top of page

The Ultimate Guide to Marriage Counseling
Subscribe to my newsletter and get articles and advice in your mailbox.


This is NOT your typical

marriage counseling!

If marriage counseling is becoming inevitable in your relationship don’t be afraid! Despite what you may think, it can open the door to meaningful growth and understanding in a relationship that was considered stagnant or on the brink of divorce.

Couples counseling is more than just uncovering why married couples fight — it’s about objectively and absent of blame or judgment looking at behaviors and discovering how they add to or take away from the quality of the relationship.


This guide will set you up on the right path to understand your marriage by providing insight into marriage counseling - the risks and the many benefits regardless the relationship's path.

As you use this guide, click on the words that are underlined to get more information on that subject!

Columbus Therapy.png

Marriage is an important part of our lives, and marriage counseling can provide the guidance couples need to make their marriage successful and offers couples a safe space in which to explore their feelings, dynamics, and any challenges they may be facing.

Couples learn effective communication and problem-solving skills that can help them create a stronger bond. Interventions learned in couples therapy are incredibly valuable tools for couples looking to improve the quality of their relationship. With help of a trained professional, couples can explore their feelings and dynamics and

One key to success is to find the right marriage counselor – one who understands your needs and can help create a plan that works best for your marriage. To that end, it's a good idea to do some research into marriage counseling resources in your area by doing a web search for marriage counseling in Columbus Ohio or whatever city you're from. Find marriage counselors that specialize in the type of support you're looking for and read any available reviews so you know what to expect from working with them.

Whether it's communication issues, trust issues or another issue marriage counseling is an opportunity to get impartial guidance. It is important to find a marriage counselor with experience and expertise who you feel comfortable with.

1.  What is marriage or couples counseling?

Marriage counseling today is much different than in the past.  No marriage is without challenges, and some couples figure out how to work together to navigate life's challenges.  Others struggle to collaborate well, and even more challenging is the couple that is in high conflict. 


Marriage counseling helps married, or committed couples communicate better and solve problems. It can improve the relationship rather than leaving it status quo and can help a couple split up amicably.  When you choose a counselor with specialized training in treating couples, sessions become productive rather than a bitch session.

Who wants to participate in a bitch session?  I don't!

In traditional marriage therapy, couples meet with their counselor once a week.  Technology has made it easier and more convenient for couples to access marriage counseling through Telehealth.  More healthcare plans are reimbursing at least part of the fee for sessions.  


Marriage counseling and couples therapy both provide an invaluable opportunity for couples to work through their issues in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Marriage counseling is the therapeutic practice of providing couples therapy that focuses on premarital counseling, separation or divorce support, or repair and improvement interventions.  

​Counseling & mental health should never be a one-size-fits-all approach, so it's crucial to find an experienced therapist.  Take a moment to conduct a keyword search for counselors online using phrases like, marriage counseling Columbus Ohio or if you live in a different city, couples counselors near me.  These keywords will yield a couple of pages of family therapy and couples counselors in your area who identify as being competent in marriage counseling.  I'll present more about that later in this guide.

Marriage Counseling vs. Couples Therapy: What's the Difference?

Marriage counseling and couples therapy both provide an invaluable opportunity for couples to work through their issues in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Marriage counseling is the therapeutic practice of providing couples therapy that focuses on premarital counseling, separation or divorce support, or repair and improvement interventions.  

Take a moment to conduct a keyword search for counselors online using phrases like, marriage counseling Columbus Ohio or if you live in a different city, couples counselors near me.  These keywords will yield a couple of pages of family therapy and couples counselors in your area who identify as being competent in marriage counseling.  I'll present more about that later in this guide.


2.  Reasons You May Need
Marriage Counseling


A common myth that marriage counseling is only for couples on the brink of divorce prevents healthy couples who are gridlocked from learning crucial communication tools that help find solutions, including acceptance. 


The truth is the best time to seek a counselor is early in a couple's gridlock.   Most couples experience gridlock in the relationship; getting "stuck" on an issue now and again is normal.  Research shows that couples wait six years before addressing perpetual issues.



Hopefully not!

Positive regard for our partner and the relationship is the #1 difference between successful and unsuccessful relationships.  A partner in "negative sentiment override," the phenomenon of a negative view of both, starts questioning their partner's motives and actions.  Trust erodes, and arguments or silent treatment can become the communication norm.  


