Marriage Counseling

happy marriage

Couples often wonder what the processes of marriage counseling looks like. My hope, through this page, is to show you that marriage counseling can be incredibly helpful as long as you go into it understanding what to expect.

How do I know if I need a marriage counselor?

Many couples wait about five years after having difficulties before seeking counseling. They feel like they have a pretty good handle on their relationship and don’t need to seek help. It’s only after they’ve exhausted all of their own skills in resolution that they seek counseling. Couples in this scenario can still see great results. But, couples are likely to see resolution more quickly the sooner they reach out to a counselor.

If you are having difficulties in your communication or if you struggle to resolve conflict, it just might be time to see a counselor. Couples who are struggling with intimacy concerns can also find marriage counseling helpful. If you feel disconnected, but you’d like to stay married, marriage counseling can be a great benefit. Finally, if you’re feeling more like really great roommates than romantic partners, it’s time to see a marriage counselor.

What is marriage counseling like?

Both the couple and the therapist will decide what the process of counseling looks like. This process should be unique to your needs. Even so, there is a common process that occurs for all couples who go to counseling. Your therapist will likely spend a few moments before your session to get an understanding of what brings you in. I do this with a free 20-minute phone call. The purpose of this phone call is to see if what you are bringing to the session is something that I can confidently walk with you through. You can also ask me questions during this call to make sure I’m a good fit for you. It’s basically a chance for us to interview one another before we choose to work together.

After we have that conversation, I’ll send you initial paperwork that explains the process of counseling. There will also be several questions for you to answer. These questions give me a better understanding of how to work with you and your spouse.

During our first session, I’ll ask about the history of the relationship (how you met, how long you dated, when you were married), and also ask about the strengths you have and the difficulties you want to work through. By the end of that first session, we’ll have some goals in place to work toward. I’ll explain to you how I would like to move forward in helping you restore your connection and your relationship. We’ll also decide at that time on the frequency of appointments. I’ll make suggestions and tell you my reasons for those, but you’ll make the final decision regarding how we proceed.

What should I look for in a counselor?

As you research counselors, you’ll find that there are various levels of experience and expertise. You’ll also see that some therapists have a niche, while some therapists are more generalized. Generally speaking, counselors with a niche have more specialized training and experience in that particular area. If you are specifically seeking help with a marriage-related concern, you are likely to find a more experienced counselor when you look for someone who works primarily with couples.

A licensed counselor or psychologist will have taken and passed state exams and national exams. They have proven their understanding of counseling theories, techniques, and state laws. If you are seeking insurance reimbursement, most insurance companies will not reimburse if you are not with a licensed therapist.

Someone who is certified has sought out specific training in the area for which they are certified. Sometimes, a therapist is certified but not fully licensed. In this case, the counselor has proven her ability to work with a specific population and is typically in the final stages of licensure.

Occasionally, you can work with a student in the process of completing the educational requirements to begin the licensure process. Students are often willing to work  with many different situations and types of clients. They can also typically see you for a much lower rate than you would have with a certified or licensed person. Students are required to tell you that they are under supervision and are required to let you know who their supervisor is. Students are required to review their work with their supervisor and are given guidance by the supervisor.

My theology regarding couples.

I come from a Christian perspective in my work with couples. This does not mean that you have to be a Christian to choose to work with me or to benefit from these services, but it does mean that I have a particular mindset when I work with couples that I’d like to share with you.

First, I love marriage. I would love to see all couples happy and fulfilled in their marriage and enjoying their relationship. I will work as hard as I possibly can to be honest with you about the process. I’ll point out areas that you need to strengthen while I encourage you and give you an honest hope for success. For the Christian couple, if you are willing, we will use your faith as a foundation for our work together.

Secondly, I believe that marriage is just sometimes really tough because you are being refined through the process of marriage. When two imperfect people come together, you can expect that there will be growing pains and challenges, but you can learn to use those challenges to bond you more closely to one another. Through challenges, you can gain a better understanding of one another which brings about deep intimacy.

Finally, I believe your marriage can be restored if you are both open to change. I believe this even when you have great fear that the relationship will not get better or when you are trying “one last thing” before calling it quits. My goal is to help you feel happier and more fulfilled than you did when you were dating.

Still not sure if marriage counseling is right for you?

If you’re still trying to figure out if you’re ready to start the process of marriage counseling, I’d recommend that you use some of the resources here to determine if you can work through issues of communication, conflict resolution, closeness, or intimacy. You can also download my free guide where I share my premium tips for an intimate marriage relationship. Also, consider signing up for a free 20-minute consultation to see if this process is a good fit for you.

Whatever you decide, I pray you grow in your friendship, emotional closeness, and relational intimacy with your spouse.

Be blessed!

Dr. Jessica McCleese is a wife, a licensed psychologist, and a sexual educator with specialized training in sex therapy who works with Christian couples looking to improve their marriages and their sex lives using biblically-based principles. Jessica serves on the advisory board for Millennials for Marriage, is an educator through the Christian Association of Sexual Educators, and a licensed psychologist at her private practice in Norfolk, VA. She has a unique ability to connect with others and lead them through practical steps they can take to see improvements in their marriage and currently serves people internationally through her work at BeFullyWell.com.