If you’ve never been to counseling before, the process of seeking help can feel overwhelming.
You may be wondering, will marriage counseling help your situation? If so, how do you find a reputable Christian marriage counselor? And what can you do if your spouse isn’t willing to go with you?
To help steer you in the right direction, the experts at Lasting, the leading marriage counseling app, answer the most pressing questions about Christian marriage counseling.
Q: Can counseling really help our marriage?
Yes, it absolutely can. While going to counseling doesn’t guarantee your marriage will be restored, couples counseling methods such as Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) have been found to help 70-75% of marriages move from distress to recovery.
In fact, research shows even the strongest marriages can benefit from marriage counseling.
Dr. John Gottman, the leading marriage researcher, identified that a key determinant of marriage health is how well a couple responds to each other’s “emotional calls.” Emotional calls are the tiny moments throughout each day when one partner seeks to connect with their spouse by asking a question, requesting help, or seeking attention.
The science behind emotional calls within a Christian marriage is explained in detail here. The important thing to note is that couples reporting healthy marriages miss 14% of their partner’s emotional calls. Those in unhealthy marriages (heading toward divorce) miss 67% of these connection attempts. Yikes!
The takeaway? Every marriage has room for strengthening its emotional connection. Hearing a trained counselor’s objective perspective can make a real difference in the foundational health of your marriage.
Read more here about how marriage counseling can impact your specific marriage situation.
Q: When should we seek help?
There’s an unfortunate misconception that couples should only seek marriage counseling once a severe issue arises or if a problem continues without resolution.
But research shows couples should seek help as soon as possible, even as a preventative measure.
According to Dr. Gottman, couples wait an average of six years of negative feelings toward one another before they seek counseling. Imagine if a young child faced a problem but waited six years to seek help. By the time he asked for help, he would be experiencing a completely different set of problems.
Marriage functions in a similar way. The sooner you resolve and prevent issues, the better.
One way to narrow down your strengths and weaknesses as a couple is to take our relationship assessment. It’s free in the Lasting app, and you can sync your answers with your spouse’s.
Q: How do I tell my spouse I think we should go to counseling?
How you start a difficult conversation like this can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of that conversation. We recommend reading our scientifically-validated prep session for inviting your spouse to couples counseling.
Q: How do I find a Christian marriage counselor near me?
One of the best ways to find a marriage counselor is to ask around through networks of people you know and trust. A doctor, nurse, pastor, close friend, or relative may recommend a Christian couples therapist in your area with a well-known reputation for excellent counsel.
If there’s no one you can ask for a recommendation, you can find a marriage counselor by searching online. The database of EFT-trained therapists is located here.
Once you’ve identified a prospective counselor, call their office directly to get more information. Be sure to ask about their specific areas of expertise, faith life, and views on marriage and divorce.
As soon as you’re able, schedule an appointment to meet the counselor in an introductory counseling session. Remember, it’s okay to change counselors if it isn’t the right fit.
Q: How much does marriage counseling cost?
Counseling sessions typically range from $100-$250 per hour.
If in-person marriage counseling is not an option for you, a marriage health app like Lasting, which is written by marriage counselors, can serve as a low-cost, accessible first step toward seeking help. For $12/month or $80/year, couples can access the vault of counselor-approved marriage tips immediately and confidentially.
Q: What if my spouse refuses to go to counseling?
This can feel devastating, but there’s still hope for you and your marriage. Here are some things you can do:
1. Go to counseling by yourself. Counselors offer helpful advice for strengthening your marriage regardless of whether your spouse is present. Over time, your spouse may come to understand the value of counseling and may seek to join you or may see a counselor separately.
While couples counseling is the most personalized way with the best track record for healing your marriage long term, there are other ways you and your spouse can seek help together if a spouse is unwilling to see a counselor.
2. Download the Lasting couples counseling app. A counseling app like Lasting is a good place to start when one partner isn’t willing to see a counselor. While the app does not replace marriage counseling, 94% of couples who use Lasting together report repair to their relationships.
Spending a few minutes a day working through sessions can ease you into the types of conversations you’d have with a marriage counselor. Over time, in-person counseling may seem a lot less daunting.
3. Read up. Countless books have been written by marriage counselors that can give you and your spouse tools for working on your marriage. Here’s a list of the Gottman Institute’s book recommendations for couples.
4. Pray. Finally, pray without ceasing—for your marriage, for your spouse, and for God’s wisdom in your situation. God hears your prayers, and while He won’t always provide a miraculous cure to fix what’s broken, rest assured he loves you and wants what’s best for you, your spouse, and your marriage. Lean into your faith, and never lose hope.
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 3:13-14
Braff, D. (2018, September 18). 'Everyone brings their own baggage': Couples counseling more effective if done in early signs of trouble. The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/sc-fam-couples-counseling-1002-story.html
Driver, J.L. & Gottman, J.M. (2004). Daily marital interactions and positive affect during marital conflict among newlywed couples. Family Process, 43 (3), 301-314.
Johnson, S. M. and Greenman, P. S. (2006), The path to a secure bond: Emotionally focused couple therapy. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62: 597–609.