Seeing a good marriage and family therapist near you can help you increase your marital satisfaction and also improve your parenting skills, ensuring an overall happy family life. It is estimated that first-time married couples in the United States have a 50% chance of divorcing. Over 746,000 divorces were recorded in 2019 alone, accounting for over 37% of the number of marriages that occurred that year. Working with a good marriage and family therapist near you can help rebuild the connection between you and your spouse by resolving any issues that you may have through professional mediation and conflict resolution. Similarly, in situations where separation or divorce is inevitable, a good marriage and family therapist can help make sure that this split is as amicable as possible, in a way that is beneficial to not just you, but also your spouse and any children that you may have.
Finding a marriage and family therapist that is the right fit for you can seem like an arduous task. However, by asking the questions listed below, you can simplify the process of getting good marriage and family counseling near you:
Are You Licensed, Registered, or Certified?
Every state requires marriage and family therapists to be licensed before practicing. It is therefore important that you find out if the marriage and family therapist you intend to hire is licensed to practice in your state. Licensing requirements vary from state to state and you can find out the exact licensing requirements for your locality by checking with the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards. Many therapists frame and display their license information in their offices as proof that they have met all necessary licensing requirements. Nonetheless, you can also verify the licensing status of a marriage and family therapist by contacting your state's licensing authority.
Marriage and family therapists may also join or obtain voluntary certifications from organizations like the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Family Therapy Academy, the Parent-Child Interaction Therapy International, and the Institute for Play Therapy. These certifications are proof of extensive learning and specialization in a particular niche. As such, it is advisable to hire a marriage and family therapist that belongs to one of these associations. These organizations also have codes of ethics that regulate the actions of their members. However, note that it is not enough to ask if a marriage and family therapist is certified. You should always go a step further by requesting proof of this certification and authenticating it with the applicable organization.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Marriage and Family Therapist?
The cost of hiring a marriage and family therapist varies depending on your location, the experience and credentials of the particular therapist, and the length of each session. On average, you can expect to pay anything between $75 to $200 for a single 60-minute session of professional marriage and family therapy.
To save costs on therapy, you should consider checking with the universities and colleges within your area for trainee therapists. These therapists work under the supervision and guidance of licensed and more experienced marriage and family therapists, and generally charge less for their services than licensed therapists. In addition, you are still covered by the same confidentiality that applies to licensed therapists and you can stop the session at any point you feel uncomfortable or believe that the trainee is not experienced enough to handle your peculiar situation.
Another way to save costs on marriage and family therapy is by attending group therapy or going for workshops. The cost of these group therapy sessions or workshops is usually less than the therapy costs for individual sessions. For instance, while a one-hour individual therapy session can cost you up to $200 per session, multi-session group therapy charges could be as cheap as $700 per 8-week course.
What Are the Common Marriage and Family Counseling Expenses?
Other than the fees of the therapy sessions themselves, additional expenses that you can expect to incur when you hire a marriage and family therapist near you are transportation costs and communication costs. Many therapy sessions typically require that you either go to the therapist's office or have the therapist come to your home for home-based marriage and family therapy. Either way, these trips would cost you. Marriage and family therapists may charge between $50 to $150 for driving costs if they have to come to your home for a session.
Alternatively, therapy sessions may be virtual as opposed to being in-person. This virtual therapy may be via phone calls or videoconferencing and you will have to pay for a stable internet connection or any other requirements to facilitate the sessions.
Who Will Do the Work?
Marriage and family counseling is a very sensitive matter and needs to be handled with expertise and experience. Since it is not uncommon for reputable marriage and family therapists to own private counseling agencies and have multiple therapists working for them, it is essential to find out who will actually be doing the counseling. On finding this out, make sure to verify that the marriage and family therapist is licensed and has the necessary experience to take you on. You may also ask for a marriage and family therapist that has additional certifications in the field that most concerns you. For instance, if the therapy is for you and your children, you may want a therapist that has a Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) certification. Note that you should always authenticate any certifications that therapists provide by contacting the organization that issued it to verify its validity.
What Qualifications Should a Marriage and Family Therapist Have?
Marriage and family therapists are generally required to have a master's degree in a field related to marriage and family therapy, such as psychology, psychiatry, clinical social work, and other related courses. To be accepted into a master's degree program in any of these fields, these individuals must have completed certain prerequisite courses in areas like counseling fundamentals, research methods, and human development. It is advisable for aspiring marriage and family therapists to choose a master's program that has been accredited by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the Council on Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), or the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) as these accreditations provide certain quality standards to schools and may increase employment opportunities upon graduation.
In addition to earning a master's degree, marriage and family therapists must also complete two years of clinical experience from institutions that provide mental health services and pass a state-administered licensing exam before they can practice. Note that once licensed, marriage and family therapists are typically required to meet state-administered continuing education requirements to maintain and renew their licenses. The specifics of these requirements are dependent on the therapist's state of practice.
Finally, to enhance their career prospects and professional expertise, marriage and family therapists may also obtain certifications from organizations like the American Family Therapy Academy, the Parent-Child Interaction Therapy International, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
Will You Provide References?
