Benefits of Premarital Counseling: Insights from a Psychologist

Apr 4, 2024 | Communication, Relationships, Self-Care, Self-Help

If you’ve found your way to this article, you’re probably in the process of exploring premarital counseling. As a clinical psychologist, my vote would be a resounding “Do it!” but you may still have questions or worries. 

Premarital counseling is an investment in your future as an individual and a couple. Sure, you could have these conversations yourself, but would you like to have them more productively and efficiently? If so, let’s deep dive into what premarital counseling is and its benefits. Armed with this information, you and your partner can make a more informed decision. 

 

What is premarital counseling? 

Premarital counseling is defined as “educational and supportive guidance to individuals planning marriage.” Premarital counseling can be provided by a certified therapist, a licensed mental health professional (e.g., MFT, LCSW, Psy.D., Ph.D., M.D.), or a religious leader (e.g., priest, rabbi). This work focuses on getting couples to the best place possible before marriage. Couples often discuss responsibilities, goals, family planning, communication difficulties, financial matters, and intimacy. Also, in some states (like Florida), having premarital counseling is actually a legal requirement prior to getting your marriage license. 

 

Misconceptions 

Now that we’ve defined premarital counseling, let’s correct some common misconceptions. 

Therapy is all the same. There are lots of different ways to “do therapy.” Various modalities and training intersect with different personalities and working styles, which means you can find what best works for you and your partner. Often, couples can be overwhelmed by different therapy modalities and therapists’ working styles. I always suggest doing a consultation with several providers; that way you and your partner get a real sense of the provider and if their style will match yours. 

Only people/couples with problems go to therapy. Would you say you only go to your primary care doctor when you’re deathly ill? If so… well, this may not be the article for you. Proactively caring for your physical and mental health is a good healthy habit. Yes, many people who are actively dealing with a crisis or severe mental health concerns do seek out therapy. But as someone who has seen hundreds of patients in my career, I can also tell you that clients seeking treatment for supportive work and/or specific life transitions get just as many (albeit different) benefits. 

It’s just talking; I don’t need to pay someone. Premarital counseling is more than just talking—it creates a space to discuss, share without judgment, actively listen, problem-solve, and learn new strategies. You don’t know what you don’t know. Will you have to pay for a professional mental health provider or licensed counselor? Most likely. And you are ensuring that you will have a professional to help support what you and your partner need. 

You shouldn’t air out your dirty laundry. For many couples, one or both partners may be concerned about being vulnerable with strangers. It’s a valid fear! For licensed professionals (and most religious leaders), there are rules to help create a safe space. For licensed mental health professionals, there are legal and ethical guidelines about confidentiality; each provider is expected by law to share these guidelines with you before you do any work together. If this is a concern for you or your partner, ask! Ask about details, hypothetical situations, and how to make engaging in this work more comfortable. 

 

The benefits

Now that we’ve corrected a few misconceptions, let’s focus on what you’ll get from the experience. While the benefits will be heavily individualized and dependent on each couple and their current life factors, the following are the expected benefits many couples reap. 

Make tough conversations less tough. Are there things that you really want to talk to your future spouse about? But you’ve had difficulties figuring out how to bring it up or you’re nervous about their reaction? It may be tempting to push off these conversations or reason that things will figure themselves out, but that usually delays the inevitable. Premarital counseling allows a set time and space to bring in the tough stuff. And you have a neutral third party to help guide the conversation and increase the odds the conversation will end well. 

Get on the same page. Clarity about your goals as a couple is beneficial when entering a marriage. Many people learn something new about their soon-to-be spouse, no matter how well they know each other. This is an opportunity to share, compromise, and move forward together. For example, do you know how many children your partner wants? Do you know when they would like to retire? What about long-term financial goals? These are some of the things therapy can help you both get on the same page about. 

Understand your partner better. Premarital counseling gives you the time and opportunity to understand your partner better. The conversations here will allow you to see situations from your partner’s viewpoint and expand your perspective, a skill that is extremely valuable in a relationship. 

Identification of blind spots. It’s hard to see a situation without bias when you’re smack dab in the middle. Premarital counseling allows you to explore situations in your relationship with new eyes and guidance and to identify growth areas. Finding your blindspots as a couple and working on them will set you up with a robust and relational foundation. 

