Comparing Couples Counseling Cost And Benefits

By Mary Elizabeth Dean

Updated November 15, 2019

Reviewer Dawn Brown


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How do you calculate the cost of couples counseling, or for that matter, the advantages it can yield?

Obviously, there are financial as well as emotional effects involved, and the latter may be more significant by far. Being on your own, and especially breaking up after a long time together with another person, can be hard and depressing. Conversely, staying in a toxic relationship can be just as hard in its ways.

Then there's the sunk cost: all the time and effort you have already put into building that relationship can be forever lost virtually overnight. However you choose to do the math, employing couples counseling to deal with existing relationship problems, or preventing them from arising in the first place, is one of the best investments you can make in your happiness.

How Much Does Couples Counseling Cost?


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It is difficult to put a cost on our happiness. You would probably agree that ultimately, it is priceless. But that doesn't mean that you are willing to give all your money and possessions to a couples counselor simply because they can help you achieve the happiness you are seeking.

Since we live in the real world, we have to determine how much time and money we are willing to put into a relationship before we decide that regardless of money, happiness does not lie in the confines of that particular relationship or that happiness and that relationship are unfortunately mutually exclusive.

If you choose to book two hours a week for three months, it is going to set you back quite a bit. Fortunately, this is rarely necessary, with most couples experiencing at least some benefit within half a dozen sessions or so. It is worthwhile opting for a counselor licensed by the state, but this requires a minimum of an advanced degree, and those student loans don't pay themselves.

A counselor with this level of qualification is going to be more costly both because of the quality of their service, and the financial requirements of the counselor to make their work profitable. In general, you can expect to pay upwards of $100 for each session, which lasts between 40 and 50 minutes.

It may be possible to reduce this up-front expense by seeing a couples therapist who is still undergoing the practical portion of their training, contacting the church or social groups or dipping into your health insurance. This limits the amount of choice you have, though, and may mean having to see a less qualified counselor or one who doesn't specialize in your particular kind of problem. Basically, you get what you pay for. This isn't a slight against less qualified counselors.

These people are needed for those who may not be able to afford the more expensive options, and these people tend to be more easily accessible to a couple that may not be sure of therapy is the right choice for them or not.

There is also an alternative way available in the form of fully qualified relationship therapists who offer their services online. This means that they can interact with several couples in the same hour, as these kinds of sessions don't need to fit into the mold dictated by traditional office appointments.

Conducting therapy via a computer or mobile device also allows couples with difficult schedules or unique challenges to get in touch with whatever kind of specialist can help them best at whatever time is most convenient. Travel time, business overhead (renting an office space, hiring personnel, etc.,) cancellation fees, and convenience all represent further savings for both the therapist as well as clients.

The Financial And Emotional Cost Of Divorce And Separation

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The money and time a couple can spend on relationship counseling is only one half of the equation. Even if breaking up isn't on the horizon, many couples spend far more on gifts and holidays in an attempt to save their relationship, which means papering over the cracks rather than repairing the actual structure. These things may provide temporary relief from issues within the relationship, but unless underlying problems are addressed, they will continue once the novelty of the gifts and vacations wear off, leaving you and your partner right where you started, only with a lot less money than it would have cost to see a marriage and couples counselor.

Alimony settlements and having to move into separate residences may be scary concepts, but the real damage done in a less than optimal relationship lies in the constant draining of both partners' emotional resilience and mental energy. If your feelings towards your spouse are causing you to lose sleep, warping your perspective, or hurting your chances at happiness, a few sessions of couples therapy is not just a bargain but is also a necessity.

Crunching The Numbers

It may seem cold or even crass to try to put numerical values on aspects of something as abstract as the concept of an ideal relationship. And while we should all accept that an ideal relationship doesn't exist (or that an ideal relationship still has its disadvantages in one way or another, depending on how you want to look at it,) the harsh reality is that time, energy, and money are finite.

And since it does cost money to see a qualified therapist, all the factors surrounding the choice to see or not see a therapist have to be given some type of measurable value.

