If you find yourself wondering, “What happened to my marriage?” you’re not alone. Marriages today face more pressure, distraction, temptation, and isolation than ever before. Couples have dealt with traditional stressors like communication breakdowns, children, a new job, or a loss in the family for years. But the COVID-19 pandemic, a tumultuous economy, and even the technology at our fingertips have added significantly more challenges to maintaining a successful relationship or marriage. It might seem normal, then, for a marriage to experience dwindling connection, romance, or intimacy.
And while every marriage does have its ups and downs, your relationship shouldn’t feel tense, frustrating, lonely, unsatisfying, or broken. If these feelings sound familiar, marriage counseling can help. Well Marriage Center is the largest relationship specialty center in the United States. Our licensed, professional therapists have devoted their careers to helping couples save and heal their relationship over the course of 4-10 months.
If you’re just getting started, you might be wondering things like:
- What is marriage counseling?
- What is it like to attend a counseling session?
- How do I find the best marriage counseling near me?
We’re exploring all of these questions and more to help you take the next step in strengthening your relationship.
What Is Marriage Counseling?
At its core, marriage counseling is a form of counseling focused on helping couples overcome hurdles, interrupt unhealthy cycles, strengthen their communication, heal attachment wounds, and revitalize their relationship. While relationships are one of the most important and fulfilling connections we make in our lives, they come with their fair share of conflicts, difficulties, and stressors.
For some couples, the idea of marriage counseling forms only after serious signs of distress—like a significant uptick in arguments or infidelity. For others, marriage counseling can be a way to practice relationship maintenance or rediscover passion for one another. No matter what your reasoning for seeking out counseling, it can help you, your partner, and your relationship.
The truth is that most couples could benefit from counseling from time to time. Despite the stigma around counseling—especially marriage counseling—it doesn’t mean your relationship is failing, nor does it mean that you and your partner aren’t strong and resilient individuals. It simply means that being in a relationship is hard work, and assistance from a relationship specialist in navigating certain issues or roadblocks can be transformative. Marriage counseling helps couples overcome their barriers and get back the joy that originally brought them together.
At Well Marriage Center, our licensed therapists help couples find their way back to each other. That’s exactly why our counselors use a strengths-based, pro-relationship approach in their work.
What Is Strengths-Based Marriage Counseling?
Strengths-based marriage counseling uses your individual and relational strengths to build a foundation for success in counseling.
Many non-specialized marriage counselors will start a counseling session fairly abruptly with something like, “So what seems to be the problem?” You can imagine the 50 minutes of chaos that could ensue from this question; maybe you’ve even experienced this firsthand. Unfortunately, this approach is often damaging to both the marriage counseling process and your relationship, yet it’s all too common. This is part of the reason marriage counseling has gotten a bad reputation over the years.
Strengths-based marriage counseling is different. When we meet with a couple, we begin our time with a structured relationship strengths and wellness assessment. Some couples don’t feel like their marriage has many strengths—especially in the midst of a significant barrier—but resilience is always worth exploring.
We spend careful time learning about what brought you together, the good times that you’ve had in your relationship, the admirations that initially drew you to each other, and what your relationship was like in the beginning. Only after we’ve explored these areas do we structure a safe time for each of you to describe the current dynamics in your relationship, what the problem is from your perspective, and what it feels like to be you in your present marriage.
Why do we begin with your strengths? This process helps couples recognize and build upon their own strengths, ultimately laying the foundation to use them to solve problems in the relationship. Every couple has their own unique skills and resources, and we tailor our approach around your goals.
What Is Pro-Relationship Marriage Counseling?
At Well Marriage Center, we believe in the power of marriage and relationships. When we enter into work with a couple, our goal is to heal and restore the marriage whenever that is possible. In other words, our counselors practice pro-relationship counseling.
In the past, many well-meaning therapists have practiced marriage-neutral counseling techniques that provide a neutral approach toward whether or not the couple stays together—sometimes even encouraging a couple to split up rather than put in the work to better their relationship. Approaches like this have left countless couples wondering, “Can marriage counseling make things worse?”
We’re changing that narrative one couple at a time. We see our job as relationship specialists, in part, as one that supports the hope that you and your partner can heal your marriage and build a relationship that’s stronger than ever. We’ve seen it happen time and time again.
Learn more about our approach and what makes Well Marriage Center stand out from the crowd.
Couples Therapy vs Marriage Counseling
If you’ve previously looked into marriage counseling, you’ve likely heard other terms, like couples therapy, being used. What is the difference? We believe there isn’t one.
At Well Marriage Center, we use the terms “marriage 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.
Whether you use the term “marriage counseling” or the term “couples therapy,” you are ultimately working toward the same goals:
- Reduce conflict
- Develop better communication strategies
- Find realistic solutions to problems
- Build a happier, healthier relationship
Does Marriage Counseling Work?
As relationship specialists, one of the most common questions we hear is this: Is marriage counseling even worth it? We believe wholeheartedly that it is! We’ve seen it work countless times, even in relationships where the couple thought it might be too late or their connection too broken. With the right marriage counselor, almost every relationship can be saved, as long as both people are willing to put in the work.