Asking for references from professionals before hiring them is a great way to discover their level of experience and expertise. However, marriage and family therapists are bound by therapist-patient confidentiality rules. As such, it is unethical for them to request testimonials from their current clients, nor can they provide you with details of their past clients unless they obtain permission to do so beforehand. Nonetheless, this limitation does not prevent their colleagues and other professionals in their field from providing testimonials that vouch for their expertise. Therefore, before hiring a marriage and family therapist near you, you should ask for references from colleagues or past employers. You can also visit the prospective marriage and family therapist's website to view any available reviews and testimonials that may have been voluntarily published by their clients. Alternatively, you can look up the therapist on third-party sites like Yelp, Google Review, and Better Business Bureau to get reviews, opinions, and other relevant information on any marriage and family therapist near you that you intend to see.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Marriage counseling and couples counseling overlap so much that many people tend to use both terms interchangeably. However, both terms are not synonymous. Marriage counseling focuses on present-day occurrences rather than past events. It tends to deal with the current challenges of married life and how you can get your marriage back on track. Couples therapy, on the other hand, focuses both on present and past events. The goal is to find any issues that may have been the cause of the unhealthy patterns of communicating and relating. As such, in couples therapy, you will look at previous fights and arguments between you and your partner in a bid to get to the root of your issues and how it all began.
However, despite the differences between marriage counseling and couples counseling, there is no difference between a marriage counselor and a couples counselor.
How long marriage counseling for a couple will last depends on the couple in question, the issues they need to work through, and their commitment to therapy. Nonetheless, the average number of sessions for marriage counseling is 8 to 12. These sessions are typically weekly and last for about one hour. However, some couples may prefer to have the sessions biweekly or even monthly, although this would mean much slower progress. Whatever the case may be, it is best to see a marriage counselor until you have met your goals and gained the skills required to help you navigate the ups and downs of your marriage.
The effectiveness of marriage counseling is largely dependent on the skills of the marriage counselor, the type of therapy used, how early the couple begins therapy, and the willingness of the couple to work through their marital problems. Additionally, a couple is likely to see more positive results when they communicate with each other and with their counselor honestly and openly. The statistics about marriage counseling also point to its effectiveness. Research by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) shows that 98% of couples who engage in marriage counseling report that the therapy is either good or excellent. The study also revealed that 90% of these couples report feeling an improvement in their emotional wellbeing while three-fourths report seeing improvements in their relationships after trying marriage counseling.
The best kind of therapy to use for a couple depends on the type of problems they are experiencing in their relationship. Most marriage counselors are versed in various therapy techniques. As such, a well-trained one will be able to choose the best kind of therapy that suits the couple's needs. Most times though, these counselors rarely stick to only one approach. Instead, they borrow from various practices and tailor the treatment to meet the needs of the couples they work with. Some of the most common types of therapy include:
- Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT): This kind of therapy focuses on a couple's emotions and aims at understanding what drives their emotional responses in the relationship. Using the ETF, a marriage counselor tries to get the couple to express their underlying emotions to one another with the belief that it will help deepen their connection and create a more secure attachment between them. This kind of therapy is believed to be more effective for couples who have been affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, previous emotional injuries, serious childhood sexual abuse, and severe health problems.
- The Gottman Approach: This approach focuses on helping couples to develop a stronger relationship by teaching them to be more attune to each other's needs as they build their relationship. It helps couples grow in commitment and trust even as they become more emotionally intelligent. This type of therapy is best suited for committed, long-term couples whose goal is to build trust and continue the marriage.
- Discernment Counseling: This is typically referred to as the therapy of last resort. This approach is meant for couples who are confused as to whether to stay together or split up. Usually, this involves one person who is ready to work on the marriage and save it while the other spouse wants a divorce. Discernment counseling does not aim at resolving the couple's marital issues right then. Instead, its goal is to find out whether there is any desire to make the marriage work and to determine what issues will need to be addressed if the couple decides to work together to fix their marriage.
Couples should begin couples counseling long before they feel like they need to. Most experts recommend therapy as an important part of your relationship. As such, couples are supposed to view marriage counseling as a preventive measure to maintaining health in their relationship rather than the solution to a crisis. This is because most issues in a relationship start small and begin to grow when they do not get resolved immediately. Marriage counseling provides the tools and techniques that help with conflict resolution.
Before going to couples counseling, there are a few things you and your partner can do to emotionally and mentally prepare yourselves. These include:
- Making sure that you are both completely invested in going for counseling together
- Discussing your shared goals for couples therapy together
- Looking for a couples counselor that you are both comfortable with
- Preparing to share your personal history
- Deciding whether or not to tell your friends about it
- Clearing your schedule for the first appointment
Some of the questions you can expect to hear when you go for couples therapy include:
- How long have you and your partner been together?
- What made you decide to seek professional help?
- Have you ever been to couples therapy before?
- What do you expect to gain from this couples therapy?
- What would you consider to be your biggest problem as a couple? When did it start?
- Are there any former conflicts that need to be resolved?
- Do you feel emotionally close to your partner?
Marriage and family therapy is all about being honest and open. As such, there are only a few conversations, if any, that are off the table. You should never feel like you are talking too much, or that the conversation is one-sided. You should also never believe that therapy will not work for you or apologize for expressing your emotions.
Marriage counselors typically keep their opinions to themselves and will not persuade a married couple one way or another on the decision to get a divorce. They leave this decision to the couple. Their only job is to help the couple build their communication skills and become more in tune with the needs of the other.