High conflict or passive aggression is usually the entry point for couples initiating marriage counseling.  Couples typically want to talk about incidents between them and expect to plead their case to the counselor about why they're right.  After a full assessment, the counselor can push the s/he said s/he said aside and get to the issue's root. 

Premarital Counseling

Premarital counseling delivered by licensed therapists with regular training in marriage counseling is important marital therapy because marriage is one of the most important of all the life transitions.  Sometimes relationship issues exist before marriage and for other couples challenges don't arise until later.  The benefit of premarital counseling is to set the couple up for success.

It's a great opportunity for engaged couples to gain insight into one another's hopes, dreams and expectations—and discuss potential challenges that could arise during the marriage. Premarital counseling can help you identify any underlying issues in your relationship, build effective communication strategies and learn to resolve conflicts in a constructive manner.

Counselors who have received effective training in marriage counseling use tools like the Gottman Method or Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) to provide evidence-based advice and support for building a strong foundation for your marriage.  People with religious considerations seek faith-based counseling for premarital education.

Intimacy and Sex

While sex is a physical act, intimacy is an emotional one; it's about creating a deep connection with your partner. Sex may be pleasurable, but it doesn't always lead to a feeling of closeness and security. Intimacy, on the other hand, is more than just physical pleasure—it involves both parties being able to trust each other and share their feelings without fear of judgement.


Intimacy requires vulnerability and openness, which are essential for any successful marriage. Premarital counseling can help couples learn how to foster a sense of emotional closeness in their relationship while still enjoying the benefits of physical intimacy. By investing in premarital counseling today, you can help ensure that your marriage will be filled with lasting love and joy!

What is intimacy?

Intimacy is the emotional connection that exists between two people. It is based on trust, respect, and shared understanding. Couples who have a strong sense of intimacy feel safe to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgement or rejection. Intimacy also involves a level of closeness that goes beyond physical pleasure—it's about feeling connected to your partner on an emotional level.


Intimacy can help couples navigate through conflict and challenging times while staying connected to each other. Investing in premarital counseling can help couples create a strong foundation for their marriage by exploring intimacy together and learning how to foster it in their relationship. With this knowledge, couples can enjoy the benefits of lasting love and joy!


What is sex?

Sex is an important part of a healthy relationship, as it is a form of physical intimacy that deepens the emotional connection between two people. It can help to create feelings of love and affection, and also provide a sense of closeness and security. Sex also helps couples to express their desire for each other, and is an enjoyable experience that can bring joy and pleasure to both partners.


When couples invest in premarital counseling, they can learn more about sex and how to make it meaningful for the relationship. With this knowledge, couples can create a deeper connection through physical intimacy while avoiding any potential pitfalls along the way.


By understanding what sex means in their relationship, couples can enjoy its benefits while growing closer together emotionally!

Non-Physical Ways to Increase Sexual Intimacy

Sex is an important part of any relationship, as it deepens the emotional connection between two people and can bring feelings of love, closeness, and security. While physical intimacy is an important part of this process, there are also many non-physical ways to increase sexual intimacy.


Investing in premarital counseling can help couples to identify these methods and foster a deeper connection through their relationship. Couples can learn how to communicate effectively about sex and discuss their desires and expectations in a safe environment. This can help them understand each other on a deeper level while avoiding potential pitfalls along the way.


Additionally, couples should find time to be alone together without distractions and really connect with one another. This could include activities such as taking long walks or just talking while lying in bed together. Furthermore, couples should find ways to make each other feel appreciated, such as compliments or small gifts that show they are thinking about one another.


By exploring all the different aspects of sexual intimacy, couples will gain a better understanding of one another which will ultimately lead to a stronger bond between them.

Discernment Counseling

No relationship is without its ups and downs and when a couple argues frequently or partners feel disconnected it's hard to know what to do to fix it.  I often hear from clients that fighting is fruitless and issues don't get resolved.  It's not unusual for a partner to think divorce is the only answer to marital problems and start "leaning out" of the relationship while the other partner tries to "fix" things.

We call this the "mixed agenda couple." In this case, the professional counselor helps the couple decide what to do next; do nothing, get a divorce or break up, or commit to couples therapy to repair the relationship, where both partners want to stay together and are doing the work to make it happen.

