Premarital Counseling Questions:
Premarital Counseling Online
Online Premarital Counseling
As a newly minted marriage and family therapist offering premarital counseling in Denver, I rented a tiny (and by tiny, I mean cheap) little office in the Capitol Hill area. My office was the former bedroom in a gracious old Victorian-era mansion that had been converted into professional offices. I was so charmed by the warm wood paneling, the sweeping staircase off the grand foyer, and the stained glass windows, I neglected to consider practical aspects like, you know, parking. Central heating. Air conditioning. Electricity. Details.
I had to get to work approximately 90 minutes early to account for the extensive block circling required for me to find a parking spot near my building. My three-pronged power strip wouldn’t work in the two-pronged 1940s power outlet without an adapter that kept falling out of the wall. I spent the first winter constantly opening and closing my one window in effort to get the right mix of icy air coming in to balance the heat coming off the blazing iron radiator, which was a pain. But it wasn’t until that first summer when I literally watched a large tear of sweat roll off the forehead of one partner in a Denver premarital counseling couple, and splash onto his shirt, that I thought, “Okay, new plan.”
Ten-plus years ago, more people were skeptical about meeting with me for premarital counseling online. (Or any therapy online, for that matter). They too would spend too much time trying to park blocks away, and sweltering with me in the gracious Victorian office-sauna. An office visit would eat up a couple of hours of their time, but they’d balk at the thought of a video call. Until they went out of town or something, and then we had our first online call from their hotel room… and I’d never see them in person again. (We’d still meet regularly, but after they adapted to online therapy, the hassle of coming in for an office visit felt about as appealing as spending half a day at the dentist.)
I did eventually get another Denver counseling office, this time high in a sparkling office building, with a parking garage, central air, and a full window west-facing view of the mountains. I would have clients come in, stand at the window to take in the view, and say “I think I can see my house!” But then after circumstances came up that led them to have a video call with me, I’d still never see them in person again because… why drive?
Their experience of meeting with me online was easy, and at least as helpful and effective for them as meeting in person. Honestly, sometimes more so due to the emotional intimacy of being at home, and the absence of the experiential stress of being in a professional office. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like people can be more vulnerable and authentic when they’re not wearing shoes. That’s the kind of energy we need for really meaningful counseling — and I think that’s why online growth work works so well.
Some people enjoy the office experience, and for that reason Growing Self still offers all of our marriage counseling, relationship coaching, pre marriage counseling, and pre-engagement counseling services in person at all of our Denver-area locations. (We have offices in Denver, Broomfield, and in the Denver Tech Center). Some couples opt for a hybrid combination of in-person and virtual premarital counseling sessions. But we also offer online premarital counseling services to couples all over the world, and it’s fantastic.
Why Online Premarital Counseling Works
Online premarital counseling works extremely well for many couples, especially those where one or both people frequently travel, have busy schedules, are in long-distance relationships, or in rural areas with few local options for premarital counseling. There are other reasons to do premarital counseling online — maybe you’ll like the convenience of doing such work from the comfort of your home — but those are among the most popular, practical ones.
Most importantly, in my opinion, the option to do online premarital counseling gives you so many more choices for really good, meaningful, and high-quality premarital counseling. In years past, couples would be limited to working with a local person for premarital counseling — usually the clergy person who was to officiate at their ceremony. Now, instead of having an awkward conversation with a priest and being handed a pamphlet, couples can online premarital counseling with an actual marriage and family therapist who’s there to help them have necessary conversations before commitment, unearth their unspoken expectations for their relationships, learn to manage finances as a couple, find strategies to keep the passion alive, improve communication, and develop healthy relationship skills. In other words, the real deal.
Believe it or not, couples who meet with me or another Growing Self specialist for relationship coaching or counseling online tend to be even more successful in repairing their relationships than some of the couples we meet with in person.
The reason? The process of online premarital counseling is virtually identical to the work we do in-office, but there are certain aspects of online couples therapy that make it more effective:
- Time and travel considerations, among other scheduling concerns
- Emotional Intimacy
Here’s what to expect in premarital counseling, whether you choose in-person or online. Our model of short term, focused premarital counseling is particularly effective in an online format because it’s very structured. We help you strengthen your relationship the following areas:
- How to help each other feel loved and respected
- How to communicate with each other
- How to deal with inevitable conflict constructively, without it turning into a fight
- How to grow together, for an interesting, fresh, enjoyable marriage
- Identify the different expectations you may be bringing into marriage, and build bridges to the center (this is especially important work for couples in cross-cultural relationships).
