Can Marriage Counseling Help? Is it Too Late to Save Your Marriage?

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Wondering can marriage counseling help or if it’s too late for marriage counseling? 

When our marriage feels like it’s in trouble it’s scary!

We feel sick to our stomach and full of heartache. Or maybe it’s gone on so long we feel nothing? We’ve all heard of marriage counseling, but we aren’t sure it will work.

How much does it cost? What do they do? Do I have to really talk about everything I’m feeling?

Can marriage counseling help? Absolutely!

You can have a more connected relationship and replace the fear, criticism, anger or apathy with love and warmth.

In this post, we’ll walk through exactly what a good marriage therapist does. We explore how to find one, what it costs and what they do.

Most importantly we’ll talk about exactly how it can help you get the relationship you’ve always dreamed of.

Are you and/or your spouse wanting to try marriage counseling?

Has one of you already mentioned divorce or separation?

Perhaps one of you had an affair and you’re not sure if that’s a deal breaker? Or maybe you’re just wondering if it’s too late for marriage counseling?

Maybe one of you has already moved out or are staying with friends.

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then it’s time for you to take action. After all, your marriage is in danger! 

You didn’t say “I do” with the intent of throwing in the towel shortly into the marriage.  Neither did your spouse.

That’s the Good News! You and your spouse, at least at one time, had the same goals. It’s just time to get back to remembering that.

Personally, I have seen therapists many times over the years, both individually and as a couple.  4 1/2 years ago my wife and I discussed and considered divorce!  I’ve been there. I have seen it.

Believe me; if you are asking yourself any of those questions above, I have asked them too and come out on the other side successful.  And marriage counseling DID help!

You CAN save your marriage — even if your spouse says that they want a divorce.

You CAN rebuild that passion you felt for one another when you first kissed. And you can bring back that love and devotion you felt for one another when both of you said, “I love you” for the first time.

If you feel like your marriage is worth fighting for, then do yourself a favor and watch this quick video on how to Mend Your Marriage that will teach you everything you need to know about salvaging the most important thing in the world.

Asking the question “can marriage counseling help” is like asking “will eating fried chicken make me fat”. 

The answer just isn’t that simple.

How much are you going to eat?  Are you also going to exercise?  If so, how much?  What else are you eating with the chicken, and so on. The good news is that it’s too late for marriage counseling.

Marriage counseling can help if:

  1. Both parties want to make the marriage work
  2. You have a good therapist
  3. Both you and your spouse are willing to change your behavior
  4. You and your spouse are equally ready to admit fault in causing the demise of the relationship

While it isn’t always 50/50 in terms of damaging the marriage, it’s very rarely, if ever, all the fault of just one person. It takes 2 to make a marriage and it takes 2 to destroy one.

Wondering if your marriage is headed for divorce court?

Check out my most shared post on marriage & relationships which covers the Top 3 Reasons for Divorce (and what you can do to avoid them).

Middle Class Dad can marriage counseling help couple kissing

What do they do in marriage counseling?

A good marriage counselor simply listens.

And they ensure the partners stop and listen to each other.  They may redirect and they might ask each party to repeat back what they just heard. However, a therapist will rarely take sides or call a behavior out as wrong.

A good therapist will listen more than they talk and will ask questions more than they make statements.  They provide a safe environment for couples to communicate the good, the bad and the ugly.

So in your marriage counseling be prepared to sit, face your partner, be honest, accept honest feedback and have the therapist play the role of neutral mediator 3rd party.

What is the success rate of marriage counseling?

According to Health Research Funding, they found that couples who received pre-marital counseling were 30% more likely to have a successful marriage.

But for already married couples, a study by the National Institutes of Health look at “134 chronically and seriously distressed married couples”.

That study looked at 2 different kinds of couples counseling. First, they studied traditional behavioral couple therapy (TBCT).  Then they looked at integrative behavioral couple therapy (IBCT).

The results were interesting.

At the 2-year follow up mark, the couples who engaged in the integrative therapy were clearly rating higher on the marital satisfaction gauge.

But at 5 years, those results were almost equal. In the end, about 50% of the couples divorced and 50% stayed married and saw an improved connection with their spouse.

So while naysayers could look at those results and point towards a 50% divorce rate, I take a different approach.

I say that 50% of those distressed marriages were able to be saved by therapy.

If a couple is wondering if it’s too late for marriage counseling and you tell me that by taking this specific action they have a 50% chance of saving that relationship, I’ll take those odds every time.

So yes. The answer to the question “can marriage counseling help” is clearly yes!  And don’t be afraid to get marriage counseling both before and during the marriage.

How much does it cost to go to marriage counseling?

The average cost of marriage counseling is a range between $75-$150 per hour (or more in some cases).  Some therapists may have a sliding scale for those on a tight budget so it doesn’t hurt to ask.

You can typically expect to go once a week and as someone who has done a good bit of therapy over the years, I would suggest planning to go for at least 8-12 weeks.

Also realize too that the first 1 or 2 sessions will be focused on bringing the therapist up to speed on each of you individually as well as being a couple.

After all, all of us bring baggage from childhood and previous relationships to the table.

