Choosing a Couples Therapist

Finally! You two have decided to go to marriage counseling.  It’s about time.  Researcher John Gottman has found that after couples have begun to have serious problems, on average, they wait six years longer than they should to go to couples therapy. Come on now, that doesn’t make it easy for us to help you out of the marriage muck that has been created.  But let’s let that go and start the work. First you need to know how to choose a relationship therapist.


 Seems obvious but just in case, get a therapist who is licensed.  Asking your neighbor Bob to perform angioplasty on your artery is probably not the right choice for your physical health.  Choosing a couples or marriage therapist who is licensed and experienced is important for the health of your relationship. You want someone who has gone to school and has been evaluated by your state licensing board. There are several licenses to consider: licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT), licensed social workers (LCSW), licensed psychologists, licensed professional counselors (LPC), and licensed psychiatrists (M.D.). This is the name of their license and relays the focus of the school program they attended. THIS IS THEIR LICENSE NOT THEIR SPECIALTY. That is tremendously important.  The sort of license that the counselor has is not as critical as their specialty. Many therapists out there see whoever walks through the door.  However a psychotherapist who has spent the majority of their time, energy, and training focusing on couples is going to serve you better than someone who is a jack-of-all-trades.  A good question to ask the therapist you are interviewing is what the percentage of their clients that they see are couples. You are looking for more than half. 


The other important consideration is the comfort level that you both have with your new couples therapist. Researchers have found that much of the success of psychotherapy rests on the relationship between client and therapist.  So feeling like you can truly be real with your marriage or couples counselor is a very important factor in your choice.


Last, is an insurance consideration. I say this last because if you can have all the above and they are also on your insurance, you are golden.  Sometimes  couples therapists charge lowered fees for out of pocket clients.  Be sure and talk about this with them if your budget is an issue.  You may find that you are not paying much more than your insurance copay would be. So if possible do not let insurance be your first consideration. Many couples do have the need to pay attention to their resources but having a skilled marriage therapist should be where your main scrutiny is. It’s been said many times and worth saying again: divorce will certainly cost you far more than a good couples therapist.

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