Sessions involve an assessment before sessions begin.  The counselor begins discernment counseling after the mixed agenda is uncovered during the assessment.  Counseling goals for discernment therapy aim to bring clarity and confidence to each partner regarding the next steps of the relationship.  

Imagine the disaster that would unfold if a counselor took the mixed agenda couple through the wrong process.  According to discernment counseling research psychologist and marriage counseling expert William Doherty, the following mistakes are common among therapists who don't aren't familiar with this type of family counseling:

  • Mistake 1.  Making couple therapy interventions and going for too much vulnerability when the couple are in the room together. The intense work in discernment counseling is with each spouse separately, with carefully orchestrated sharing in between individual conversations.

  • Mistake 2.  Spending too much time unpacking past hurts and conflict without focusing on decisions about the future. Discernment counseling is oriented to what to do now, especially whether to try therapy.

  • Mistake 3.  Not moving quickly enough to challenge the leaning out spouse on his or her contributions to the problem and thereby focusing only on the leaning in spouse's contributions. Some therapists fear alienating the leaning out spouse and collude in holding only the other partner responsible.

  • Mistake 4.  Not preparing the post-individual-time summaries carefully enough. These are crucial to the spouses experiencing each other as having made shifts during discernment counseling.

  • Mistake 5.  Failing to leverage learning about each partner in conversation with the other, out of fear of breaking confidentiality. The sessions benefit greatly from the discernment counselor's willingness to share reflections about each partner with the other.

Reference:  Doherty, W. J., Harris, S. M., Wilde, J. L. (2015). Discernment Counseling for “Mixed-Agenda” Couples. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 42, 246– 255. doi: 10.1111/jmft.12132


Discernment counseling can help give couples the tools they need to assess their current state of marriage and determine whether there is potential for reconciliation or not. It’s an invaluable service that provides personalized guidance while still giving impartial advice to both parties—unlike what traditional couples therapy may offer.

By providing evidenced-based research and a safe environment to discuss differences in opinion without judgment, this type of counseling gives couples hope for moving forward with less fear about the future together— no matter how close breaking up can seem sometimes.

Consider discernment the precursor to couples therapy.

Despite popular belief, marriage counseling can be an invaluable tool for couples looking to strengthen their relationship. From communication issues, trust, and conflict resolution, to financial management and even mental health support, marriage counseling can provide a safe environment for partners to work through their differences.


The 10 most common reasons couples need marriage counseling:

1.  Communication - Learning how to communicate better in order to better understand each other.​

2.  Conflict Resolution - Developing skills for navigating conflicts peacefully and respectfully.


3.  Emotional Bonding - Resolving intimacy issues between partners to build a strong foundation of trust in the relationship.


4.  Relationship Goals - Identifying goals and working together towards them as a team.


5.  Trust Issues - Helping couples rebuild trust after infidelity or other breaches of trust have occurred in the past.


6.  Respectful Interactions - Learning how to interact with each other in ways that are respectful, kind, and understanding.


7.  Stress Management - Managing stress levels within the relationship so that it doesn't become toxic or damaging over time.


8.  Addiction Recovery - Supporting both partners during addiction recovery if needed or desired by either partner.


9.  Mental Health Support - Providing mental health support for any partner who may be dealing with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or any other mental illness they are struggling with on their own or together as a couple.


10.  Financial Management - Working through financial issues such as budgeting and debt management together as a couple.


Marriage counseling is an effective way for couples to address these common issues and build a stronger bond between them — leading to healthier relationships overall!

No matter the issue, marriage counseling provides a safe space for couples to openly discuss and work through their differences in a constructive and healing way. For couples looking to rebuild trust after an affair, the next section will cover how affair recovery counseling can help you move forward.

Affair Recovery

Affair recovery counseling provides an effective way for couples to work through the aftermath of infidelity by building structure around the repair process. It gives partners a safe space to openly discuss their feelings, heal from the pain of betrayal, and rebuild trust.  Marriage counseling sessions should be a no-blame no judgement zone and NOT a bitch session!

The affair recovery process can be difficult but with the help of a counselor with competency in addressing relationship issues, couples can gain the skills and understanding needed to navigate this difficult time.  Effective marriage counseling is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather customized to meet the needs of each couple.

Couples can learn how to communicate better, develop conflict resolution skills, accept differences that each can live with, and identify goals they want to work towards together.

