Should You Consider Free Relationship Counseling?

Medically reviewed by Kimberly L Brownridge
Updated November 29, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

“Counseling can be a valuable resource that can help your relationship in many ways. Consider the positives of it while also making sure not to put too much financial strain on yourself. There can be many affordable ways to get professional help out there.” - Ryan Smith, LPC, NCC

While many studies promote the benefits of relationship counseling, many clients don’t realize that couples counseling can be available to a wide variety of Americans. Couples from any background can receive support, and many low-cost options are available. As a lot of the work learned in therapy is done at home and throughout a couple’s day-to-day life, therapy is a tool that can enact real-life change. However, the cost of therapy may be a barrier to some. 

If you’re considering trying a free or low-cost counseling service, learning more about staying safe, finding an effective therapist, and budgeting for therapy can be beneficial. As couples can often split the cost of sessions, a low-cost option may be more affordable than attending therapy alone.

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Relationship Counseling Can Help Strengthen Couples

What Is Free Relationship Counseling? 

Free online therapy can mean several things. In many cases, free credible therapy may be offered by non-profits or through volunteer organizations. Free relationship counseling or free marriage counseling differs from free relationship or marriage advice. Anybody can give advice, but only a licensed, professional therapist can offer to counsel. For that reason, ensuring that anyone offering free counseling is doing so with a license can be valuable. If not, they may be misrepresenting services.

In some cases, websites or services that advertise free counseling may not be safe or legitimate. Researching, reading the terms and service, and understanding why the counseling is free may safeguard you from potential fraud or harmful advice. You can contact your state board to verify that your counselor is licensed under them if you’re unsure. 

What Free Counseling Resources Can We Use?  

If you struggle to find free therapy, free resources may be helpful as you look for relationship advice or support. A few potential options include the following:  

  • Books about couples therapy techniques 
  • Articles about relationships and mental health from a credible blog 
  • Videos of couples therapy or interviews 
  • Communication exercises
  • Downloadable worksheets 
  • Couples workbooks
  • Scientific studies about relationships and couples therapy
  • Pre-marital or marital advice from a coach  

A “do it yourself” approach to relationship counseling may work best for couples looking to learn more about relationships before trying therapy or those who want to better themselves at home. However, you might benefit from low-cost counseling if you’re struggling with severe mental illness, frequent arguments, or another challenge. 

Considering at-home options rather than paying for a professional may be done out of stress about finances or availability. However, note that you may have alternatives even if there are no free therapy options in your area. For example, online therapy is often 50% less (or more) than in-person therapy. In addition, when couples can split a session cost, the price may be more manageable. 

Free And Low-Cost Relationship Counseling Tips

For many couples, seeking counseling is a last resort. For others, it is a tool to plan for challenges or discuss a recent life change. No matter the reason you seek counseling, know you’re not alone. 49% of couples go to couples therapy, and there are many diverse reasons to go. 

If you’re seeking low-cost therapy, there may be a few aspects to expect and areas to plan for. Whether your concerns are financial, emotional, physical, or preparatory, take some time out of your day to plan your goals for therapy and consider the following tips while communicating with your partner and within sessions. 

Avoid Criticism When Talking About Problems

There is a difference between a complaint and a criticism. A complaint can be defined as letting your partner know you didn’t like their behavior. For example, you might say, “I feel frustrated that you said you would fold the laundry, and you didn’t.” This remark can be a healthy expression of your emotions, allowing you to let your partner know how you feel. It starts with an “I” statement, allowing you to take responsibility for your feelings in the situation. 

Criticism can be positive or negative. However, in this context, negative criticism may include verbally blaming, unkindness, or attacking a partner’s personality. For example, an unhealthy criticism might look like: “Why are you so lazy? You never fold the laundry!” 

Constructive complaints may be a valuable way for you and your partner to have the room needed to solve the issue, while the latter can cause disrespect, resentment, and contempt between you and your partner. In therapy, you may learn to avoid criticizing your partner and pick up when criticism happens to you. Communication skills can be valuable in treatment, and your therapist may help you learn to speak in new ways about each other. 

Build Upon Positive Feelings

You may focus on the negative after some time in a relationship. One way to increase feelings of joy in your relationship is to break away from this habit and build more positive experiences than negative ones. If your positive-to-negative feeling ratio in your relationship is about one-to-one, you and your partner may struggle to find joy and enrichment in each other. 

Many couples find it possible to build more positive experiences than negative ones over time. Emphasizing what you love about your partner, relationship, and time together may make a positive difference in your daily lives. Make an effort to let them know as well. Tell your partner what you like about them, what they’re doing right, and how much you care about them. Consider their love language when showing love to make them feel seen and appreciated. 

