Couples Counseling: A Brief Intro, Plus 6 Steps To Finding The Best Couples Counselor Near You

Couples counseling is a helpful tool for couples at all stages of a relationship. Baby on the way? Getting married? Looking to deepen your bond? Work on your fighting style? Or just improve your sex life? Couples counseling can help, providing you with the tools and space necessary to learn how to navigate life as balanced partners.

If you're interested in couples counseling, but not sure where to start, this is the guide for you! Here’s everything you need to know to find the perfect couples counselor for you and yours.

First, let's talk about what couples counseling actually is

Couples counseling is a form of therapy where a therapist works with couples on whatever issues or concerns are relevant in their relationships. Here's a brief intro on what it entails.

Here are common topics covered in couples counseling  

Some common areas of exploration in couples counseling include:

That said, the exact focus of your treatment will depend on the particulars of your relationship and your therapist’s approach.

There are different approaches to couples counseling

Couples counseling can either use one, or a mix of, different therapeutic techniques. Some examples include:

Couples counseling is for all kinds of couples

You don’t need to be married or monogamous to seek couples counseling. This form of mental health treatment can be helpful for couples of any kind (including those who are in, or interested in, open relationships).

In some cases, you may even be able to attend couples counseling alone, if you’re interested in working on a partnered relationship but your partner is unwilling or unable to attend sessions.

Your therapist will never take sides

Your therapist is there to listen to both of you, and won't take sides either way.

They will work with both parties equally, and do their best to balance each partner’s goals and concerns.

You'll probably see your couples counselor for a few weeks or months

As with any therapy, the number of sessions you have with a couples counselor can vary, but generally speaking, couples counseling tends to be shorter-term than individual counseling.

Depending on your goals and challenge, you might see a counselor for only a few sessions, or you might continue for several weeks or months.

The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists reports that the average number of sessions with a marriage and family therapist is 12.

Next, follow these 6 steps to find the best couples counselor near you:

Step 1: Know which certifications you're looking for  

Many couples counselors are Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs). However, social workers (LICSW/LCSW), psychologists, and other mental health practitioners can work with couples, too.

When searching for a couples counselor, make sure sure that they check the following boxes:

If you live in New York City, Boston, or Rhode Island, check out Zencare to find a vetted couples therapist near you.

Step 2: Pinpoint what you want to work on as a couple

It’s generally helpful to clarify your goals together before starting couples counseling.

Dr. Nicoletta Skoufalos, a psychologist in Midtown West, Manhattan, suggests talking over the following questions together:

Once you have a clearer idea of what you want out of therapy, it can be easier to find a therapist who’s prepared to help you meet those goals.

Step 3: Decide which type of couples counseling is right for you

Couples counseling can vary widely, depending on what you want to work on and what kind of therapist you choose. You may prefer open-ended therapy, or skill-based.

Some forms of couples counseling are more open-ended, focusing largely on discussion and processing of emotions.

Open-ended therapy:

Activities might include:

Structure-oriented therapy (such as EFT, emotionally focused therapy):

Strategies might include:

Once you’ve researched a bit more about these different approaches, you can discuss which might suit you best and look for a therapist that fits your needs.

Step 4: Figure out payment, scheduling, and other logistics together

Be sure that you have clear answers to the following before you start contacting potential therapists:

Step 5: Make a list of questions to ask potential couples counselors

Ready to contact potential counselors? Save yourself some time by having a list of questions ready to ask!

Questions to ask a couples counselor

Step 6: Look for couples counselors near you

At this point, you’re ready to make some initial calls!

Find couples counselors near you using therapist search sites, like Zencare. Search by fees and location; watch counselor introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find a couples therapist who fits your preferences:

Once you've scheduled your first appointment, here's how you can prepare for your first couples counseling session.