The counseling process provides a platform for both partners to express their emotions in a constructive way while helping them understand each other's perspectives. With commitment, couples can restore love and trust within their relationship and move forward in a healthier relationship than before.

Affair recovery counseling is an invaluable tool that helps couples heal from the pain caused by unfaithfulness — leading them towards stronger relationships overall where both partners get what they want by addressing challenges early on before they grow roots.

Reconcile after infidelity

Great Lakes Counseling Group is a private practice that offers comprehensive treatment to help married couples recover from the trauma of infidelity.  Using evidence-based interventions, we offer tools and resources to move past the affair and build a strong bond.  We use assessment tools and interventions based in research and science.  Here are some resources:



We offer online counseling services; whether you live in Upper Arlington or German Village - we deliver counseling services to you in your space.

The program also encourages open dialogue between partners while fostering understanding and compassion. With guidance from experienced counselors, couples gain valuable insight into how they can repair their relationship with patience and commitment — taking them one step closer to a healthier and stronger partnership.  


3.  What is marriage counseling like?



The counselor teaches the partners how to speak their truth, listen effectively, and process strong feelings while communicating.

The counselor helps the couple identify the dynamics between them and create understanding versus agreement.



In the video is marriage expert Derek Hart from California.  With the couple's consent, he captured what a marriage counseling session looks like.  Derek is not affiliated with GLCG.

Marriage counseling sessions should feel like a difficult but productive dialogue between partners where the counselor observes, coaches, and provides insight to each partner.  As you can see, it's neither a bitch session nor is it the counselor's role to take sides or shame either person.  

Champagne and Colorfull Buid Your Business Information Graph (1).png
What it' like

4.  Does marriage counseling work?

I could hit you with a bunch of stats and research but here is the truth:  The answer isn't as cut and dry as a "yes" or a "no."

Here is why. 

There are two crucial factors which drive the efficacy of marriage counseling.  The first is the level of commitment of each partner to achieve the treatment goals.  The second is choosing the right counselor.  When a motivated couple picks a counselor with a toolbox full of specialized skills for couples, outcomes include a lifetime of relationship satisfaction for both partners.

Not every therapist provides marriage counseling to their clients, and those that do aren't necessary an expert in the nuances of counseling a relationship versus a single client or a family.  Their skill level helps partners learn to listen better, and have more patience, and use "I" statements.  In other words the interventions are behavior based with some basic emotional self-discovery exercises.  

Couples grappling with topics like affair recovery, porn addiction, sexual dysfunction, mental health flare ups, and high conflict need a higher level of care.  Partners considering divorce wouldn't benefit from trying to repair; rather the best treatment path for the mixed agenda couple is to figure out whether repair is even wanted or possible - a different approach.  Consider this:


A couple that has a healthy relationship but haven't had sex in years because of an illness have different needs than a couple grappling with addiction or infidelity.  A licensed therapist may be an expert in treating mood disorders but doesn't have a deep expertise to know the difference between one couples needs versus another.  As a result an intervention is applied that may not be appropriate or most impactful.  

What I mean by that is this:  Imagine the therapist suggesting a regularly scheduled "date night" (a behavioral intervention) for the sexless couple without addressing the issues around the actual act of sex after a significant period of time.  Anxiety, fear, and avoidance can pop up and ruin the night.  Further imagine the potential damage a "failure" could do to the sexual connection that couple is trying to make.

A counselor with specialized training in marriage counseling might have the couple work up to the big day slowly, addressing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that caused the disconnect to begin with.  

Choosing the right counselor 

Marriage counseling can be a beneficial resource for couples looking to work on issues in their relationship. Choosing the right counselor is crucial.  Couples have the option of seeking out three different resources to provide marriage counseling.


First, there is the "generalist" therapist, who can treat people from many different backgrounds and issues - including married couples.


Second are therapists with evidence-based scientific training in marriage counseling; this approach focuses on effectiveness with research-backed techniques.


Lastly, couples can seek spiritual guidance from religious leaders such as priests or rabbis, who often focus on restoring harmony and understanding between partners.


Each of these approaches has effectiveness depending on the issue faced by the couple, so it is important that they carefully consider which type of marriage counseling would best suit their needs.

At the end of the day, it depends on the counselor you choose, your openness to change, and motivation to improve the dynamic.

