A Guide to Premarital Counseling

What Is Premarital Counseling?

Premarital counseling is a type of therapy that helps couples build a happy, successful marriage. It can help couples develop essential communication skills, identify potential conflict areas, and learn how to manage their specific relationship issues.

With nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, premarital counseling is a very beneficial service — it is important that couples consider seeking out premarital counseling before they tie the knot. In fact, some states require it for those under the age of 18.

Who Should Seek Premarital Counseling?

A variety of couples should seek and can benefit from premarital counseling, including engaged couples and those considering making the lifelong commitment. Premarital counselors can help couples resolve regular arguments; they can help one individual in a relationship who is “non-committal” better understand their commitment issues and how to move forward; they can also help to better educate couples on the realities of marriage and set realistic expectations. All of the above can help couples build a strong foundation for a healthy relationship. 

When Should You Start Premarital Counseling?

As mentioned previously, premarital counseling is normally sought out during an engagement, but it is also useful for those still contemplating marriage or unsure about their next step. If you and your partner are engaged or seriously discussing the potential of getting married (soon or at any given point in the future), and you’d like to talk to a professional about it, now is a good time to start premarital counseling.

What Does Premarital Counseling Do?

Premarital counseling can do many things — but from a broad perspective, it helps couples build a solid foundation for marriage and/or decide if they are ready for marriage. The benefits are virtually endless. Research has shown that it can reduce divorce rates, curb pre-marriage jitters, and set goals that lead to a long-term healthy marriage.

That said, it is important to note that signing up for premarital counseling does not guarantee “I do” will be or must be said. In fact, some couples go through premarital counseling and find it best that they do not pursue marriage, and they both go on to live separate happy, healthy lives.

What Questions Do They Ask at Premarital Counseling?

If you and your partner decide to pursue premarital counseling, your counselor will want to get to know you both as well as your relationship. In order to accomplish this, they will ask questions around the following:

  • Common Interests and Activities
  • Role Expectations
  • Communication
  • Religious Beliefs
  • Marriage Expectations
  • Budget and Finance
  • Children and Parenting
  • Sex Issues

If there is a particular area that they feel needs to be explored further (for example, you note that you and your partner have very different spending habits and views on money), they’ll guide the conversation in the given direction. 

How Long Is Premarital Counseling?

Generally speaking, premarital counseling typically lasts for 8-10 weeks. This, however, can vary depending on the counselor’s approach as well as the clients’ preferences and needs. For example, some couples might request additional sessions to work through problem areas that they’ve identified in their relationship, pre-wedding. 

What Does a Premarital Counseling Session Look Like?

Premarital counseling is led by mental health professionals, often licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs), who specialize in helping couples. The structure of premarital counseling can differ among therapists. Some prefer to first see each individual separately, which allows them to identify and understand any individual concerns or issues. Other therapists focus on the two as one entity from beginning to end.

However, once the couple begins sessions together, they then typically:

  • Address any current concerns in their relationship
  • Discuss expectations and hopes
  • Identify how they plan to achieve those goals
  • Work on building conflict resolution skills

Sometimes, premarital counseling also involves making a Couples Resource Map. This aids each partner in identifying resources that will come in handy when they face given challenges. Similarly, partners typically create a plan of action to refer to and utilize if conflicts do arise. This plan of action may involve attending a counseling session and/or referring to one’s individual resources.

How Much Does Premarital Counseling Cost?

The cost of premarital counseling varies. Most counseling practices and providers don’t take insurance and have expensive rates, starting at $250 a session. At Thriveworks, we make counseling affordable. We accept hundreds of insurance plans, which allows clients to pay as little as $10 a session, and we offer affordable out-of-pocket rates as low as $99 a session. 

Quick Facts about Premarital Counseling

  • Couples who underwent premarital counseling had a 30% higher marital success rate than couples who did not, according to HealthResearchFunding.org.
  • Premarital counseling doesn’t just help couples prepare for marriage, but any kind of long-term commitment.
  • Couples seeking premarital counseling have a few choices: They can take the traditional route and see a therapist, attend a group therapy session, or go to a workshop.
  • Counselors will help guide difficult discussions, such as those about money or kids.
  • Counselors will teach effective communication skills, which will come in handy during any future conflict.
  • Premarital counseling will help to ease worries about marriage, by helping a couple identify potential issues that may arise.
  • It can be difficult—as it’s not always easy to hear your partner’s concerns or negative feelings. Therefore, one should try to go in prepared for tough feedback, whilst remembering the many benefits to come.