Marriage counseling costs range widely. Doing your research ahead of time is going to pay off. It takes learning a few basic facts. We'll discuss all of them in this article. and knowing what you'll be paying for and HOW you'll pay for it is a wise first move.

Bad marriage counseling is very expensive

Bad marriage counseling is worse than NO marriage counseling.

Many couples, even today, who could be helped, end up in a senseless divorce at the hands of untrained generalists.

I irritate my colleagues when I say that, but it is true.

People assume that anyone with a degree in counseling can be a marriage counselor. Even those without formalized training regularly see couples in trouble. But attending these sessions is unlikely to be worthwhile in either the time OR money you'll spend.

Bad advice can actually make matters worse instead of better. Couples often come to therapy already feeling depressed or hopeless that changing is even possible.

And too often, any generalists confirm their worst fears - "Your marriage is doomed..." - BASED ON NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE.

Even free Marriage Counseling costs too much if it:

  • results in divorce,
  • intensifies your fighting, or
  • leaves you even worse off than you started.

As in any branch of medicine, seek out a specialist if you are looking for the highest level of expertise.

Marriage counseling isn't charged in the per-minute cost

You can find mental health clinics or university training settings, which will charge you at a sliding scale for as little as $35-$75 for short sessions. In other cases, paying $200-$400 for a short session with a Clinical Psychologist can be a bad investment.

You want to think about your marital work as a "holistic treatment," not as a series of individual "sessions." There is also a lot to cover, as the average couple waits over six years before asking for help. This type of marriage isn't going to turn around in 4 sessions magically.

After about 6-12 weeks of couples therapy sessions, spreading out the sessions is common. When treatment is complete, "relapse prevention sessions," spaced six months apart, have been scientifically demonstrated to improve skill retention.

That will come to about $3000-$6000 total for a therapist with advanced training and approximately ten years of clinical experience. Perhaps twice that for a therapist with certifications in an evidence-based model and 20+ years of experience. This is typically true for both in-person and online therapy

Check the length of the marriage therapy sessions.

If the counselors in private practice see couples in 45-50 minute sessions, keep looking. They are trying to fit your couples therapy into a box it doesn't belong.

Short therapy sessions for marriage counseling that are 50 minutes long aren't a good bargain. It works for individual therapy. However, this is too little time to make headway with two people.

Couples counselors know this, but they do shorter sessions, hoping to have insurance cover the costs. The fact is insurance companies do not cover couples therapy, and they never have.

Some of our clients claim that they have gone to a couples therapist and had a number of sessions covered. Most clients are shocked to learn that it was billed for as individual therapy. One of the partners was labeled with a mental illness by the marriage therapist, and this diagnosis was reimbursed.

Carefully trained couples therapists have higher fees because they prefer to see you in longer, evidence-based lengths of 80-90 minutes. You'll get more done each week, and it will be worth the additional costs. Entire weekend intensives are also increasingly popular to allow couples to get a jump-start on working on their problems.

Choose a specialist in relationship counseling over a generalist.

A less-expensive but well-supervised intern or pre-licensed professional can be a wise financial choice. This is especially true if the choice is a seasoned clinician who has little formal training in working with couples.

Excellence in marriage counseling isn't a matter of dollars or degree.

A degree alone shouldn't govern your choice when deciding what to pay for the right couples therapist. Couples Therapy is a challenging profession, and few psychotherapists (even Marriage and Family Therapists or MFTs...) choose to specialize in it. It requires drive and passion to work with couples. And as mentioned before, it requires an education you're not likely to find in any degree-granting program.

A student interested in studying couples therapy while in school has to put in effort in order to do so. Many must seek out additional coursework and locate appropriate clinical placements that specialize in treating couples.

Of the four counseling programs I've taught in, every single one offered no more than one survey course, often an elective, in Couples Therapy. Coursework in Sex Therapy is rarer.

Because insurance doesn't cover couples therapy, many universities and training clinics don't offer specialized training in couples therapy. Also, private practices are often poorly equipped to provide the extensive training students need to learn to work with couples.

So you have to really be motivated to become a specialist in this area. Training after graduate school is necessary to develop these skills. 

I believe you are not going to know if someone is a good couples therapist and worth paying for just by checking their degree.

But investigate their licensing and graduate degree in any case.

  • There are a lot of people claiming to help couples who don't have any training or mental health degree AT ALL...

Certified Science-based Professionals Will Cost You More

Certification in either model is even more costly to you and the professional. It requires not only hours of post-licensure clinical supervision but also requires the professional to submit videotapes of their work to a central training institute.

The Couples Therapist's work is reviewed, and provided feedback on the quality of their skill. They are only certified if they pass a standard of excellence.

Some states have several Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapists (fewer than 300 practice worldwide) or EFT Therapists (perhaps 1000 worldwide). And unfortunately, some states or countries have no certified Gottman or EFT Couples Therapists.

If you can't find someone certified in your area, consider traveling for a Couples Retreat with someone who is.

And if cash flow is a big concern, making travel impossible, look for someone with at least Level III Gottman training or Core Skills training in Emotionally-Focused Therapy. That should be a minimum standard before someone claims to be "trained" in either of these two science-based models.

Or seek out an Intern who is working on certification. It is well worth your time to you can work collaboratively with your therapist.

Pay for an Extensive Couples Assessment

Make sure you ask for a relationship "assessment."

If they don't know what you're talking about when you ask how much their assessment is, you're not talking to a trained Couples Therapist.

It will cost money, but it will laser focus and shorten your treatment.

You'll understand the type of therapy you'll be working on and why from a scientific perspective.

Consider purchasing sessions in blocks.

You can also save money by purchasing a block of sessions all at once. Many therapists will offer blocks of 6-12 sessions for 5%-20% off their stand-alone rates.

Doing so has advantages for both of you.

Yes, you save money, but more importantly, you have a set schedule of regular attendance at the start...when it's most important.

The therapist is helped because they save on accounting and scheduling costs. 

It's a win-win.

This idea of buying Marriage Counseling sessions in blocks of time is new, so ask your marriage counselor if they offer this type of discount.

A Renaissance in marriage counseling

We're in a renaissance now in Marriage Counseling. More and more generalists are recognizing that they just can't see couples as an add-on to their individual private practices.

They need to specialize in couples work in order to be of help. In our practice, we devote 100% of our energies to helping troubled relationships, and that's becoming the norm.

A new breed of therapists is committing their professional careers to the art and science of love.

And more marriages are surviving and thriving after seeing these specialists. 

Instead of referring to themselves as "psychologists" or "social workers," they refer to themselves by their specialty: "Couples Therapists."

In the hands of a skilled couples therapist, effectiveness has risen from 30% to now over 70%-92%!

Is marriage counseling worth it?

Financial costs are just one consideration in the decision to hire a marriage counselor. Most people recognize that a skilled couples therapist doesn't compete against other couples therapists but against divorce attorneys. When looked at from that perspective, financial costs appear much less costly than the multi-generational consequences of living in a miserable marriage or divorce.

Ready for a change in your relationship?

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

Dr. Kathy McMahon

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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