Relationships

Why You Need Premarital Counseling and Where to Find It

Navigating premarital counseling can feel overwhelming amidst the myriad decisions that come with preparing for marriage. Let’s delve into what premarital counseling entails, why it’s valuable, and how to find the right counselor to support your journey toward a strong and lasting marriage.

isbell oliva garcia grow therapy By Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Updated on Jun 10, 2024

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Marriage is a life-changing event. The decision impacts nearly every aspect of both partners’ lives — including financial, social, physical, and mental health.

Premarital counseling is one of the common types of therapy used to help make this transition smooth. Statistics show that couples who go through it are 30% less likely to divorce than those who don’t. Therefore, it’s an important undertaking for everyone, whether it’s their first marriage or a remarriage.

Let’s explore this critical process to understand what it’s all about and get answers to two questions: Is premarital therapy worth the effort? Where can I find premarital counseling near me?

What Is Premarital Counseling?

Premarital counseling is a type of therapy where to-be spouses get advice and guidance on critical marriage matters to prepare them for their life ahead. Providers include marriage and family therapists, a clergy member trained in counseling, and psychologists, among other appropriately qualified individuals.

What Happens in Premarital Counseling?

The couple also gains key marriage skills that will be useful in the future, whether one day or 50 years after the wedding.

Topics covered in premarital counseling include:

In addition to these topics, faith-based counseling may entail partners’ spiritual foundation and the role spirituality or faith plays in their relationship.

Benefits of Premarital Counseling

Premarital therapy provides both short-term and long-term benefits — it helps couples to:

As evidence of its benefits, 10 states have implemented premarital education and counseling promotion policies as one of the measures aimed at helping prevent unnecessary divorce.

Premarital counseling covered by insurance

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Premarital Counseling Approaches and Tools

Premarital counselors, marriage and family therapists (MFTs), educators, and clergy members may have different approaches to preparing couples for marriage. Any couples counseling approach aims to help to-be spouses have the conversations and build the skills they need before entering into a lifelong marriage commitment.

Relationship counseling approaches include:

Gottman Method

According to the Gottman method, effective communication is a fundamental skill for couples. Couples that relate effectively can achieve mutual approval. They can listen to each other’s needs and respond non-defensively. They focus on solving any problem together to maintain a peaceful relationship. Studies show that the Gottman method is an effective treatment that helps with marital adjustment and intimacy.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

EFT is helpful when a couple suffers from relationship distress and other mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, trauma, or PTSD. Couples facing these situations need to seek help from a counselor trained well in emotionally-focused couple therapy. There’s evidence that 70% of couples who go through EFT are free of symptoms at the end of therapy.

Psychodynamic Couples Therapy (PCT)

An insight-oriented approach to couples therapy, PCT is designed to help couples investigate and learn how difficulties have come up in their relationship and the challenges of overcoming them. The approach promotes looking at the conscious and unconscious factors behind current difficulties.

Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT)

Solution-focused therapy applied to marriage counseling involves focusing on a couple’s resources in developing a shared vision for the union. Therapists use interventions and tools such as solution-oriented questions, the Couple’s Resource Map, and providing feedback.

In SFT, the counselor and client focus solely on solutions, not problems. Also, the approach only emphasizes the past if it concerns present or future solutions.

For Melissa Galica, a certified licensed professional counselor with Grow Therapy, solution-focused therapy is applicable in many situations due to its time-bound nature. “This approach enables us to concentrate on the problem and work towards finding practical solutions in a timely manner,” she says.

Behavioral Couples Therapy (BCT)

BCT aims to help partners build the communication and problem-solving skills necessary for negotiating a mutually fair relationship. According to NIH, the approach involves:

No single approach is more effective than others when it comes to therapy. Every individual and every couple is unique; hence, treatment is tailored to specific needs.

