Ballpark Estimate: $50 to $200 a session
When it comes to marriage and family life, sometimes the challenges, obligations and conflicts you face on a daily basis can feel overwhelming. When you and your partner find that these stresses are too much for you to handle alone and you are constantly at odds with each other, it is often a good idea to seek the guidance and support of a marriage or family counselor or other licensed professional.
Of course you don’t have to wait to see a marriage counselor until you feel like your marriage is in trouble. Such trained professionals can also be an important resource even if you and just need someone to help you to communicate more effectively or help you talk things through together.
You Don’t Have to Go It Alone
With the growing divorce rate that exists in the United States today as more and more couples go separate way, it makes sense to devote the time and effort needed to help your marriage stay strong and keep you from becoming a statistic.
The fact is that marriage is hard work and it is not unusual for two people from different backgrounds and families of origin not to have different relationship styles and goals. That’s a normal part of building a joint life together. Bring in kids, careers and other responsibilities and suddenly your days can careen out of control. That’s where a trained counselor can come in, to listen to your issues and to help you find new ways to manage your various roles, bridge any differences and come up with a healthier balance so everyone wins.
There are numerous documented benefits that can result from family or marriage counseling. Some of the most common, and striking, ones include happier families and kids, a decrease in health problems, reduced stress, improved productivity and even higher earning potential. Just remember that what you ultimately get out of counseling depends a lot on what you are willing to put into it.
A Range of Expertise
There are close to half a million counselors or other professionals today who specialize in treating individuals, couples and families in the United States, according to some estimates. With such a large pool to choose from, you will want to shop around for someone who feels like a good fit for both of you. There are a range of titles, certifications, educational background and experiences that counselors can bring to the job and weeding through the differences can be confusing.
To help you make sense of the field, here is a brief overview of the type of therapists from which you may choose:
- A professional counselor will have a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling (or a related field) and some clinical training. He or she will often be licensed or certified to treat patients in your state and is typically available to meet with both individuals and families.
- Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) are both common types of psychotherapists who have undergone clinical training to enable them to best help patients deal with their interpersonal relationship issues.
- Psychologists also meet with patients and they usually have a Ph.D. Some of them can do psychological testing, if needed.
- Psychiatrists are M.D. and usually don’t do much direct patient counseling but they do prescribe medications.
Getting the Right Fit
Remember that the title a person brings to their role is only part of the equation. Beyond the training and expertise a counselor holds, you will also need to find someone whose style will be an appropriate choice with yours. Some therapists will be more interactive and directive, while others prefer to take a backseat and serve more as a sounding board to help a couple find its way. Be sure to talk to several choices and ask lots of questions about the counselor’s approach before making a long-term commitment.
How to Find a Counselor
With so many choices to choose from, if you want to find a counselor in your area, you may wonder where in the world to begin. There are lots of different ways to approach the process. Some people look in the yellow pages, while others prefer to get suggestions from family members, co-workers they trust or close friends. In addition, your physician or religious leader may be able to refer you to a good therapist.
You can also do a search online. A few Internet resources that might aid your search include the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
Counseling sessions are generally billed at one hour intervals but the actual client therapy part usually lasts for about 45 minutes. Following the session, the counselor will use the last 15 minutes to record notes and prepare for the next session. You can expect to see a counselor once a week, at least in the beginning. As you make progress, you may stretch out the timeframe a little between each visit.
How long you will continue to receive therapy overall depends a lot on you, your availability and the depth of your issues. It can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on your unique situation.
What It Costs
Most people want to know how much it will cost for marriage therapy. This depends on a variety of factors. First of all, if you have health insurance that will cover this as an in-network benefit, you may get away with just paying your co-pay and/or deductible, depending on what type of coverage you have. But it is important to note that many health insurance companies don’t pay for couples counseling. In addition, many therapists won’t accept insurance anyway, because they don’t want to deal with the headaches that are involved with submitting claims and waiting to be paid.
You can expect it to cost between $50 and $200 for one counseling session today, with the average rate in the $100 range.
Some of the factors that can affect the price include the geographic region in which you live, the amount of expertise the counselor brings to the role and the training and degree he or she has received. Usually, psychologists charge more per hour than other mental health counselors, and psychiatrists charge even higher rates. Some counselors are willing to adjust their rates on a sliding scale for clients who can’t afford the entire amount, or will at least work out some type of payment plan to make the expense more comfortable for you. If money is a real issue, though, you can also look for low-cost counseling options through your religious institution, area college counseling centers and at local community centers.
Costs of Not Going to Counseling
When you think about the cost of going to counseling, many experts recommend that you also consider what it would cost NOT to go. If you don’t seek help for marital problems, they can escalate over time and you could find yourself down the road investing in a painful and expensive divorce. In addition, the stress of maintaining, or ending, a difficult relationship can affect your health, your happiness and your quality of life. When you add these pieces into the equation, it may help to put the expense of counseling into perspective for you.
You don’t have to wait until you are married to get counseling. If you are in a serious relationship and/or engaged, you might benefit from relationship or pre-marital counseling sessions to help you and your partner overcome challenges you face and establish some healthy patterns right from the start.