We also hear a lot of questions like, “What percent of couples who go through therapy stay together?” And we understand—beginning marriage counseling can be a scary step, so it’s nice to know the odds. Unfortunately, there are so many factors at play when a couple enters marriage counseling that it’s difficult to really list an exact percentage. So much success relies on who the therapist is, what kind of training and experience they have, how many sessions you attend, how invested you are in the process, and how much work you’re willing to put in.
That said, a study from 2011 found that couples therapy positively impacts 70% of couples who receive treatment. Additionally, they report that almost 90% of clients report an improvement in their emotional health after receiving treatment, and over 75% of those receiving marital or family therapy report an improvement in their relationship. We like those odds.
At Well Marriage Center, our team has worked with over 15,000 couples and we bring that experience to each and every new couple we work with. We specialize in couples and train with leading experts in the field to ensure our clients have the best counseling experience available.
How Do You Know if Your Marriage Needs Counseling?
Every relationship has its ebb and flow. Sometimes you feel more connected than other times, and that’s completely normal. However, if you’re having difficulties connecting or facing barriers you simply cannot seem to overcome, marriage counseling can help. Here are some of the most common reasons our patients seek out counseling.
- There is an uptick in conflict or arguments, especially if arguments become hurtful or toxic.
- One or both partners feels emotionally distant, lonely, or feels like they are falling out of love.
- The relationship has more bad days than peaceful or happy days.
- There are unresolved trust or commitment issues, including dishonesty.
- Communication breakdowns are common and difficult to move past.
- There is a lack of sexual intimacy, a lack of desire, or other intimacy issues.
- One or both partners were engaging in infidelity.
- The couple has experienced life changes, like a new job, a new child, health issues, or a significant loss.
- There is a misalignment in parenting styles that lead to arguments.
- One or both partners has past individual or relational trauma that is manifesting in the relationship.
This is, of course, not an exhaustive list. If you or your partner feels like you’re regularly struggling in your relationship, marriage counseling can help. Recent studies indicate that most couples enter therapy within about two years of the onset of a problem. However, the quicker you begin therapy, the quicker you can build up the tools needed to strengthen your marriage and rediscover joy in your relationship.
Common Marriage Counseling Questions
It’s normal to feel nervous about your first marriage counseling session, especially if you’ve never been to therapy or you’ve had a bad experience in the past. What kinds of questions do they ask you in marriage counseling? Will you or your partner feel comfortable discussing details? How long does it take? Your list of questions probably goes on and on. To help you feel more comfortable about counseling, we’ve compiled a list of things to know as you start the process.
What Happens During Marriage Counseling?
We find that one of the best ways to prepare you for marriage counseling is to give you a peek behind the curtain at what the process looks like. While your therapist will ultimately work with you to develop an individualized plan, here are the general steps you can expect with working with a counselor at Well Marriage Center.
Step 1: Fill Out an Intake Form and Connect with Our Intake Coordinator
Our brief intake form asks basic questions like your name, where you live, what kind of therapy you’re looking for, if you’re interested in online or in-person sessions, and more. Once you’ve filled it out, you’ll have the opportunity to schedule a free 15-minute call with our Intake Coordinator, Melinda.
During your 15-minute chat with Melinda, she’ll ask you some basic questions about your relationship and the issues you’re currently facing. This information will empower her to get a sense of what you’re looking for and which of our counselors might be the best fit. Some of our speciality areas include:
- Addiction Recovery
- Attachment Theory (EFT)
- Brain Science
- Family Systems
- Forgiveness and Reconciliation
- Gottman Research
- High Conflict Couples
- Infidelity Recovery
- Sex Therapy
- Sexless and Distanced Couples
During your intake call, you’ll also have the opportunity to schedule your first appointment. We offer virtual and in-person appointments for your convenience.
- Our virtual services are available in California, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington DC.
- Our in-person services are available in California, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington DC.
Learn more about our service locations on our website.
Step 2: Attend a 90-Minute First Appointment
What can you expect during your first appointment?
Your appointment will begin with a strengths assessment. We find that discussing the good times, sharing positive memories, and talking about the qualities and features that drew you together creates the safe space to begin discussing present issues. This discovery phase of your relational and individual strengths is invaluable throughout the marriage counseling process.
Only after a full and detailed discussion about the strengths do we move into a structured space to talk about your current dynamic, any issues you are facing, how you feel, and what you hope to achieve with marriage counseling.
Are there things you need to know or tips for your first couples therapy session? There’s no need to prepare anything for your first meeting, though some individuals or couples find it helpful to write down a list of questions, goals, or important discussion topics. More than anything else, it’s helpful to enter into your session with an open mind. We’re here to help, but you and your partner should be prepared to do the work necessary to strengthen your marriage.
