What to Expect from Premarital Counseling

We ask an expert what to expect, how much it costs, and how to find the right therapist.

Man and woman sitting on couch talking to therapist.

Carles Navarro Parcerisas / Getty Images

If you and your partner are getting serious and you're thinking that this person is the one you want to be with forever, you're likely spending some time talking about your future together. Or, if you're not having those big conversations yet, maybe you need some guidance to begin. There are things you may 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 on the same page about how you want to build a life together—not just now but in the future? And do you feel certain that you both have what it takes to make each other feel safe, secure, and loved decades from now?

A great way to dive even deeper into your relationship is by signing up together for premarital counseling. This is a special form of couples therapy that helps partners grow more connected, identify any problem areas or blind spots, and have serious conversations before tying the knot.

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 (including what questions may come your way), 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 that 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."

Keep in mind that couples who are 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 all 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 you both are compatible in the way you each want to be. "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.

Many therapists recommend at least four sessions before getting married or better yet, engaged.

How Much Does Premarital Counseling Cost?

Depending on where you live, a premarital counseling session can cost you anywhere from $100 to $300, but this varies quite a bit. 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 offset some of the cost.

How to Find the Right Therapist for Premarital Counseling

If you've decided you want to try this kind of counseling, there are steps you can take to make sure you find the right therapist. And keep in mind—it might take some time! "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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