science-based couples therapy

A marriage counseling assessment is an organized way your couples therapist understands more about you and your marriage. That's why we begin all therapeutic services with a marriage counseling assessment.

Why do a marriage counseling assessment?

There was a time when it was widely accepted in the field that couples would not complete a marriage counseling assessment until well into the treatment, if at all.

Couples Therapy Inc. and The Gottman Institute have demonstrated Neil Jacobson's firm belief that assessment is not just "nice to have." It's essential to effective couples therapy.

It is our belief that without a thorough assessment, a couples therapist is "shooting in the dark." Instead, we'll spend concentrated clinical assessment sessions uncovering fundamental issues to target our couples therapy. Many of these details you provide us in our marriage counseling assessment instrument.

Couples therapy, focuses not only on how a couple functions, but also how each person is doing. A thorough assessment answers relevant questions not only about family history, but also more current questions about drug or alcohol use, patterns of sleeping and eating, support systems, hobbies, religious or spiritual beliefs and much much more.

We call it the "State of the Union."

You'll objectively know how good or problematic things are, before we start couples therapy. Ours is the most comprehensive marital assessment available today. We deal with common and not so common problems couples face today.

We don't want people influencing our relationship before they really get to know us. Do you?

Here is what is included in every State of the Union Assessment:

  • One 1.5-2-hour interview with both of you. This includes both the Gottman Oral History Interview and a Pearson problem Interview.
  • A video analysis of your fighting dynamics.
  • The BIG BIG Book:  A detailed questionnaire completed online by each of you. It's scored and analyzed. It's an important part of your Retreat Assessment.  Learn More...
  • Two individual interviews (booked as two sessions) with each of you.  What are your perspectives, hopes, and wishes? Speak frankly. Just how much does this relationship mean to you?
  • One feedback and planning session. We have the time to provide you with a detailed understanding of your areas of strength, your areas of relationship vulnerabilities, and your attachment styles.

It starts with a "State of the Union."  It's a part of every Couples Intensive Retreat.

Why do a marriage counseling assessment?

There was a time when it was widely accepted in the field that couples would not complete a marriage counseling assessment until well into the treatment, if at all.

Couples Therapy Inc. and The Gottman Institute have demonstrated Neil Jacobson's firm belief that assessment is not just "nice to have." It's essential to effective couples therapy.

It is our belief that without a thorough assessment, a couples therapist is "shooting in the dark." Instead, we'll spend concentrated clinical assessment sessions uncovering fundamental issues to target our couples therapy. Many of these details you provide us in our marriage counseling assessment instrument.

Couples therapy, focuses not only on how a couple functions, but also how each person is doing. A thorough assessment answers relevant questions not only about family history, but also more current questions about drug or alcohol use, patterns of sleeping and eating, support systems, hobbies, religious or spiritual beliefs and much much more.

Does it matter when you do a marriage counseling assessment?

Yes, it does. Couples that complete an assessment early in the process receive the benefit of an informed therapeutic perspective. While time and efforts are spent on completing these structured instruments, this work is time-limited and done beforehand, and not while active couples therapy is supposed to be happening.

Why do a relationship assessment prior to discernment counseling?

In Discernment Counseling, one partner is clearly leaning "out" of the relationship, while one may be leaning "in." There may be an undisclosed affair. There may be little belief that couples therapy could help both of you. 

Or one of you is concerned about costs. We are convinced that to get the most out of Discernment Counseling, it is essential that the couple and the therapist have the most comprehensive overview of the current state of the relationship possible.

A State of the Union assessment is not a substitute for Discernment counseling. It is simply the precursor. Following an assessment, Discernment counseling is limited to a maximum of 5 sessions. Learn more about discernment counseling.

How much does marriage counseling assessment cost? 

The cost is built into a marriage intensive weekend.

Will couples therapy actually work for you?

So, will couples therapy actually work for you? 

Research tells us that couples need only to share their expectations to a “good enough” degree.

All happy, satisfied couples are different… It’s the unhappy couples that are sadly similar.

Unhappy couples display high levels of what Gottman calls the four horsemen of the marital apocalypse; defensiveness, criticismcontempt, and stonewalling.

What does the research say about couples therapy working?

Research studies show that couples therapy is generally effective in reducing marital distress. William Shadish and Scott Baldwin conducted a pretty comprehensive metanalysis. They found that the overall effect sizes for couples therapy were impressive, typically helping 75% of couples.

Steven Beach and Daniel O’Leary, and Neil Jacobson and his team-each independently both discovered that science-based, behavioral couples therapy was also an effective treatment for a spouse’s depression that was increasing marital conflict.

The studies showed that individual therapy treated the individual depression, but only couples therapy had any effect on marital unhappiness. Couples therapy became the treatment of choice for spouses struggling with both depression and a troubled marriage.

Gottman Method Couples Therapy, and it’s the forerunner, Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy, stress the need to develop skills for managing conflict and accepting perpetual problems that can be managed, but can’t be changed. Both of these cognitive-behavioral methods show wide success with most couples.

Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy, with its focus on attachment, is also clinically proven effective as well.

Don’t wait… It only makes our job more difficult

Couples therapy is notoriously challenging. The average couple entering couples therapy has been actively unhappy for nearly 7 years.

Studies by Lynne Knobloch-Fedders and William Pinsof show that the best results come from the earliest treatment. That’s why we say science-based couples therapy is 70-92% effective. It’s clear from the many research studies that the earliest treatment predicts the best outcome.  Experience matters. Choose your couples therapist with care.

But your marital mileage may vary. Marriage is hard work sometimes. Science-based couples therapy doesn’t promise marital bliss for all couples. But many highly distressed couples often improve to what they would comfortably describe as… “good enough!” 

Ready to get started on your Marriage Counseling Assessment?

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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