Getting Counseling About Your Marriage and/or Divorce

Counseling offers you a chance (often the best chance) for you and your spouse to save your marriage. And even if you end up getting a divorce, counseling almost always helps couples get through it with a higher level of trust and with more money in their pocket. When you’re marriage is troubled, counseling makes sense.

I have reluctantly concluded that I don’t work to save marriages, but I applaud, affirm, and appreciate those who do. Counseling allows you and your spouse can confront the issues that threaten your marriage in safe setting.

You could check out a therapist in Minnesota who offers counseling by telephone. He offers the first session free, and after that he charges $45 for a 45 minute session. His site is called Marriage Builders, and it advertises that it has more than 100 pages of information about what you can do to save your marriage.

Here’s a site called that offers online assistance at prices that seem reasonable. You canĀ  sign up and pay for an appointment online.

Here’s a site called They offer a nationwide network of counselors by location, showing their address, telephone number, and focus areas.

There’s a great deal of confusion about the professional qualifications of counselors and therapists. Briefly, here’s how it breaks down:

  • A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medications. Although there are exceptions, most psychiatrists aren’t particularly adept at counseling, because they don’t do it much. Their hourly fees are usually higher than those of other mental health professionals.
  • A psychologist usually has earned a Ph.D. in the field of psychology. The psychologist’s training may have emphasized practical counseling, but it might also have emphasized some narrow research interest of limited application to your case.
  • An L.C.S.W. (Licensed Certified Social Worker) has completed a certification regimen, including a master’s degree plus two years of supervised clinical experience.
  • An L.P.C. (Licensed Professional Counselor) has a master’s degree and has also completed a professional certification regimen with an emphasis in practical counseling skills. Standards vary from state to state, but in general the clinical requirements tender to be more demanding for LPC’s than for LCSW’s.

If you’re serious about saving your marriage, my hope is that both of you will make two solid commitments as you enter counseling:

  • Commit to continue counseling for a fixed number of sessions (six or so).
  • Commit to take no action inconsistent with staying married until the fixed number of sessions is complete. This means no moving out (unless you’re already separated), no relations with third parties, and any extraordinary expenditures or withdrawals of cash must be by mutual consent.

This may seem threatening to the spouse who wants to leave. He or she may accept it, however, precisely because it ends at a date certain.

Why is it important to commit to many sessions in advance? Often, the survival of a marriage will depend on (to use a business buzzword) “re-engineering” the marriage. In other words, the two of you may need to learn a whole new way of relating to each other. In many cases, this will involve some of the very same pain involved in divorce.

One of you may be tempted to withdraw because of the pain just when you’re beginning to make progress. The multi-session commitment may get you over the hump and may make the difference in the success of your counseling work.

After Pete and Marikka had been in counseling for several sessions, Marikka believed they were making progress in addressing her rigid moralism and Pete’s tendency to let his work responsibilities crowd out time with her. Pete disagreed. He thought it was a waste of time. He stopped going and started planning for divorce.

Marikka asked Pete to have one last conversation with the therapist, though, before he took any more steps toward divorce. The therapist talked frankly with Pete and Marikka about where the challenges they faced and the options available to them.

The therapist also pointed out to Pete that if he divorced, he should understand thoroughly why his first marriage failed, so he could make sure he didn’t make the same mistake again. Pete decided to give it another try. I’m delighted to tell you that the last I heard, Pete and Marikka were still together and still in counseling.

What do you do if you want to go to counseling and your spouse won’t go? There’s a separate page here about what to do When Your Spouse Won’t Go To Counseling.

In particular, counselors and therapists differ in their orientation toward the survival of your marriage. Some will work to preserve your marriage at all costs, acting out of their religious, moral, or personal beliefs. Others will be much more neutral, working with you to explore your own desires, doubts, and feelings and decide for yourselves whether you want to stay married. It’s not fair to say that one method is better than another, but it is fair to say that one approach may be more suited than another for you and your spouse.