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Marriage counseling, or couples counseling, is a form of psychotherapy. Marriage counseling focuses on exploring and resolving conflicts that are negatively affecting a relationship.
This article discusses what online marriage counseling is, including the different types and costs. It also outlines how online marriage counseling could help couples and what to consider when choosing a service.
We also explore six online marriage counseling services in more detail.
Marriage counseling is a type of psychotherapy that helps people overcome issues or behaviors that may be harming their relationship.
Couples may wish to try marriage counseling to help with the following:
- trust issues
- poor communication
- inability to resolve conflict
- sexual or intimacy issues
- individual issues that may be damaging the relationship
According to the American Psychological Association, online therapy can provide additional benefits compared with in-person sessions. For example:
- It is more convenient: Individuals can chat with their therapist at any time. They may not have to travel or take time off of work to attend counseling. People who live in rural areas and have limited access to a counselor’s office may also prefer online meetings.
- It may be more affordable: Some counseling companies offer subscription plans for couples looking for long-term therapy. The cost may be lower for this than for traditional visits.
- It is accessible to people with limited mobility: Those with serious injuries or chronic conditions can contact a counselor online without leaving their house.
- It allows for online messaging: Some individuals prefer communicating via text messaging or video calls, so may be more comfortable with online therapy.
Additionally, online counseling can accommodate partners who do not live together. Some therapists can also host sessions in different time zones.
However, online therapy may not suit everyone. When deciding, a person should also consider whether:
- the psychologist is state-licensed
- the website is secure
- they can pay for the counseling through insurance
Some couples may also wish to speak with a counselor specializing in LGBTQIA+ relationships.
Online marriage counseling aims to tackle the same issues as in-person marriage counseling. The difference is that the therapist provides the session over the internet rather than face to face.
An online therapist can observe interactions between couples and provide advice and tools to help them resolve conflict.
As with traditional marriage counseling, there are certain issues and situations with which online marriage counseling cannot help.
For example, marriage counseling cannot help people who are in physically abusive relationships. According to the
- a family member or friend
- a doctor or nurse
- a teacher, counselor, or principal who works at their child’s school
- someone who works in the human resources department of their workplace
Alternatively, a person can call 800-799-7233 to talk with a trained advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
When seeking marriage counseling, couples need to consider where they would like the counseling to take place. Some therapists are able to visit their clients’ homes. Alternatively, couples can attend counseling in an office setting or via videoconference.
There are also different types of couples counseling to choose from. Each uses a unique approach to address relationship issues. Some examples include those below.
The Gottman approach to marriage counseling stems from the ideas of Dr. John Gottman, who has 40 years of experience in researching couples.
The Gottman method aims to address conflict constructively and develop behavioral changes that lead to closeness and intimacy.
- emotional stability
Emotionally focused therapy
Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) encourages people to develop healthy techniques for expressing and discussing their emotions. In this way, EFT helps couples resolve issues such as poor communication and conflict.
Solution-focused therapy (SFT) focuses on solutions rather than problems. In SFT, each person uses their individual strengths to implement positive changes in the relationship.
One study found that a brief course of SFT led to an improvement in marital satisfaction among incarcerated men and their wives.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns that may influence behaviors.
A therapist who practices couples CBT will use CBT techniques that help couples with:
- identifying and expressing their emotions
- communicating more effectively
- resolving conflict
- developing acceptance and tolerance
- expressing affection
Imago relationship therapy
Imago relationship therapy (IRT) attempts to teach conflict as an opportunity for growth and healing. It uses the premise that conflict between partners is due to situational factors rather than underlying hostility.
Although evidence to support the benefits of IRT is mainly anecdotal, one 2017 study suggests that IRT may increase levels of marital satisfaction.
A 2019 study of EFT suggests that for couples to engage fully with the therapy, they must work with a genuine and trustworthy therapist.
Therapy can bring up painful discussions that can leave a person feeling vulnerable, so it is important that people feel comfortable with their therapist.
There are several other factors to consider when choosing a marriage counseling service. These include:
- Recommendations: A person can ask their family and friends for recommendations if they have also attended counseling sessions. They can also read online reviews if they are interested in specific counseling platforms.
