How to Choose the Best Marriage Counseling near me.

Great directories are important (and I've included several here...). But before you enter "couples counseling near me" into a Google search, slow down and know what to ask.

There may be an overwhelming number of marriage counselors in your area listed, or there may be very few. Still, all may have different titles, describe different approaches, or have different training. 

While it is tempting to schedule a session with the most local therapist, reconsider. It may be worth traveling for longer sessions less often or working online if you find someone highly skilled.

Finding the best marriage counselor for your needs is preferable to find the closest one, so consider thinking more broadly. Some of the best help is offered "intensively" over a weekend. Others are offered weekly but in longer blocks of time.

Search Well-Respected Directories

Before you search these websites, keep reading to know additional facts to ask before searching for a couples therapist close by. Return here when you've finished the entire article.

Couples therapy is distinctly different from working with individuals. And it should be a good fit for the types of problems you're facing. Learn what good couples therapy looks like and what makes a good couples therapist great.

1. Is there a difference between couples therapy, relationship therapy, and marriage counseling?

No. The differences are based more upon the region of the country where you currently live than actual professional differences. For example, if you live in Texas cities, you'll find more couples counselors using the term "marriage counseling." Those residing in New York or California prefer to refer to their therapy services as "couples therapy." In Europe, counseling services for couples are often described as "relationship therapy."

The terms marriage counseling, relationship counseling, and couples therapy are interchangeable. All require a graduate degree in mental health. They can be:

  • a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW),
  • licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT),
  • a licensed professional mental health counselor (LMHC)
  • a psychologist (Psy.D. or Ph.D.)  or
  • a psychiatrist. (M.D.)
  • However, just having a degree and being licensed is not enough.

2. The best marriage counselors near you are experienced specialists.

A survey revealed that 81% of all private counselors in the United States say that they offer marital therapy. But only about 12 percent of the nation’s licensed therapists have required coursework or supervised clinical experience in marital therapy.

Don't be surprised if they don't take your health insurance, as couples therapy isn't covered by most insurance. However, most now do online counseling.

3. Find the best marriage therapist near you with a practice devoted to working with couples.

Of course, you want to feel comfortable with your relationship counselors. You may also want them to know about child development or substance abuse if these are issues between you. But there are now science-based practices offering advanced training from reputable institutes of marriage counseling training programs.

These researchers have studied real couples over 40 years and made pre- and post-comparisons of couples before and after treatment. These studies include MRI research and other biological markers of reduced physiological arousal after marriage counseling.

Marriage counseling sessions are now a more sophisticated science, with practitioners who are expected to demonstrate measurable skills before becoming certified.

They're not your grandmother's or even your parents' marriage counselor.

Ask the counselor what percentage of their practice is devoted to seeing couples (not "couples and families") each week. Seek someone specifically trained in couples therapy who does it exclusively or primarily. A good guideline is at least half of their practice should be working with couples as a pair.

Couples' work is a vastly separate way of working from individual work. Choose someone with a lot of daily practice working this way.

4. Pick a couples therapist who is a member of a professional organization devoted to couples.

True professionals spend time and money as members of professional associations that reflect their interests, training aspirations, and specializations. Being a clinical member of The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT) designates that:

  • a therapist has been supervised by another marriage therapist and
  • completed adequate coursework and training, at least in family therapy. 

AAMFT Clinical Members meet rigorous training and educational requirements. AAMFT requires Clinical Members to abide by the AAMFT Code of Ethics. These ethical codes are the most stringent in the marriage and family therapy profession.

Clinical Membership in AAMFT signifies that a couples therapist is dedicated to his or her ongoing professional development.

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists

Professional Organizations for Sex Therapists

The American Association for Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) is an organization for those practicing sex therapy. Board certification requires experience and supervision.

This organization outlines standards for training, experience, and ethical behavior. AASECT also has a Code of Ethics outlining the conduct required of all members.

Professionals demonstrate their interests through the organizations they join. AASECT is devoted to helping couples with their sexual and intimacy needs. You might be surprised to find a marriage counselor with very little training specifically related to sexual issues.

Many graduate programs have no requirement to learn about sex-related issues. Those who do have taken a 1-3 credit course.

When sex is a pressing concern, ask specifically about their formal training in "sex therapy."

The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

5. Look for someone who studied and trained in a recognized institute in evidence-based couples therapy.

There are two most well-known scientifically based or evidence-based treatments for couples.

Ask the marriage if they hold credentials in these models.

They should be proud to explain their education to you. Beware that some of these models do not offer certifications the way Gottman, Johnson, and Greenberg do.

If you aren’t familiar with the orientation of the approach, be sure to research the methods these therapists have adopted.

Better yet, find a therapist who has training & certification in several methods for a more thorough toolbox.

Others are clinically effective and are taught worldwide, but not research-oriented models.

Why choose Science-based Couples Therapy?

Because it works. Period.

The Gottman Institute trains the best couples therapists
EFT trains quality couples therapists

6. Choose a therapist with the right attitude.

Two-thirds of Marriage Counselors are "neutral" on divorce.

These clinical members of AAMFT were indifferent about whether a couple decides to stay married or get divorced.

Psychotherapists should provide advice on whether couples should stay married or separate, especially if they have children.

Is this couples therapist near me "Marriage Friendly?"

Find out. Ask the them:

  • “Do you consider it important to keep a marriage together when there are problems?”
  • "Under what conditions do you suggest divorce?"

Marriage Counselors should be the last ones in the room encouraging divorce.

Psychotherapists should provide advice on whether couples should stay married or separate, especially if they have children.

63% of clinical members of AAMFT are indifferent about whether a couple decides to stay married or get divorced.

Gottman’s work also supports this fact. Couples are often miserable and hopeless, believing nothing can change. However, the research on the state of “Negative Sentiment Override” demonstrates that when the couple completes evidence-based training, this feeling not only changes, but it “switches” suddenly, like turning on a light switch. It doesn't gradually modify like a ‘dimmer switch.’ We’ve seen this sort of dramatic switch during our intensive couples intensive marriage counseling retreats.

It may be fashionable to try to stay “neutral,” but it is hardly a good attitude for effective couples therapy.

Other therapists might encourage a "trial separation" without mentioning the statistics that 75% of couples who separate end up divorcing.

At Couples Therapy Inc. we're specialists in intimacy relationships

We serve most states across the USA.

Our marriage counselors and trained sex therapists have coursework and training in at least two clinical approaches to couples therapy, one of which must be evidence-based. They are active in their professional organizations related to marriage counseling or sex therapy. They are highly skilled professionals that are here to help you function more effectively in your relationship. And they have certifications to demonstrate their competence.

Ready for a change in your relationship?

It starts with a no-obligation 15 minute phone call with our client services team.

Dr. K

Dr. Kathy McMahon (Dr. K) is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. She is also the founder and president of Couples Therapy Inc. Dr. K feels passionate about couples therapy and sex therapy and holds a deep respect towards those who invest in making their relationship better. She is currently conducting online and in person private couples retreats.

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