Take this example: Marty and Melissa go to premarital counseling Melissa assumes that because she grew up in a household where money was freely spent on luxuries, it’s okay for her to make spontaneous purchases without consulting Marty. However, Marty, who grew up in a frugal household, believes in careful budgeting and saving for the future. Melissa’s blind spot is her assumption that her spending habits align with Marty’s values without recognizing that they may have different perspectives on financial management. This blind spot could lead to tension or arguments in their relationship if they don’t openly communicate and address their differences in financial attitudes. 

Learn more effective communication tools. Many couples focus on fixing or strengthening their communication skills in premarital counseling. This includes becoming better at asking questions, empathetic listening, establishing boundaries, compromising, reframing your language to be better understood, reading nonverbal cues, and sharing your feelings and thoughts.  

Move forward with confidence – no matter what. If you genuinely lean into the process, you will walk out of premarital counseling with a greater sense of confidence in your impending marriage. For a few couples, premarital counseling may illuminate significant difficulties in their relationship, and they are able to make the best choice for their future – which may delay their nuptials or decide to part ways. This isn’t meant to scare you! It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s truly for the best. 

Premarital counseling is overall a beneficial option for most couples

So, what do I hope you walk away with? That premarital counseling offers immense benefits. It strengthens your relational foundation as you move forward in this next chapter of life. The best premarital counseling fits your needs and style as a couple – taking the time to find what will work best for you will give you the most benefits. Remember that premarital counseling is generally provided by a licensed mental health professional or a religious leader. 

By jumping into this process, couples gain the tools to build a stronger foundation and the confidence to navigate the twists and turns of marriage more effectively. From creating open communication channels to identifying blind spots and experiencing new perspectives, premarital counseling empowers you, as a couple, to tackle future challenges head-on. Premarital counseling is an investment into your future and will allow you to walk forward on your wedding day confidently.  

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about premarital counseling

Let’s dig into some more FAQs about premarital counseling. 

Q: How does premarital counseling differ from traditional therapy? 

A: The main difference is that premarital counseling focuses on a particular period of your life and its associated challenges – the time before marriage. Premarital counseling is often more proactive, intended to equip you both with skills and insight to have a successful marriage instead of waiting until trouble hits. In addition, premarital counseling can be provided by those outside of the psychology field, such as religious leaders. 

 

Q: How long does premarital counseling typically last, and how many sessions are recommended? 

A: This depends on the couple, your needs and preferences. It also takes into account your counselor’s approach and what they recommended. Sessions can last anywhere from 6 to 12 sessions across several weeks or months. The process is dynamic, and the number of sessions may shift as you work with your counselor. These are good questions to ask as you are exploring various options for premarital counseling. Some, such as premarital counseling done through religious institutions, may have more rigid time frames or requirements. 

 

Q: What if my partner is a little unsure or reluctant to participate?  

A: So this is totally normal! It’s not uncommon for one or even both partners to feel a little nervous or hesitant about jumping into premarital counseling. It can be helpful to talk through what is behind the worry, and hopefully, the information in this article will help calm some of those worries. A consultation meeting or call with counselors can help overcome some of those worries and address questions. Sometimes, individual therapy may be beneficial if one partner’s reluctance is significant. 

 

Q: How much does premarital counseling cost, and does insurance cover it? 

A: The cost of premarital counseling depends on several factors, including your geographic location, the counselor’s qualification and experience, and the format of the sessions (e.g., couple sessions, group workshops). As a very rough guide, premarital counseling can range from $50 to $200 per hour. 

 

The same applies to whether or not insurance covers premarital counseling services—it wholly depends on your insurance plans. Some plans will cover it, some will not, and for those that do, there may be some parameters (such as only covering in-network providers). It’s highly recommended to check with your insurance provider to determine coverage options and any out-of-pocket expenses. 

If you hope to use your insurance, confirm that the counselor you’ve chosen to work with accepts insurance. Some mental health providers do not accept insurance but can provide you with a superbill. You can then submit the superbill to your insurance provider for reimbursement. Again, check with your provider about your specific situation – the reimbursement may be for the full amount or partial coverage.

You are writing your life story. Get on the same page with a prenup. For love that lasts a lifetime, preparation is key. Safeguard your shared tomorrows, starting today.
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