All of those play a role in how we interact with our spouse today.  Thus it’s important that your therapist get a good feeling for who you are and what you’ve been through.

Can marriage counseling help? Definitely, but don’t expect a miracle your first session. The true magic of therapy may not even begin until session 3 or later.

Does insurance cover marriage therapy?

In most cases no, it does not.

If you or your spouse have been diagnosed as bipolar or another similar diagnosis it is possible that therapy, in general, would be covered, so talk to your therapist and/or your insurance company to be sure.

One thing is certain! Marriage counseling is cheaper than divorce!

However, if your insurance and/or employer provides for a Cafeteria Plan or some type of Flexible Spending Account (FSA or HRA) you may be able to get reimbursed for what you spend on marriage counseling.

These types of plans either allow you to get reimbursed for qualified (ie: government approved) expenses or you can set money aside pre-tax out of your paycheck in a saving account and later use that money for one of these qualified expenses.

In most cases expect to pay out of pocket for your therapy and then file a claim.

You can see a complete list of all qualified expenses on the IRS website. Page 13 is where it specifically lists Psychiatric Care, Psychoanalysis and Psychologists.

How long is a marriage counseling session?

Most therapists would work with a couple for 1 hour.

Given the emotional nature of marriage counseling, any longer than 1 hour could be counter-productive as couples (or 1 person) become drained, feel defeated or get more agitated.

What are the different types of marriage counselors?

As someone not engrossed in the industry, it can be very hard to know the difference between the types of therapists.

You see a long list of letters following their title, but what do they mean?  Why are some listed as Doctor? Does that mean they went to medical school?  Can therapists prescribe medicine?

In short, outside the industry, it can be very confusing so let’s review the most common types, names, and differentiators.

Psychiatrist – A medical doctor who specializes in mental health. Unlike counselors and psychotherapists, they can prescribe drugs if they feel it fits the symptoms.

Psychologist – A therapist who possesses a Ph.D. or PsyD. Thus they will have the title of Doctor, but do not prescribe medication.

Psychotherapist – Sort of a catch-all term as technically both of the above could be described as psychotherapists.

Social Worker – A very broad category of therapists and counselors, but those who practice psychotherapy may have a masters degree (but have not yet gotten a Ph.D.).

You also see the following letters following the names and titles of many:

  1. LCSWs (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)
  2. LICSWs (Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker)
  3. LSWs (Licensed Social Worker)
  4. LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor)
  5. LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor)
  6. LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

Also, bear in mind that my generalizations are simplifications and I probably could go into much greater detail. Since I am based in the US, also realize that the above may not apply to other countries.  See more detailed descriptions at BetterHelp.

In my opinion, having worked with at least 5 therapists over the years, the best results come from those with 10 or more years in the field.

That being said, a big factor is also how the personality of the person fits with you and your spouse.  Don’t be afraid to try a different one if the first therapist you select doesn’t feel quite right.

Is it too late for marriage counseling?

In short, in my opinion, it’s never too late to save your marriage.

Can marriage counseling help? Absolutely! Relationships ebb and flow.  Life Happens!  Kids and careers happen!

All these things conspire, often slowly and unknowingly to disrupt the connection with our spouse. Over time that disconnect can derail even the strongest marriages.

Marriage counseling is a wonderful tool to help couples remember why they came together in the first place.  It allows us to really hear our partner and their pain. Then we can begin to recognize our role in that pain, but also what we can do to move forward.

It’s never too late!

Even after the ink is dry on the divorce decree it’s still technically not too late.  All it takes are 2 people who are willing to try. Willing to fight to save their marriage and their family.

If you know your marriage has lost its luster, check out my 11 Expert Ways to Rekindle Your Marriage. It certainly won’t hurt, and it just might save your marriage!

Can marriage counseling help?  Get to know the work of Dr. John Gottman 

If you don’t know Dr. Gottman, author of the incredible book called The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, he is generally regarded as the foremost expert on marriage and divorce.

For more than 40 years he and his wife and colleagues have studied tens of thousands of couples over many years.

Dr. Gottman can literally predict with 90% accuracy if a couple will stay together or divorce.  If you have mentioned divorce in your house, aside from finding a great therapist, you owe it to yourself and your marriage to get to know Dr. Gottman!

You’ll notice at the top left of the graphic that Dr. Gottman mentioned what he calls the Four Horsemen (of the Apocalypse).

Those are the 4 things couples do that derail the marriage faster than anything else. Click the link above to read an in-depth post I did that explores those 4 in great detail.  If you are engaged in any of those behaviors (guilt!), now is the time to identify those behaviors and move in a new direction.

It’s not always easy to change our behavior, but EVERYTHING is possible with time, energy, focus, and help!

Need help finding a great marriage counselor in your area?  Check out Psychology Today‘s excellent database!

Middle Class Dad can marriage counseling help Gottman infographic on the four horsemen


Can marriage counseling help? YES!

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about if can marriage counseling help or if it’s too late for marriage counseling?

If you’re asking the question “can marriage counseling help” or wondering if it’s too late for marriage counseling, then now is the time to act!

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them here anytime or shoot me an email.

If you like this post, please consider sharing on Facebook, because if it helped you, it just might help someone else!

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