Marriage Counseling Near Me: Is It Helpful?

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated June 14, 2024by Regain Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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Marriage counseling is a highly effective approach to addressing many marital concerns. In the marriage counseling process, a counselor works with you and your spouse to improve marital communication, intimacy, and problem-solving skills. The therapist acts as a neutral guide and facilitates an atmosphere of openness, honesty, and empathy. Marriage counseling is intended to be collaborative and constructive, focusing on reducing blame and judgment.

The therapist does not take sides, nor do they "judge" problems in the relationship to determine who is at fault. Marriage counseling focuses most often on solutions to problems rather than their origins. Marriage therapists use evidence-based techniques that are based on decades of scientific research. If you're concerned about issues in your marriage, marriage counseling can likely help; around 70% of couples report significant improvement in their relationship following therapy.

Can marriage counseling help you?

The marriage counseling process

If you and your spouse disagree about whether to work on the marriage in therapy, you can still visit a counselor for discernment counseling. Discernment counseling is an evidence-based method to help partners decide the future of their relationship together. It is led by the therapist and based on the core marriage counseling principles of honesty, openness, and empathy. At the conclusion of discernment counseling, you and your spouse will mutually decide one of three options: to continue your marriage as-is, to work on the marriage in therapy, or to end the marriage.

If you and your spouse initiate counseling to improve your marriage or reach that decision through discernment counseling, the marriage counseling process begins, starting with an assessment of your marriage. The therapist will speak to you and your spouse to determine the overall quality of the relationship, what each partner considers the most pressing concerns, and what attempts have already been made to address those concerns.

You, your spouse, and the counselor will then begin determining goals for therapy based on the assessment of your marriage. The therapist will select evidence-based interventions appropriate for your specific marital concerns. There is no single approach to marriage counseling; there are several effective methods, each with particular use cases.  

Here are a few of the common techniques used in marriage counseling:

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a frequently used therapy that has been demonstrated to be effective in many situations. CBT has been adapted for use with individuals, couples, and groups. It focuses on the alignment between thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Thoughts, feelings, and emotions all influence each other, and producing a change in one produces a similar change in the others. In marriage counseling, CBT helps shift challenging thought processes and behaviors to improve the feelings surrounding the relationship.

Solution-focused therapy

Solution-focused therapy (SFT) is often used when a couple has a specific, practical problem to address. The therapist works with the couple to identify solutions to the problem, but not usually the cause. SFT is not concerned with blame or who is responsible for the problem, but rather how the problem has been solved in the past and how it can be solved in the future.

Emotion-focused therapy

Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) is grounded in attachment theory and the emotions surrounding interpersonal relationships. Attachment theory describes how individuals bond to important others in their lives and how it relates to a certain attachment style. The relationship is analyzed from a perspective of attachment, and the therapist offers guidance as each partner learns to understand how they and their spouse attach to each other.  

The Gottman Method

John Gottman, a psychologist, relationship expert, and founder of the Gottman Institute, pioneered the Gottman Method. The Institute studies what makes a romantic relationship healthy and has analyzed decades of data to determine patterns of thoughts, behaviors, and communication that predict success in marriage. Following Gottman's data-driven approach, the therapist helps a couple identify actions known to be harmful, identify their root cause, and replace them with healthier actions.

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Is marriage counseling effective?

The techniques of marriage counseling are based on decades of scientific research. Marriage therapists have an enormous stock of tools and information on which to draw, and modern marriage counseling has proven effective. In one study, 70% of couples who pursued marriage counseling reported a significant improvement in their relationship.

Not every relationship will benefit from marriage counseling, but many will. Experts suggest that the chances of success can be significantly increased by seeking a counselor before issues become overwhelming. It is a common misconception that a couple should wait until they no longer feel they can handle the problems in their relationship before pursuing counseling.

Following the recent boom in online therapy, marriage counseling techniques were intently studied to determine if they are equally effective online as in an office setting. Evidence indicates that marriage counseling is just as effective when administered online and, in some cases, is preferable over an office setting.

Why do couples attend marriage counseling?

Marriage counseling is expected to be one of the fastest-growing areas of psychotherapy in the coming decade. Fewer and fewer spouses are hesitant to seek the guidance of a counselor, and the stigma surrounding marriage counseling is declining rapidly.

The myths and misconceptions that surrounded marriage counseling in the past are quickly being debunked by modern research. One particularly harmful myth is that marriage therapy is only useful when relationship concerns have become so vast and overwhelming that the spouses have no reasonable chance to handle the problem on their own. Evidence strongly suggests that seeking a therapist before problems become overwhelming, not after, significantly increases the chances of success.

A second myth proposes that if a couple needs the help of a therapist, their marriage is already doomed to fail. This, too, is refuted by modern research. Evidence suggests that 70% of relationships see significant improvement following marriage counseling. Couples who see a therapist for help with relationship concerns are likely to prevent their relationship from becoming doomed, not ensure it.

Couples seek therapy for various reasons; there are no specific criteria you and your spouse need to meet before finding a therapist. Almost any problem that impacts relationship cohesion or happiness can be brought to a counselor. A couple can even attend therapy if they don't have any identifiable concerns but simply want to learn advanced skills to help prevent problems in the future. Couples can also work with a therapist to address concerns that involve primarily one spouse, such as working as a team to help a partner overcome a substance use disorder.

Some other common reasons married couples seek therapy are listed below:

  • Difficult or unkind communication
  • Falling out of love, emotional distance, or a lack of connection between partners.
  • Help to overcome a practical problem that is affecting the relationship.
  • Low or absent intimacy.
  • Help to heal from a breach of trust.
  • Concerns related to parenting and childrearing.

There are very few reasons why a couple should not attend marriage counseling. However, if you believe you may be in an abusive relationship, strongly consider speaking to a counselor independently before initiating marriage counseling. Attending marriage counseling with an abusive partner is not recommended.

Can marriage counseling help you?

How can online therapy help?

As the number of couples utilizing marriage counseling to improve their relationships continues to increase, obtaining easy access to a therapist is becoming progressively more difficult. For couples in underserved areas, they may have to wait a considerable amount of time before seeing a therapist, and in some cases, they may not be able to see one at all. 

Online therapy offers a potential solution to barriers to traditional therapy, such as an ongoing therapist shortage. It also allows couples to avoid traveling to an office and offers a broader range of therapists from which to choose. 

Online therapists use the same methods and techniques as traditional therapists, rigorously tested to ensure that the methods are effective online, and marriage counseling is no exception. Visiting with a therapist online can take some getting used to, but research indicates that methods used in traditional therapy are just as effective when administered online.


Marriage counseling is an effective, evidence-based approach to addressing marital concerns. It is based on years of scientific research and study and has decades of support for its effectiveness. Modern approaches to marriage counseling are future-focused and do not incorporate blame or judgment into the process. Marriage counselors act as neutral guides and facilitators, helping spouses communicate, develop intimacy, and improve problem-solving skills. Modern marriage counseling is considered highly effective; 70% of couples who complete therapy report a significant improvement in their relationship.

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