- Guidance: An individual can ask a doctor to provide resources or guidance in finding an online marriage counselor.
- Type of therapy: Research can help determine the type of therapy that a couple may find helpful. Couples can find online companies that offer self-paced programs, therapy via video sessions, and text-based help.
- Insurance: Couples can check whether their health insurance company covers counseling fees. However, some companies that offer online therapy state that their fees are lower than people would pay for an in-person appointment.
- Credentials: People should choose licensed therapists specializing in helping couples with relationship problems. Some online platforms also provide information about their counselors.
The section below explores four online marriage counseling services in more detail.
How we choose products and services
Medical News Today chose online marriage counseling companies that meet the following criteria:
- Price: Therapy programs and sessions are available for a range of budgets.
- Credentials: Counselors who host programs and sessions are certified in their field. Some brands work with counselors who have at least 3 years of experience.
- Medical accuracy and integrity: Services have passed MNT vetting. They offer transparent information on coverage they can provide and their standard of care.
- Attendance type: Programs are self-paced, and people can attend sessions via phone and video calls. Some counselors also offer instant messaging services.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.
Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.
Best self-help online marriage counseling service: OurRelationship
OurRelationship programs are available with and without coaching, and these are available to people of any sexual orientation. A person can complete the program at their own pace.
The programs help people improve their communication skills to build a stronger bond with their partner.
The platform also allows individuals to complete a program without their partner.
The service offers counseling to people in same-gender and heterosexual relationships. They also offer a program for military couples. Counselors can help couples address and solve their problems together and rebuild trust.
Furthermore, a person can schedule calls with their coach at any time. These calls can take place on Zoom, FaceTime, Hangouts, or Skype.
Individual and couple programs cost $199 with a coach and $50 without coaching.
Best online marriage counseling service for lower budgets: ReGain
ReGain is a platform that forms part of BetterHelp. It works with therapists, psychologists, and social workers who have at least 3 years of experience and who specialize in helping couples with communication and trust issues.
The company claims that its counseling sessions can help couples improve their sexual relationship and intimacy.
The service currently has a rating of 2.4 on Trustpilot, with a total of 37 reviews. Many people comment that the counselors are slow to reply to messages and that the platform charged them for sessions that they did not attend.
ReGain also has an F rating on the BBB, with 16 complaints closed in the past 12 months. Customer reviews discuss counselors being slow to respond to messages, and some customers are unhappy with the level of counseling they received. Others say that they did not receive refunds following unsatisfactory counseling sessions.
Couples can message their therapist at any time, and they do not have a fixed number of appointments to schedule. They can also discuss the length of their sessions with their counselor.
Once a person signs up on ReGain, they have to complete a questionnaire for the website to connect them with a counselor. That said, they can request to change their counselor.
The website allows couples to use a joint account, and counselors can host sessions via chats, phone, and video calls.
In addition, individuals can also chat with their counselor privately without their partner being present.
Therapy sessions cost $60–90 per week, and couples can cancel their subscription at any time.
Best online marriage counseling service for an overall assessment: Couples Therapy Inc.
This service offers intensive counseling. It requires couples to complete an assessment so that therapists can learn more about the attendees, their situation, and perspectives.
People interested in using Couples Therapy Inc’s services have to attend an appointment with their therapist to get to become aquainted.
Then, couples attend a feedback session. In the session, they will learn how to move forward with online counseling and the strength and vulnerabilities they face in their relationship.
The counselors work in different time zones and can accommodate partners who do not live together.
Online sessions start from $150 per session, and an intensive retreat starts from $3,500. A free course offering three modules and bonus materials is also available.
Best online marriage counseling service for self-improvement: Growing Self
Growing Self offers dating and marriage counseling. It also provides sessions for couples who are getting married but have communication issues and need to rebuild their bond.
Evening and weekend sessions are available, which may be suitable for couples who work during the day.
People can find free advice and articles on Growing Self’s website, including:
- tips on how to find a marriage counselor
- tips on how to assist someone who may need help
- a questionnaire that can help couples determine how healthy their relationship is and learn about their self-esteem
Counseling session costs depend on the therapist’s education and background. They typically cost $65–160.
