Couples counseling is conversation-based support provided by a professional to romantic partners to address relationship challenges. Marriage counseling is couples counseling for married partners. Premarital counseling can be couples counseling for partners planning to get married.
Premarital counseling can also be education and guidance focused on preparing for marriage and future conflicts that may arise in marriage.
Learn more about what premarital counseling is, what to expect, reasons for going to premarital counseling, and more.
What Is Premarital Counseling?
Premarital counseling is support provided by a licensed mental health professional to romantic partners who are planning to be married.
This type of counseling is intended to support couples through any challenges they may be facing through education, guidance, and conflict prevention strategies. It is a safe space to grow together, strengthen the relationship, and help them prepare for their future together as a married couple.
Premarital counseling is not just for couples experiencing challenges in their relationship. It is to help couples prepare for a healthy marriage.
What to Expect
In general, premarital counseling works by providing a safe space for couples considering marriage to help them plan for the future and prevent potential conflicts down the road.
Premarital counseling is based on conversation, which involves talking between the partners receiving the counseling and the healthcare provider providing it. There are typically five to seven sessions, but there may be more or fewer depending on the healthcare provider and the couple. Sessions generally take place with both partners together, but healthcare providers may meet with each partner individually as well.
During a premarital counseling session, the partners may:
- Take an assessment called a comprehensive premarital assessment questionnaire (PAQ)
- Identify areas to improve their relationship and set goals together
- Learn communication strategies
What Is a Premarital Assessment Questionnaire (PAQ)?
A PAQ is an assessment taken by partners planning to get married to help them identify individual traits such as self-esteem, couple traits such as how well their values align, and personal and relationship contexts such as previous marriages and the quality of family relationships.
Reasons for Premarital Counseling
Couples who go through premarital counseling are 30% more likely to remain married and have a successful marriage compared to couples who do not. Additionally, couples who choose premarital counseling find it to be very helpful, and they are more positive about seeking future support if needed. The benefits of couples counseling are not just for the short time surrounding the wedding, but for years to come throughout the marriage as well.
Couples may choose to do counseling for a variety of reasons, including:
- Identifying areas for improvement in yourself and the relationship
- Working through existing relationship challenges and preventing future challenges
- Learning communication skills to better handle conflict when it does arise
- Setting goals for improvement and the future
- Learning to navigate mental health conditions of one or both partners, like depression, as a couple
- Learning important relationship skills such as how to better support each other
- Getting a better idea of what to expect in marriage considering each partner and the relationship
Topics to Discuss
In marriage counseling, the healthcare provider and each partner have opportunities to ask questions and bring up topics that are important to them. The healthcare provider can help to guide the session by asking questions about values, goals, and topics that may lead to conflict if not discussed. Partners may also ask questions about any challenges they may be facing, concerns they may have for the future, or general questions about relationships or marriage.
Some common topics to discuss include:
- When to get married and where to live
- Current challenges, disagreements, or conflicts and how to address them
- What each partner sees in the other
- The role of spirituality for each partner and the relationship
- Concerns relating to the future
- If and when to have children, how many, and parenting values and styles
- Career decisions
- Previous marriages and past experiences
- Marriage expectations (roles and responsibilities of each partner)
- Relationships with family members and friends
- Premarital sex and sexual intimacy throughout the marriage
- Supporting each other and making sure needs are met
- Financial challenges and goals
How to Prepare
To prepare for premarital counseling, the couple can start by discussing their options finding a healthcare provider. One factor to consider is if they want to seek the support of a religious leader or mental health professional. This is a personal decision for the couple to make together.
More practically, premarital counseling is typically five to seven sessions, but it could be more. Those sessions need to be scheduled to accommodate both partners.
The details of how to prepare for the first session depends on the healthcare provider. When scheduling the first session it is important to ask if there are any preparation recommendations, such as paperwork or worksheets to complete or content to read or discuss together. If you intend to use insurance, make sure the healthcare provider accepts it, and you are aware of any out-of-pocket costs that could be incurred.
Premarital counseling is support, guidance, and education provided by a mental health professional to couples considering or planning marriage. It can address issues or challenges they may be facing, help them learn how to prevent and address future conflicts, or prepare them for marriage in general. The partners may take a premarital assessment questionnaire to help identify personal and relationship traits and guide the counseling sessions.
There are many benefits of premarital counseling, including improved communication and conflict prevention and resolution. These benefits, among others, help prepare the couple for marriage and serve them for years to come. Couples who receive counseling before getting married are more likely to remain married and be satisfied in their relationships.
A Word From Verywell
The decision to get married is a big commitment. The transition comes with challenges, and new challenges arise throughout life as a married couple. If you and your partner are considering marriage, you may benefit from premarital counseling. Reach out to a mental health provider such as a therapist or counselor to get started.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much is premarital counseling?
The cost of premarital counseling depends on the person providing the counseling, where they are located, and other factors. It ranges from $25 to $200 or more per hour, but it is generally around $150 per hour.
How long is premarital counseling?
Premarital counseling is generally about 45 to 60 minutes per session and five to seven sessions, or more. The sessions are about a week apart, but it varies depending on the couple and the healthcare provider.
When should you start premarital counseling?
A couple could begin premarital counseling when they start to think and talk about marriage. It is best to start marriage counseling at least six months before getting married.