

How Do I Find a Good Marriage Counselor Near Me?

Once a couple decides that what they want is to bring that compassion and love back to each other, they need to find the right counselor for their needs. When a couple doesn’t start with a therapist who specializes in couples therapy, there is typically some trial and error until they can find the right fit. If you have to jump from counselor to counselor, then it will be hard to make any progress in the relationship. This is not a problem for us, as our retention rates are a leader in the couples specialty field. Remember, never feel pressured to stay with a counselor that is not providing the help you need. It is important to acknowledge that these interactions are a two-way street, and you should be asking marriage counseling questions (similar to what they ask you) to ensure that your potential therapist will be a good fit. 

  • How many couples do you see a week? Are relationships your specialty?
  • How do you define success?
  • Is your primary background and training in marriage/couples counseling?

These questions will help narrow your search to potential candidates that align with you and your partner’s needs. With that being said, you won’t have to worry about this major concern of how you find a good marriage counselor because we’ve done all that leg work for you! Not every therapist you see will have tested experience in the field of marriage counseling, and that is a recipe for disaster. 

In the last decade of over 1,000+ applicants, we have hired only 40 experienced counselors to help with any relationship. Each specializes in relationship dynamics and has worked with communication problems, affairs, trauma, addiction, etc. When you work with us, you get the best of the best. 

Once you find a practice you feel is the best fit, you can begin the initial conversations. When you first contact a marriage counseling practice, they will ask you to fill out an intake form. These are basic questions like your names, what you are looking for with therapy, and if you want in-person or online marriage counseling. We believe that every aspect of this journey deserves a personal and professional touch, which is why all of our intake processes are handled by our lovely intake coordinator, Melinda. 

Rediscover the Love That’s Always Been There with Well Marriage Center

The pressure for relationships to succeed can make individuals/couples feel isolated and hopeless. At Well Marriage Center, we believe reaching out to mend a relationship is the start of a beautiful new beginning for any couple. When a relationship hits a rough patch, it’s an opportunity to grow and learn together, not a signal of the end. 

The work doesn’t end when we part ways. All of our therapists specialize in relationship sciences and support to engage you in actions that you can carry out beyond our offices. 

When you are ready to start the process of regaining wellness in your marriage, feel free to fill out our intake form. If you have any questions before you get connected with Melinda, explore our FAQ page.