- How to get on the same page about important things like money and marriage, parenting and more
- How to support each other’s hopes and dreams, both as individuals and as a couple
- How to avoid common mistakes that can damage relationships and lead to divorce.
Depending on your relationship’s strengths and its growth opportunities, we can help you both learn key skills for achieving peace and harmony in all or a few of those areas. Or you may have other things on your mind that you’d like to address and resolve through pre-marriage counseling. That is completely fine too.
We can adjust our process to fit your needs.
Premarital Counseling Near Me
Virtual premarital counseling is as close to home as it can get without defying laws of physics. With premarital counseling online, the specialist comes to you, inside your home!
Many of the couples we work with are frantically busy, with careers, in some cases children, and mountains of other responsibilities and stress. Especially when working with busy clients, getting two people in the same place at the same time is challenging. Work schedules are erratic and any number of things can come up that make meeting in-person difficult: Someone has to go out of town, there’s rush hour traffic during after-work periods that are most ideal for sessions and then there’s perhaps a babysitter situation.
A simple 45-minute appointment ends up requiring hours of time, and committing to such a time expenditure can become too challenging for many people. Coordinating premarital counseling sessions online cancels out so many of these problems.
Getting a consistent routine going will help build momentum in the work that you’re trying to accomplish, in the sessions and outside of them in your relationship. It’ll be an exercise in real-time commitment where you develop emotional intimacy with each other, generate depth in your relationship, and set your marriage up for success — without having to think about the traffic you’ll hit on the way home from the office.
You’ll be naturally relaxed at home and you and your counselor can spend the full time together attending to the heart of the matter. You’ll be better able to stay present with the counselor all the way up to the end of your session.
All this is why online premarital counseling often fosters an even greater emotional intimacy between clients and their counselors than if they were to do the same work in an office, allowing them to open up and be more honest. You’ll feel different in an office compared to your own home, your “safe space.” Even if it’s a nice, comfortable office — as all of those at Growing Self are! — there is always a little energetic tension when you’re in a professional environment.
Couples meeting for premarital counseling online also don’t have to screech off in their car — or perhaps two separate ones — to get back to work or their homes. They don’t have to rush to go pick up the kids. Instead, they end the call with their counselor and are still sitting on the couch together. They have time to continue talking about the important things that came up in our session, how they felt, and to process what happened. There’s also a little more flexibility in going overtime, if needed.
Having regular appointments with optimal comfort also allows a couple to keep the new ideas they learn in sessions fresh in their mind. Furthermore, the new positive experiences they have during their weekly sessions helps change the trajectory of their interactions in daily life outside of the sessions, as well.
Is There Any Reason NOT To Do Premarital Counseling Online?
It needs to be said that there are some situations in which carrying out premarital counseling in the online space is not ideal. As well as online premarital counseling works for many of our couples, there are situations where it is not a good idea.
If you are having major issues in your relationship where there is a lot of anger and emotional reactivity, if there are underlying mental health issues creating problems, or if you are dealing with more serious concerns like drug or alcohol addiction, or domestic violence, it is not the right time for traditional premarital counseling online (or in-person, for that matter.) Instead of premarital counseling, you should seek individual or family therapy from a qualified mental health provider in your community.
They can help you resolve the issues that are creating problems. Once those are feeling better, then you can confidently turn towards your bright future, and use premarital counseling to strengthen your relationship in preparation for a successful marriage.
What To Expect In Virtual Premarital Counseling
Premarital counseling at Growing Self is about the same whether you enroll in online premarital counseling, or in-person Denver premarital counseling.
High-quality premarital counseling helps you and your partner understand the strengths and growth opportunities that exist within your relationship. In turn, this helps you to develop skills and strategies that will keep your new marriage healthy and strong for years to come.
This process is incredibly important — quality premarital counseling can make or break a marriage. Research shows premarital counseling helps marriages work better, and there’s also proof that couples who do not attend premarital counseling are at a bigger risk of experiencing difficulties and divorce.