Best for premarital counseling: Talkspace
Talkspace has become known for its individual therapy services but also offers online counseling services unique to couples. These include relationship counseling, marriage counseling, and premarital counseling.
If couples are eager to build or reinforce a solid foundation for their relationship in the months leading up to their wedding, which is stressful for many, premarital counseling is one way to do it. It can help improve communication skills and work out relationship issues before marriage.
The service currently has 1.09 stars on BBB with a B rating, with a total of 65 reviews. The service has 1.3 on Trustpilot. Many people comment that the counselors canceled or rescheduled on them last minute and that they had issues receiving a full refund.
Talkspace prices vary based on the type of therapy. Live therapy sessions are $99 weekly for four 45-minute sessions per month. Adding messaging therapy to the live therapy brings the cost to $129 weekly.
Depending on a person’s insurance, it may be covered if the reason for marriage counseling stems from a mental health condition. People should check with their insurance provider on this.
Most comparable to small, intimate practice: Couples Learn
Couples Learn has two therapists with a profile page on the company website: a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed clinical psychologist.
Working with the company’s clinical psychologist will cost more per session but can be a good option for couples who want to work with a therapist who is more informed on current psychological and behavioral science research. They bring a more medical approach to couples counseling.
Couples Learn currently has no reviews on Trustpilot or the BBB.
The company offers a free 30-minute consult for people to decide if it is a good fit before investing in sessions.
Costs range from $125–420 per session, depending on the therapist.
The table below provides a comparison of some of the different companies offering online counseling.
|Company||Best for||Price||Therapy type|
|OurRelationship||self-help||$150 with coaching and $50 without coaching||individual and couple program with or without coaching|
|ReGain||lower budgets||$60–90 per week||live chats, phone calls, and video sessions|
|Couples Therapy Inc.||an overall assessment||starts from $119 per session||questionnaire and videos|
|Growing Self||self-improvement||$65–160 per session||online classes and video sessions|
Below are some of the most common questions and answers about online marriage counseling.
Does online marriage counseling work?
A 2020 study investigated the expectations and experiences of 15 couples receiving online marriage counseling via videoconferencing software.
Although the couples initially expressed concern about receiving therapy online, the majority found the experience positive and beneficial.
Some couples reported that the physical distance between themselves and the therapist made them feel more at ease and in control of matters regarding their relationship.
Does insurance cover online couples counseling?
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy states that some marriage therapists may accept insurance plans. However, most insurance plans do not cover couples counseling.
Some people may belong to an employee assistance program that provides couples counseling. It is worth contacting those managing this scheme to see whether couples counseling is available through the policy.
Medicare Part B includes couples counseling in instances where a medical professional, such as a psychiatrist or physician, is carrying out the therapy. Medicare does not cover counseling from a licensed marriage or family therapist unless they are an employee at a clinical facility.
How much does online marriage counseling cost?
A private marriage counselor can charge any amount they deem suitable for their skills. Prices are, therefore, likely to vary according to the following factors:
- the therapist’s qualifications
- the type of therapy the therapist provides
- the number of sessions the couple attends
Is it better to attend marriage counseling alone or as a couple?
Individuals should discuss with their therapist whether they should attend counseling sessions on their own or with their partner.
If one person does not want to meet with the therapist, the other may still attend on their own, as the sessions may help them face their relationship problems.
What is the difference between couples therapy and marriage counseling?
Couples therapy will focus more on the past to assess why certain behaviors or issues have come up and past arguments that may be at the root of your problems. Marriage counseling will focus mostly on current events causing stress or turmoil in your relationship. Marriage counseling tends to be more short-term and focused on a specific current problem.
Marriage counseling focuses on helping couples overcome and resolve conflict. Couples may attend counseling for help with various issues, such as poor communication, sexual issues, or infidelity.
Many different types of marriage counseling are available, and couples need to determine which type is best suited to their needs. Couples also need to choose a therapist whom they feel they can trust. For this reason, it may help to conduct some research into the therapist’s credentials and reputation.
Some couples may be able to recover part or all of marriage counseling costs. People should check whether they belong to an employee assistance program that provides marriage counseling or have an insurance policy that will cover the costs.