Does it work?
Blue and White Workplace Guidelines Coronavirus Poster (24 × 18 in) (2).png
Benefits & Risks

5.  The risks & the benefits
of marriage counseling

The Benefits of Marriage Counseling

Many of us believe that counseling seems "drastic" if we have marital or relationship issues.  So much so that research shows it takes a couple an average of six years to get help for marital issues.  

Six years of conflict!

The main benefit of marriage counseling is to gain clarity on where each partner is in the relationship.  If both partners are leaning in, couples counseling is appropriate.  If one is leaning out and the other in, discernment counseling is the appropriate treatment.  Divorce counseling helps people peacefully and equitably uncouple.

Yes, of course benefits include:

  • better communication

  • stronger bond

  • emotional healing

  • improved intimacy

and all the other bullets you can read in other blogs.  

The most important benefit of marriage counseling is to gain confidence in the path you choose in which to take your relationship.  

Clarity and confidence reduces later regrets in life; research shows that XX% of divorced couples regret not doing more to work out the problems that drove the split.

The Risks of Marriage Counseling

The biggest risk of marriage counseling is receiving the wrong treatment because the therapist fails to complete a thorough diagnostic assessment specifically for couples.

Marriage counseling can be a difficult and emotionally painful process for couples. There is no guarantee that desired changes will occur, and it may even lead to the end of a relationship.

A mixed agenda couple, that is, one is leaning out of the marriage, and the other is leaning in, will not benefit from couples counseling to repair the relationship.  Rather, the appropriate path would be discernment.

A therapist not making it clear to the couple before starting therapy that the vibe between them, including communication, may get worse before it gets better is a huge risk.

Couples who quit mid-treatment walk away believing "it didn't work" and blame the process or the therapist.  It is the therapist's fault if that wasn't clarified at the intake.  

Many couples find therapy expensive and refuse to engage.  Those couples leave things "status quo" and suffer, hoping something changes.  Other couples are on a fixed income and believe it's out of their budget.  

Talk to your therapist about all the risks before you start

Talk With Terri
Subcribe and get advice in your mailbox!


6.  How much does marriage counseling cost?

Marriage counseling isn't cheap.  It's  a valuable investment for couples looking to improve their relationship. It provides a safe space to explore issues and learn how to communicate better with each other.

The long-term benefit of a healthy marriage is worth more than the short-term cost of marriage counseling. Couples should consider investing in their relationship through marriage counseling if they are struggling with communication or other issues in their relationship.


Marriage counseling costs are comparable to other activities such as restaurants, shopping, and other entertainment.  Consider it quality time together.

The financial and emotional impact of divorce far outweighs the investment in therapy.  The average divorce in Ohio costs around $21,000.  That cost far outweighs the investment and staying married and satisfied creates stability for both partners.

The cost is why the initial assessment is crucial; it ensures there is a return on investment.

our approach to marriage counseling.png


Marriage counseling can be a great way for couples to work through their issues and better understand each other. Unfortunately, it can also seem expensive. 

The cost of marriage counseling varies depending on the therapist's experience and location but typically ranges from $175-$200 per session. Couples may also have to pay for additional services, such as assessments or materials used during the sessions. Fortunately, there are ways for couples on a tight budget to get help with their relationship issues without breaking the bank. Many therapists offer sliding scale fees based on income level or accept insurance plans that cover some or all of the costs associated with marriage counseling.  

Great Lakes Counseling Group offers Reimbursify, an app that helps clients claim any out-of-network benefits they have for mental health services, including marriage counseling.  We offer a superbill every month; the client takes a photo and submits it for reimbursement through the app.   If they have out-of-network coverage, the fee is reimbursed directly to the insured, so our practice is not the middleman! counseling costs are comparable to other activities such as restaurants, shopping, and other entertainment.  Consider it quality time together.

The financial and emotional impact of divorce far outweighs the investment in therapy.  The average divorce in Ohio costs around $21,000.  That cost far outweighs the investment and staying married and satisfied creates stability for both partners.

The cost is why the initial assessment is crucial; it ensures there is a return on investment.

Blue Colorful Modern Inteview Tips Instagram Post.png
Yellow Colorful Blocks Blogger Bio-Link Website.png

7.  Marriage counseling and YOU - free resources to help you get started

bottom of page