When focusing on the positive aspects of your relationship, you may find it more difficult to feel down about the negative parts. You may also start to see conflicts and challenges as growth areas instead of immovable and impossible obstacles. A therapist can help couples learn research-backed ways to restructure cognitive distortions and change thought patterns. 

Set A Specific Time For Honest Discussions 

Honesty and understanding may wane over time if you and your partner are overly critical of each other, which can create a hostile environment. Suppose you and your partner notice that you both have been withholding topics and feeling resentful. In this case, setting aside time during the week for honest discussions may benefit you.

During your planned meeting times, which can be however frequent and however long you want, both parties can meet in a non-judgmental and involved capacity to identify talking points that have been bothering them throughout the day or week. Partners can identify solutions together and aim to come to a resolution during each meeting, even if it is a compromise. This process allows both to be heard and understand each other’s point of view to successfully problem solve independently. 

While listening to your partner during the discussion, actively listen to what they have to say by listening to understand and validate instead of listening to respond or give your thoughts. Each partner can have a turn to have their concerns addressed and solved before moving on to the other person’s input. If you struggle to do this, a therapist can act as a temporary mediator to help you notice when you aren’t actively listening or being heard. 

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Evaluate Your Behaviors As Well As Your Partner’s 

Individual opinions and the environment in which you were raised may affect how you interact with others and your surroundings in your adult life. These experiences can be associated with positive lessons. However, many couples find differences in their thoughts and feelings about specific topics. Considering how your actions and habits impact your relationships as a whole may be beneficial. 

Although your partner may also have unhealthy behaviors, everyone can have their own habits that others find unhealthy or challenging to handle. While looking at how you are treated can be beneficial, how you treat others can also be. With a therapist, you can have a neutral third-party present that can offer insight into why you and your partner might act in specific ways and what behaviors may benefit from being changed. Try to be open-minded to advice and note that just because you have unhealthy behavior doesn’t necessarily mean you are a “bad’ person. All humans can be capable of growth and change, and making mistakes can be natural and okay.

Observe Instead Of Assigning Judgments 

As many individuals may partake in pessimism, judgment may occur in relationships. Judgments are labels and beliefs assigned to situations based on self-esteem, personality, habits, values, and opinions. They may be positive or negative. For example, “she is beautiful” and “she is unattractive” are both judgments. If you assign adjectives or labels to your partner, their behavior, or your relationship, consider making observations instead. Below is an example of reframing judgments: 

  • Judgment: They’re so annoying. Reframing: I feel annoyed when my partner touches my hair without permission.  
  • Judgment: They never help me. Reframing: My partner didn’t help me with the chores today, and I feel alone. 
  • Judgment: They should stop blaming me for everything. Reframing: I feel defensive when my partner tells me I did something wrong. 

Reframing judgments can help you identify your emotions by name and reduce the chance of unhealthy thought patterns in your personal life. In addition, looking at a situation at the moment instead of bringing up past hurts can be beneficial. A therapist can help you with this activity if you struggle with it in a heated moment. 

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Relationship Counseling Can Help Strengthen Couples

How To Find Low-Cost Support 

You might benefit from online therapy if you’re looking for low-cost support through the tips above or are interested in personalized advice from a compassionate professional. Although online treatment is not free, it can often be offered at a lower cost than most in-person therapists and some co-pays on insurance. In addition, many platforms provide financial aid for those unable to afford the cost of sessions. 

Online therapy can also be as effective as in-person therapy (or more). One source found that couples preferred online counseling because the video format allowed them to feel more connected and safe with their provider in a comfortable environment. When you sign up for a platform, you can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions with a licensed therapist and partake in therapy from any location, including two separate locations.  

For couples experiencing financial challenges, platforms like Regain offer financial aid and low prices from $65 to $90 a week, charged monthly. This cost includes support for both partners and can be split between two people. In addition, couples can message their therapist anytime with unlimited messaging. 

Counselor Reviews

“Dan is amazing at what he does. We were recovering from a potential breakup and what Dan did was focus on why we were together in the first place. Within the first couple of weeks, we’ve noticed a huge increase in morale and a stronger bond to fix our issues when they arise.”

“Karen is absolutely amazing. From the first session, my boyfriend and I immediately felt comfortable and at ease. She is constantly giving us tools to set us up for success in our relationship. We find ourselves utilizing the advice and exercises Karen has given us in our sessions almost every day. It has been life-changing for both of us. We both very much look forward to talking to her!”

Takeaway

Cost does not necessarily have to be a barrier to quality couples therapy. A licensed counselor can help you and your partner help yourselves as you navigate any challenge. Consider contacting a low-cost therapist online or in person for further guidance.

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