Typically, premarital counseling at Growing Self starts with a premarital assessment that will provide a report on elements of the relationship that they think they may want to work on. This is a crucial step. Many couples don’t anticipate all the ways their relationships change after they get engaged, and can derive a lot of benefit from sitting down with a counselor and defining their new roles as life partners and working through any niggling premarital issues. After the assessment, there’s an informational interview with a premarital counselor to help them understand how you operate together, how you communicate, and what strengths already exist in your relationship.
From there, premarital counseling dives into some of the important, baseline skills for creating a lifetime of love, like how to communicate, stay emotionally connected, and speak each other’s love languages. There’s also guidance for couples in creating agreements about what each should do around the house, who should take on each of the more general responsibilities (like grocery shopping, for example), how to manage finances together, and set goals for the future. And, yes, how to keep your sex life fun and fulfilling comes up, too.
There’s also an examination of unique pain points and dynamics within the relationship.
In the end, you and your partner emerge with a toolbox of skills, helping you navigate situations that could be a source of strain down the road, like couple finances, or differences in sexual desire. Pre-marriage counseling is essentially like an insurance policy. It’s preventative. It keeps you from running into trouble in the future because you can use all the things you learned in premarital counseling to keep your relationship strong and healthy through all the twists and turns in the years to come.
How Long Does Premarital Counseling Take?
Some couples want to come in for a session or two of premarital counseling to simply “check the box.” Maybe they need a certificate showing they did premarital counseling (which we can certainly provide). Maybe one or both partners are a little avoidant, not wanting to engage with the exploration and authentic discovery process that pre-marital counseling offers.
I’ve met with these kinds of couples before, and as I run through the assessment they say, “Yep, yep, yep, everything’s great, nothing to talk about.” But as we talk, they reveal other stuff too, like the fact that there are unresolved areas of conflict in their relationship, they’re having communication breakdowns, and they have not created alignment around some pretty important things — all things that are easily resolvable in premarital counseling, but they don’t want to talk about it. This is unfortunate, and a lost opportunity to proactively prevent problems in the future.
I once had a young premarital couple in their twenties share that he wanted several children, and she did not want any children. Ever. The young man literally said to me, “It’s fine. She’ll change her mind eventually.” She said, “No. I won’t. I do not want children. I am going to medical school and I want to be a neurosurgeon. Having children does not fit into this picture.” I said, “It sounds like this topic is worth exploring and resolving before you get married.” They said, “No, that’s okay. We just want to get married.” (Both internally convinced that they could, somehow, get their partner’s values and life dreams to bend in their direction down the road.)
I left that session with the knowledge / hope that this couple would know where to find me when the time was right to address this issue deeply.
But this kind of serious avoidance is unusual in our practice. If people have to do premarital counseling but don’t really want to engage with it, they talk to the priest and get the pamphlet — they don’t come to Growing Self. The couples we work with here take the work in premarital counseling seriously. They understand this is a true opportunity to do meaningful growth work together. They open up, they do their “homework,” ask questions, talk about their feelings eagerly, and generally engage with the counseling sessions at a high level. They get a lot out of it. On average, when people are engaged and do a good job, it will take eight to 12 sessions, roughly, for them to complete premarital counseling. [Learn more about how long premarital counseling takes.]
Some couples exist on the other side of the spectrum, however. There are couples who enter premarital counseling and know they are facing more serious relationship issues that need attending to before they get married. The structure of premarital counseling is still the same (assessment, interview, discovery, coaching around skills and strategies), but there will likely be added work and time spent addressing the specific areas that the couple wants to deal with.
Such a couple should probably explore all this over the course of 12 to 16 sessions, something I’d particularly recommend to couples who are entering into a blended family situation. Even the happiest of such couples have added layers to contend with — like parenting skills, feelings about each other’s children and the other parents, etc. — and that takes time to work through successfully.
Secular vs. Religious Premarital Counseling?
While our team of marriage and family therapists here at Growing Self is quite diverse and we have providers from different faith backgrounds, (and of course, we can help you discuss your belief system) a professional marriage and family therapist would never push a particular belief system on you. If you are specifically looking for Christian premarital counseling or religious premarital counseling your best bet would be to talk to your pastor, Rabbi, or a counselor who specializes in faith-based counseling of your denomination. That is not us.