Step 5: Attend Additional 50-Minute Appointments
After your initial 90-minute meeting, we typically continue on with weekly sessions. Often, the next two sessions are with each of you—individually—and then you’re typically together the whole rest of the way through unless you and your therapist agree to additional, individual sessions. Starting with a weekly cadence allows your therapist to quickly:
- Interrupt toxic cycles you may be stuck in
- Generate a momentum and spark
- Address trauma that your relationship may be experiencing
Once we’ve developed some positive movement and started to address, explore, and interrupt whatever dynamic you came in with, we slowly start deepening our work. This is where we shine! We’re trained to go past the “general practitioners” in our marriage counseling field to provide the highest quality of service to our couples.
The marriage counseling field has been gifted with many great researchers, therapists, and trainers who have developed empirically-backed approaches and interventions for relationships. You may have some across some of them if you’ve been learning about marriage counseling:
- 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
Our counselors study and review all of these experts—and more—to bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to each session. These trainings and experiences we have aren’t just robotic tools in our toolbox that take us from point A to point B to point C. Relationships are never like that. Instead, these specialties become an invaluable part of the work our counselors do, allowing them to trust their experience and intuition to build out a tailored approach that works for your specific relationship, needs, and goals.
How Long Do Couples Usually Go to Counseling?
Marriage counseling, unlike some other forms of therapy, is generally designed to be a shorter-term experience. The average length of marriage counseling with Well Marriage Center is roughly 12-25 sessions, although this varies from couple to couple. This generally takes place over the course of about 4 to 10 months. Typically, our couples start attending sessions once a week for the first several weeks, and then we taper off to bi-monthly or monthly sessions as time goes on.
What Do You Talk About in Marriage Counseling?
In marriage counseling, what you talk about really depends on your dynamic, what issues you’re facing, and what your goals are. That’s exactly why marriage counseling doesn’t work with a one-size-fits-all approach. Your relationship deserves an approach that’s tailored to your marriage.
However, while all relationships are unique, there are common topics or issues that many couples face. Here are just a few of the topics you might discuss in marriage counseling:
- The main issue or issues you see in your relationship.
- Past conflicts that persist in your marriage.
- Your goals for your marriage counseling and your relationship moving forward.
- How you feel about your relationship in an honest and vulnerable way.
- If trust still exists in your relationship and how it can be gained back.
- Your communication styles and skills and how to develop healthier ways of talking with one another.
- How satisfied you are with intimacy in your relationship.
- What you enjoy about your relationship and why you’re fighting for it.
- Changes and improvements you are dedicated to making.
- Couples therapy exercises and tasks to work in in the coming days or weeks.
As a part of our approach at Well Marriage Center, you can also expect to talk about the positive aspects of your relationship: What’s working, what you admire about your partner, your favorite moments in your marriage, and more.
How Much Does Marriage Counseling Cost?
Marriage counseling rates vary by therapist and by location. However, a typical marriage counseling cost per hour ranges between $155 and $250 an hour. Couples who see the entire marriage counseling process through can expect to spend an average of between $377 and $457 per month over the course of 8 to 10 months.
At Well Marriage Center, we do not accept in-network insurance copays. Instead, you’ll pay your therapist directly after each session. However, we are an out-of-network provider for most insurance policies, and we can provide you with a monthly summary of your payments (a superbill) to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement.
As a fully-licensed provider, we can also accept payment via your Health Savings Account (HSA). Learn more about our fees and payment policies on our website.
How Do I Find a Good Marriage Counselor Near Me?
Finding a good marriage counselor can mean the difference between a transformative, fruitful therapy experience and one that leaves your marriage in worse shape than before. At Well Marriage Center, each one of our counselors is a specialist in the field of marriage counseling with years of training and education. Our counselors have dedicated their lives to helping couples reconnect and heal their relationships. If you’re in our service area, we invite you to explore our therapists in your area, either virtually or in-person.
If you’re outside of our service area, we still want to help you find success in your marriage. These are three of the top signs of a good marriage counselor to look out for:
- Relationship Expert: What type of therapist is best for marriage counseling? When seeking a marriage counselor, it’s important to find someone who is a relationship expert. Working with couples is rewarding work, but it’s best left to therapists who truly specialize in working with couples. Look for their trainings and background, what kinds of approaches they take, and more.
- Marriage Advocate: As we discussed above, pro-relationship counseling champions your relationship and helps each of you to heal it. It’s hard work, but we believe it’s almost always better than giving up or throwing in the towel. Find a therapist who will hold the hope for your marriage as long as you do, too.
- Communicative and Relatable: Marriage counseling is hard work, so it’s important to find someone who you connect with and someone who you feel comfortable communicating with. If you struggle with even understanding your counselor, it’ll be difficult to make much headway in your sessions
Rediscover Your Marriage with Well Marriage Center
Marriage counseling is a deeply personal and emotional process. We invite you to privately explore our website and learn more about what we offer, where we’re located, and what our services cost.
Once you’re ready to learn more or take the next step toward scheduling an appointment, get started by filling out our short Intake Form and setting up an appointment with our Intake Coordinator, Melinda. She can answer whatever lingering questions you have and connect you with a therapist who can help you and your partner find your way back to each other.