When to Start Premarital Counseling

For a couple planning to marry, there are many important but time-consuming things to take care of ahead of their big day. Purchasing the ring, reserving the wedding venue, sending out invitations, finding officiants, hiring videographers and other service providers — wedding planning is a ton of work.

For this reason, planning ahead of time when you’ll slot in premarital counseling is often necessary. As a rule of thumb, couples can receive the optimum benefit from marriage preparation by attending relationship therapy up to a year before the wedding and within six months or so after.

As a couple, the concerns you must cover determine how long premarital therapy might take. Couples with extensive problems may need to start counseling sessions 6-12 months before their wedding date. Also, a couple will spend more time in pre-marriage counseling if, after starting the process, a need arises for other types of therapy, such as mental health counseling. Some premarital counselors may have qualifications for different specialties and can therefore help with other issues affecting one or both partners.

Some also ask whether they should start premarital counseling before or after engagement. Couples in a serious relationship and hoping to one day get engaged can benefit from participating in pre-engagement counseling. Concurrently, finding a premarital counselor to work with before the engagement can mean identifying and resolving relationship issues before they become bigger problems that require more time and effort.

There’s no hard rule about when you should start couples counseling, but you don’t want to start too late. And it’s never too early to begin counseling for marriage — as long as you are in a serious intimate relationship, go for it!

Finding a Premarital Counselor

Deciding to participate in premarital counseling is one of the best and most consequential things both partners can do to prepare for a long, happy, and healthy marriage.

Here are five important steps to help in your search for a premarital counselor:

Finding the best premarital counselor is about establishing comfort and fit for any couple. A couple must answer these questions: Are we comfortable engaging this professional in all our relationship matters? Is the professional a good fit for our needs (including individual therapy if you need it)?

How to Prepare for Premarital Counseling

Partners must set goals and be honest and patient as they prepare for premarital counseling. Galica notes, “Counseling isn’t a magic cure-all for issues but rather a process that can lead to changes and revelations over time. It’s essential to come into counseling with some goals in mind rather than expecting your therapist to figure everything out for you. Being honest about what brought you to premarital counseling is crucial – if you struggle with honesty now, it may cause problems in your marriage down the line.”

Attending your first counseling session can feel intimidating. Couples can use various tools to prepare for the topics and conversations in a premarital counseling session. For example, PREPARE/ENRICH is an online relationship assessment program designed to help premarital couples identify and evaluate their strengths and growth areas.

Both partners must be committed to premarital counseling before starting the sessions. More importantly, both partners should attend the first session together. Counseling cannot be forced upon anyone. So, partners must discuss and decide when both are ready to start relationship therapy.

Premarital Counselors Near You

You want to set your marriage on a healthy start. Finding a qualified premarital counselor is a step in the right direction toward learning crucial relationship skills and preparing accordingly for the lifelong union.

Grow Therapy’s marketplace can help you locate a marriage therapist in your area who specializes in any concerns you may have and accepts your insurance.

FAQs

  • Topics discussed in premarital counseling include communication, conflict resolution, sex, family planning, family history, money, spirituality, career goals, and healthy relationships with each other’s friends and extended family, among other topics.

  • Counselors and clergy members trained in marriage and family therapy are uniquely placed to provide premarital counseling services to couples intending to marry. Licensed premarital therapists in practice hold the LMFT title.

  • Going through premarital education and counseling benefits couples in major ways, including developing crucial marriage skills and resolving any relationship issues before the marriage starts. Besides, research shows that participation in premarital counseling is associated with a higher chance of marriage success.

  • Some premarital therapists accept insurance. When looking for a counselor, use Grow Therapy's search tool and browse by your location and insurance type to ensure you find an affordable option.

About the author
isbell oliva garcia grow therapy Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Isbell Oliva-Garcia is a licensed mental health counselor, bilingual in English and Spanish. Isbell specializes in women's issues during difficult times of transition and also works with front-line individuals struggling with PTSD or stressors created by the job.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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