If you choose Growing Self for premarital counseling, you will work with a marriage and family therapist who is an expert in helping couples and families develop healthy, happy relationships using evidence-based practices, and who provides non-religious or secular premarital counseling focused on your relationship — not your religion.
If, through the course of our discovery process, it emerges that matters of faith are important for you to discuss together, we will help you do that in an unbiased and non-judgmental way. For example, if you are Jewish and your partner is Christian, we will help you have productive conversations about how you’d both like to practice your respective faiths, celebrate holidays, etc. (Particularly if / when you have kids).
How Much Does Premarital Counseling Cost?
Couples can easily spend tens of thousands of dollars on a picture-perfect wedding. On average couples spend $2-3000 on flowers alone. But smart and successful couples understand that the wisest investment in a marriage is to learn and grow together in their relationship. A full course of premarital counseling with a relationship expert who can help you ensure your long-term relationship security and life satisfaction (not to mention, prevent divorce and all the associated misery that goes along with a failed marriage) costs as much as some couples spend on their wedding cake.
The cost of premarital counseling is lower than you might think. However, the important thing to remember is that a return on investment in premarital counseling is hardly quantifiable, nor should it be. Still, many couples get hung up on the cost, or whether their insurance covers premarital counseling.
At Growing Self, you will have a premarital counselor who is a marriage and family therapist — an authentic relationship expert. A good marriage counselor with specialized education and years of experience in helping couples grow together. They know the types of problems that bring couples into marriage counseling and how to help you avoid them. They will know the right questions to ask before marriage, how to identify growth opportunities, help build a tool box for you and your partner to use throughout your marriage to keep it strong, and much, much more.
This type of experience is worth much more than the money you’d pay for it. Can you put a price on building a marriage that lasts a lifetime?
That said, Growing Self has a few options for premarital programs that vary in price and can be very budget-friendly, including:
Our Lifetime of Love Premarital Course is our most affordable premarital counseling alternative. The “LOL” class covers the most important relationship skills, like how to keep your love strong, how to communicate, how to keep the spark alive in your romance, how to create agreement, how to resolve conflict, and how to build a future together. Typically, the class meets for three, two-hour sessions. We have both evening and weekend options available.
Either Meagan T, MA, LMFT or Brenda F., MA, LMFT (both licensed marriage and family therapists, and very experienced premarital counselors) will be your instructor. They typically charge $135 per 45 minute private session, or $175 for a 60 minute session, but they charge just $265 per couple for the entire Lifetime of Love class. That’s a savings of over $700, compared to the cost of six, 60 minute private sessions with one of them.
Our pre marital counselling program is the second-most affordable option for premarital counseling. This is a structured program that is intended to assess your relationship, and provide targeted coaching around any areas that could cause possible problems in the future.
The cost of private premarital counseling varies a bit on who you work with, how many sessions you need, and whether you choose to meet for 45 or 60-minute sessions. If you work with a doctoral-level clinician, they charge around $160 for a premarital counseling session. In contrast, an early career marriage and family therapist on our team charges around $105 for a premarital counseling session, and possibly as low as $65 per session if you qualify for our income-based sliding scale rates.
Our prices for online premarital counseling are the same as what we charge for Denver premarital counseling. We do not offer packages or subscriptions, since we tailor every growth experience specifically to you and your needs. You’d just pay for each session as you go, and have as many as you need (and not more).
The first step in getting started with online premarital counseling, is to schedule a free consultation session with the relationship expert of your choice. In that first meeting you can meet your premarital counselor to make sure it’s a good fit, and discuss your hopes and goals for premarital counseling. Then they’ll send you both a premarital assessment, and your process of discovery and growth together can begin.
If you’d prefer to do our online premarital course instead of (or in addition to) private premarital counseling, all you need to do is enroll!
Online premarital counseling is easy, it’s effective, it’s affordable. But most importantly it’s worthwhile. In fact, I truly believe that forgoing premarital counseling is the biggest mistake engaged couples make. I hope that this article (and the others I’ve prepared for you, below) answer your questions about premarital counseling and help you make the right decision, and ensure your bright future together.
With love and respect,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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