Though it may be counterintuitive, the very act of financially quantifying the hurt of a bad relationship or the benefit of a healthy relationship is inherently a step to putting your happiness above all else as opposed to thinking about your life and relationship as a game for which you want to use cheat codes.

Looking Out For Number One

Speaking of counterintuitive things, putting your happiness above all else is something necessary to have a successful relationship. This does not mean you shouldn't care about your partner or their joy. However, quite the opposite is true. You simply can not be a good relationship partner if you are not happy.

If your happiness means that you are going to be in a relationship with someone, then it means that momentary happiness will sometimes have to take a backseat so that in the long term, your marriage continues to bring you fulfillment.

Asking yourself if you will be happier doing something that brings you joy at the moment versus doing something that doesn't provide instant gratification but brings you a greater degree of quality of life can be enlightening.

It matters not how much you care about your partner if you are not happy in the relationship. Another hard truth about asking these questions and doing the subsequent work in your marriage is the possibility that the relationship cannot exist alongside your overall happiness.

Does Therapy Work Or Lead To Divorce?

One of the reasons a stigma exists surrounding seeing a marital therapist comes from the fact that according to some studies, a quarter of the couples who engage in marriage counseling get divorced within two years, and the number rises to almost forty percent within four years. People hear these statistics and conclude that therapy "doesn't work." The problem is that they define therapy as "working" to mean it saves a marriage.

The simple fact is that not everyone is meant to be married or in a relationship. If two people are incompatible, they could theoretically be in a functional marriage, and a surprising amount of couples live this way for one reason or another. But if they would be happier not being together and being married to someone else, then is therapy really "working" by "saving" that marriage? That is not a rhetorical question; it's for the people involved to decide.

Perhaps a couple wants to stay together for the kids, and even though the relationship itself doesn't necessarily bring happiness, the opportunity to avoid a broken home while also having a relationship that remains beneficial for any children involved is what both partners agree is what would make them happy. Generally speaking, though, the point of being and staying married to someone is because it what makes you happy. If that is not the case, and a couple decides that they would like to try marriage counseling, a therapist can help them realize that ending the relationship might be what's best for everyone involved.

If that is truly what's best, firstly no marriage counselor in the world can manifest happiness out of thin air, so the marriage is already going to either continue at the cost of the happiness of the partners and potentially children or even other family members, end in divorce anyway.

Seeing a couples counselor can help you and your spouse to decide it is best to end the relationship and to do so before it gets so bad that divorce is inevitable. Once things get that bad, it not only costs happiness for as long as it continues but also greater pain and difficulty when the eventual divorce happens.

The financial and emotional cost of a more amicable divorce as compared to a bitter divorce can be monumental. The simple fact that divorce lawyers make more money the longer they work to finalize the divorce. While this does not mean that a divorce lawyer will necessarily try to prolong the process for their financial gain, it does mean that the more there is to disagree about when it comes to the particulars of the divorce, the longer it will take to find a middle ground.

Divorce does not mean therapy did not work. Regardless of the correlation, participating in marital treatment does not cause or prevent divorce (or happiness, for that matter) on its own. A marriage that is as ideal as anyone can hope for is highly unlikely to breakdown simply because they employed a qualified third party to help guide communication and develop healthy ways to resolve conflicts. (Anything is possible, but therapy simply is not something that can have such direct causal effects.)

Similarly, a marriage that is fraught with foundational issues like overall lack of compatibility, irreconcilable cultural differences, fundamentally different values may not be able to be saved without sacrificing the happiness of either or both partners. With this in mind, the idea that a divorce means that therapy did not work falls by the wayside.

The Upside

This article focuses mainly on the negative potential of a failed relationship, but only because we a generally more familiar with the benefits therapy can provide to a couple. It can help solve issues by providing the tools to work through them. Having a third party present for heavy discussions can help keep the focus on the issue at hand and prevent the conversation from becoming counterproductive.

Perhaps one of the most significant advantages of seeing a marital therapist is equipping couples with the tools to prevent problems from arising in the first place. When a relationship has fewer problems, and the issues are less severe and more easily solved, it will lead to a more fulfilling, intimate relationship that brings joy to everyone. Investing in that can offer the best return on investment anyone could ask for.


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