What to Know About Premarital Counseling

From what to expect to finding a therapist, consider this your ultimate guide.

man and woman sitting on couch talking to therapist

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If you and your partner are getting serious, you might be thinking that he or she is the one you want to be with forever. There are things you probably know for sure: You care deeply about one another, you have a great time together, and you can't wait to see what your future holds. But are you really on the same page about how you want to live, not just now but in the future? And do you absolutely have what it takes to make each other feel safe, secure, and loved in the long haul?

A great way to dive even deeper into your relationship is premarital counseling. This is a special form of couples therapy that helps partners grow more connected before they tie the knot and identify any problem areas or blind spots. Depending on where you live, a premarital counseling session can cost you anywhere from $100 to $300. Many therapists recommend at least four sessions before getting married or better yet, engaged.

Meet the Expert

Jousline Savra is a psychotherapist and licensed marriage and family therapist.

To understand exactly what happens during a premarital counseling session, we turned to Jousline Savra, a psychotherapist and licensed marriage and family therapist. She talked us through the benefits of premarital counseling, what to expect during the process, and how to find the best therapist for you. Read for more about premarital counseling.

Benefits of Premarital Counseling

Savra says one of the most important benefits of premarital counseling is that it helps participants triple check their partner is the right one for them. "I feel quite passionate about premarital counseling, and the reason I say that is because I've seen so many married couples who come in with a variety of issues, whether they've been married for three or 25 years, and the consistent theme I see is that they didn't know how to vet each other in dating," she says. "While they were dating, during the engagement, they didn't know how to ask the difficult but important questions and have those difficult conversations, which is part of the reality of being married."

Premarital counseling can help individuals really see what is in front of them so they can make sure they are making the right choice. "What happens is when you are dating and falling in love, the brain is hijacked. There is an excitement, so even when difficult issues or red flags come up, you don't want to see them," she explains. "People tell themselves, 'Well after we get married this is going to change or I am going to change him or her or time will take care of it.' That does not work, and it's called denial."

Even couples sure about one another can benefit from premarital counseling. The therapist will guide them in conversations about sex, children, religion, careers, money, and more so that both partners can discuss their views on the topic and make sure there are fewer surprises down the road. It's about getting on the same page,

Another benefit of premarital counseling is that it can help couples strengthen their communication skills before they get married. That means they will have a roadmap and tools for addressing any issues that arise in the future.

What to Expect from Premarital Counseling

Savra says that it's best to do premarital counseling either before getting engaged or setting the wedding date. "I would recommend couples say, 'Let's not plan the wedding, and let's take time to invest in our marriage first,'" she admits. "Six to nine months of good, premarital counseling can go a long way."

Some couples arrive at premarital counseling already knowing what they want to talk about. "Some couples come in and say, 'We love each other, we are so close, but we are having communication problems,' or they come in with different frustrations,'" she says. "The second group of couples comes in and they say, 'We are getting married, we want to prepare for it, we don't have specific issues, but we are curious what you think.'"

Regardless of which category you fit into, there are some topics you should expect to cover in premarital counseling: how you interact with each other's family and friends; money; sex; careers; parenting; how you will handle holidays and special events; and spirituality or faith. "Some people come in with different faiths and that causes a lot of problems later in the marriage, specifically when they have kids," reveals Savra.

There are also broader issues to explore to make sure you are marrying the right person. "It's important to focus on each other's character," she says. "Do you know who you are marrying? What is her or his character? Does your partner lie to you? Are you both in a secure place with each other where you know the person you are marrying has the ability to be comfortable and honest with you? Does this person have the ability for compassion and kindness?"

It's also important to make sure your partner is competent in the way you want. "Does he or she have a degree? Can he or she speak intelligently?," says Savra. "Does he or she have the skills to resolve conflict and tolerate talking through difficult conversations whether it's about money or sex or parenting." Again, premarital counseling is both about vetting the other person and getting on the same page about the future.

How Much Does Premarital Counseling Cost?

The cost of therapy varies depending on where you live and how long you do therapy. National averages range from $125 to $175 for a 60-minute session, and many couples do at least five sessions.

Some therapists are also covered by insurance, so if that's important to you, make sure to find a therapist in your network to at least offset some of the cost.

How to Find the Right Therapist for Premarital Counseling

If you've decided you want to do premarital counseling, there are steps you can take to make sure you find the right therapist. "I would come up with three or four therapists and interview them at least once," recommends Savra. "Pay attention to the level of comfort you have with the therapist and ask a lot of questions." You can ask a therapist about what he or she believes you can get out of the sessions and how he or she achieves results.

You can also make sure a therapist has experience doing premarital counseling. "It's different from regular counseling," reminds Savra. "Ask a therapist what percentage of his or her practice is with premarital counseling."

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