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Making the Most of Marriage/Relationship Counseling

shutterstock_151609376People seek marriage or relationship therapy for many reasons.

For some people, it’s because of a crisis, such as infidelity, job loss, illness or accidents.

Others come in because they feel distant and want to grow closer, or they seek counseling before they marry to sort out any difficulties and ensure that they’re ready for life together.

Some couples simply know that something feels wrong but they don’t know what, and they want to fix it.

But once you and your partner have decided to seek counseling, how do you make the most of it? Here are six things to consider.

  1. Find a therapist who has experience in what you’re seeking therapy for. If there is addiction involved, ask about a potential therapist’s experience. If there is infidelity, has he or she worked with many couples who have been unfaithful?
  2. Think about your goals and compare them with your partner. Your goals do not have to be the same; most likely they’re not. But consider what you’re hoping for. Do you hope to make your marriage better? If so, how? Are you looking to try and figure out if your marriage will work? Are you looking to improve communication, heal old wounds, be happier? Your goals may change and expand as you work with a counselor, but it’s a good idea to go in to your first session with an idea of what you hope to get out of counseling.
  3. Be honest, both with your therapist and with each other. It can be really hard to talk about negative feelings or experiences, or to bring up past hurts, but without honesty counseling won’t progress much.
  4. Don’t stop working once the session is over. Talk to your partner about it, journal, think about your thoughts and feelings. Most of the work in therapy doesn’t happen in the office, it happens outside the office.
  5. Ask about privacy and confidentiality. Some therapists will want to meet with each partner individually, and you will want to know ahead of time if what you say in your individual session will be brought up in joint sessions. Different therapists deal with this differently.
  6. Make therapy a priority. Marriage counseling works best if it happens regularly. When I work with couples, I prefer to see them weekly in the beginning, and as things get better we often taper off before deciding to end. Make the time in your calendar, get a list of babysitters, put the cost of therapy in your budget, and go regularly, even if you don’t feel like it.

Marriage counseling is difficult. You’re confronted with the parts of yourself that you or your partner is unhappy with. You will hear things that will be painful, and you’ll say things that are painful.

You will be asked to make changes in your behavior and how you think about things. But marriage counseling works. It can help people find more joy in one another. It can promote growth and healing.

Hopefully you will walk away with a better understanding of yourself, your partner, and your relationship. And these are things you can use for the rest of your life.


photo from Shutterstock

Making the Most of Marriage/Relationship Counseling

Jenise Harmon, MSW, LISW-S

Jenise Harmon, LISW-S, is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Columbus, Ohio. She works with individuals and couples, and specializes in relationship counseling. Stay Connected . Follow her on twitter; and connect with her on Facebook.

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APA Reference
Harmon, J. (2013). Making the Most of Marriage/Relationship Counseling. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2018, from


Last updated: 25 Sep 2013
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Sep 2013
Published on All rights reserved.