Studies show that romantic relationship satisfaction significantly impacts well-being and quality of life. Therapy can help you build a healthier relationship, but it’s vital that you find the right marriage counselor or therapist to work with. If you’re unsure how to find a marriage counselor, these marriage counseling tips will help you find someone who can guide you and your partner to a happier marriage.
Couples therapy can change your relationship in significant ways, but you need to work with the right therapist to get the most out of the process. Learn how, here.
1. Consider What’s Important to You & Your Partner
Before you start searching for a marriage counselor, you and your partner should discuss your preferences and goals. Would you prefer to see a counselor who shares your religious background? Do you want to work towards specific goals, like bringing back intimacy or developing a shared value system?
When deciding how to choose a marriage counselor, it’s crucial to ensure that you’re both on the same page. If you and your partner have a detailed conversation about what’s important to you, you’ll be able to find a couples counselor you both feel comfortable with.
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“In individual therapy, we always try to get to the core issues, and couples’ work is similar. When looking for a therapist, it’s crucial to remember your independent values and the value system you share as a couple. When those are clear, it can often keep you aligned in therapy with the acknowledgment that is not something you’d want to compromise but rather honor as a couple.”– Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW
2. Explore the Different Types of Marriage Counselors
Another critical factor to consider is the type of therapist you want to see. Several types of professionals offer marriage counseling services, each with different credentials and skills.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
A licensed marriage family therapist specializes in working with couples and families. These professionals focus on helping people repair relationships and develop essential relationship skills. A LMFT must have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or a similar discipline.
Clinical Psychologist (CP)
Clinical psychologists offer a wide range of mental health services, including therapy, psychological assessment, and diagnosis. You may want to see a psychologist for marriage counseling if you believe your partner or you may be dealing with an undiagnosed mental health condition. As mental health professionals, psychologists must pass state and national licensing exams and obtain a doctoral degree in psychology.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
Sometimes called Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs), these mental health professionals are trained in counseling. Typically, an LMHC or LPC will offer several types of counseling. Accreditation requirements vary from state to state, but most counselors will have a master’s degree in psychology.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
LCSWs work in various settings and offer many services, including therapy, mental health assessments and diagnosis, and social support. While some LCSWs work with couples, most professionals offer individual counseling services. To work as an LCSW, you need a master’s degree in social work. In addition to LCSWs, there are also LMSWs — Licensed Masters Social Workers — who work under clinical supervision to provide therapy.
What type of counselor is best for marriage?
When figuring out how to find a marriage counselor, it’s generally best to look for a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. These professionals specialize in assisting couples and use a variety of techniques to help people build healthier marriages. However, you may want to consider another type of counselor if there are specific concerns that you want to address.
3. Search Online & In Therapist Directories
Suppose you’re not sure how to choose a couples therapist or where to find the right professional to work with. In that case, online directories can help you find options in your area.
4. Ask Important Questions When Vetting Counselors
Once you’ve found a few counselors you’d potentially like to see, take the time to learn more about them. Interviewing therapists can provide valuable information to help determine how to choose a marriage counselor.
“Therapy is certainly an investment, and in this day and age, it’s more than OK to be clear on what you’re investing in. It’s common to ask questions and study online profiles. Still, I certainly encourage inquiring about even a “mini session” by phone to learn about style, fit, and payment schedule. It’s not enough to just have faith in the process when it takes time to build rapport within a therapeutic relationship, which can be such an indicator for success.”– Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW
Questions to ask a potential marriage counselor
When vetting a marriage counselor, try to get a better sense of what it would be like to work with them. Find out more about the methods and techniques they use.
You should also ask questions about any unique concerns. For example, if there are specific issues you’d like to address, such as grief or traumatic events, ask the therapist if they’ve treated couples with similar marriage problems. Other questions you may want to ask include the following:
- Do you primarily work with couples?
- How long are your sessions?
- How do you measure progress?
- How do you feel about divorce?
- What can we expect if we work with you?
- Do you work in any particular modality or type of therapy?
- Do you recommend that we each be in individual therapy as well?
- Do you see clients in-person, virtually, or both?
5. Discuss Their Specialized Therapy Approaches
There are many ways to approach marriage counseling. Depending on your needs, you may find that specific types of therapy are the best options. For example, Gottman Couple Therapy has been shown to improve relationship intimacy. Many other couples therapy techniques have proven successful in building healthy relationships, such as Imago therapy.
Figuring out how to find a marriage counselor can be challenging. However, if you have plenty of information about a professional’s methods, you’ll have a better sense of what to expect. You and your partner can decide if a therapist’s approach seems right for you.
6. Don’t Settle for a Bad Fit
It can take time to figure out how to find a good marriage counselor. Some research suggests that, on average, it takes couples 4 to 7 years before they seek therapy to improve relationship issues. While it’s best not to wait too long to start relationship counseling, you shouldn’t settle for a counselor who’s not right for you.
Marriage counseling is a collaborative process, which is why it’s crucial that you and your partner both feel comfortable with the therapist you decide on. If someone has an issue with a counselor, you should cross that professional off your list.
How do I know if my marriage counselor is good or bad?
Part of learning how to choose a couples therapist is figuring out how to identify red flags. Warning signs to watch out for include:
- Taking sides: A good marriage counselor shouldn’t decide which party is “right” or “wrong.” Instead, they should give couples the tools they need to resolve conflicts.
- Sharing personal information: It’s OK if a counselor occasionally shares details about their personal life, but their focus should always be on the married couple they’re working with.
- Failing to disclose a conflict of interest: Therapists should always disclose conflicts of interest and turn away couples they can’t ethically treat.
- Ignoring issues: If a marriage counselor fails to address serious relationship problems or focuses on surface issues, they may be unable to help you and your partner grow.
“Reciprocity for feedback can be such a positive criteria for therapy. Offer feedback and ask for it. It’s important to be clear about goals and feel comfortable about ways to reach them. More important than grading or rating your therapist is the establishment of honesty from the outset. If that exists, it becomes easier to discuss barriers to treatment openly rather than feeling in the dark about what is at play or on the treatment plan. Take time to build trust while being communicative to effect the process of relief and healing.”– Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW
Find a Marriage Counselor with Talkspace
Even if you’re not clear on how to find a marriage counselor or you think that you don’t have much time for couples therapy, you can get the help you need with Talkspace.
Talkspace is an online therapy platform that lets you get effective, affordable online marriage counseling in the comfort of your own home. Many types of counseling are available, and Talkspace can match you with a counselor who’s right for you.
- Bühler JL, Krauss S, Orth U. Development of relationship satisfaction across the Life Span: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin. 2021;147(10):1012-1053. doi:10.1037/bul0000342. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34928690. Accessed October 18, 2022.
- Davoodvandi M, Navabi Nejad S, Farzad V. Examining the Effectiveness of Gottman Couple Therapy on Improving Marital Adjustment and Couples’ Intimacy. Iran J Psychiatry. 2018;13(2):135-141. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6037577/. Accessed October 18, 2022.
- Jarnecke AM, Ridings LE, Teves JB, Petty K, Bhatia V, Libet J. The path to couples therapy: A descriptive analysis on a veteran sample. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice. 2020;9(2):73-89. doi:10.1037/cfp0000135. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7351137/. Accessed October 18, 2022.