Behind Closed Doors: Inside Therapy

With divorce rates on the rise, there is an added focus these days on the
health of marriages. Therapy, or marriage counseling, is proven to improve
relationships – but what really happens behind those closed doors?

Studio 5 Contributor and Clinical Psychologist Dr. Liz Hale takes us inside
the therapy process.

A sign of good marital health is when you hear your partner voice his or her
belief that your marriage is in need of professional help. Let their voice
alone be good enough for you to be willing to find a qualified marital
therapist. There are a variety of resources for finding a good therapist:
referrals from family, friends or other professionals, such as, family doctors
or attorneys, medical insurance companies, Google search, and therapist
websites. Two of my favorites are and marriagefriendlytherapists.c

It can be hazardous to choose a therapist who lacks the training and
expertise to work with couples. Sadly, too many couples enter into
marriage therapy with a counselor who is lukewarm in supporting life-long
commitment. Just like in choosing a marriage partner, there are few things
we could do to compensate for choosing poorly a marriage counselor.

Here are some questions to ask marriage counselors as you interview them
over the phone:

“Can you tell me about your background and training in marriage

“What percentage of your practice is marriage counseling?”

“What percent of married couples break-up while seeing you in marriage

“How do you see the importance of keeping a marriage together when
there are problems?”

“What is your experience in working with marriage couples in our

Once you obtain your short-list of qualified therapists, choose as best you
can according to personality. Choose someone you seem to “click” with or
whose communication style you resonate with. Both partners should reach
a consensus on choosing a marital therapist; each of visit with a therapist
on the phone before the first meeting, if at all possible.

Family and marriage family therapy costs can vary widely. Rates vary from
$75.00 to $200.00 per hour, but many therapists offer sliding-fee-scales
based on income and some accept insurance. More often than not,
however, especially for marital therapy, your costs will be out-of-pocket
because few insurance companies cover marriage counseling. Master-level
therapists are generally less-expensive than someone with a doctorate
degree; you don’t always get what you pay for. There are some exceptional
marriage and family therapists with masters degrees.

Since most marriage counselors see couples one session per week for the
first three months, you can expect to pay about $1,200 in that time period.
When evaluating the cost of marriage and family counseling, consider that
family therapy has been shown to reduce health care use of 22%! And,
according to the American Association of Marriage & Family Therapy, family
therapy requires 30% fewer sessions than individual therapy.

Most clients have paid less than $1200 by the time they complete their
therapy. However, some counseling can continue weekly for as long as two
years before the problems have been resolved. That would cost a couple
$10,000 over two years. While it may seem like a fortune, it doesn’t begin
to touch the costs of divorce. To help put the costs of marital therapy in
perspective, there would be nothing you could buy for $10,000 that would
give you the same quality of life that a healthy marriage provides. If you
have each other and you work hard to meet each other’s emotional needs,
you’ll be able to go without many material things and still be happier in the

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