How to Find and Select a Couples/Marriage Therapist

Intimate relationships are built on a foundation of respect and trust. Damage to this foundation will occur in most relationships, but healing and repairing that damage can make the relationship stronger. Good relationships don’t just happen. Good relationships require continual work. Open and honest communication helps, but communication in and of itself is not the sole answer.

Our recommendations for what to look for or ask about in couples or marriage therapy or in a therapist includes the guidelines in How to Find a Therapist and the following:

Therapists should state what theories and therapy model(s) they use and why. Some theories to listen for or ask about in couples or marital therapy can include attachment, social and emotional intelligence, family systems, strengths, self-efficacy, hope, choice, trauma, gender, privilege, power and control, and domestic violence. Key, evidence-based models to listen for or ask about in couples or marital therapy can include emotionally focused therapy EFT by Susan Johnson, narrative therapy , Gottman marital therapy, and integrative therapy.

Steer clear of those therapists who say they use an “eclectic” style or focus, state they focus on communication, or are vague in their answer to this question.

If there is violence in your relationship, steer clear of a therapist who states he or she can stop that violence.

A therapist should not push for saving a relationship at all costs and should not push their own personal or religious views about relationships.

A therapist should meet with a couple in a structured sequence such as:

  • Assessment:
    • First session with couple
    • Second session with each individual
    • Third session with couple to discuss ongoing plan for therapy as well as rules
  • Therapy:
    • Some sessions with couple, some sessions with individuals
    • Therapist should state that couple is the client, not the individuals
    • Therapist should never blame one party while protecting the other
  • Rules:
    • A therapist should state and abide by two specific rules in couples or marital therapy:
      • If any form of physical violence within a couple surfaces during assessment or therapy the therapist should stop couple’s therapy and only individual work, possibly with other therapists, should be done.
      • The couple is the client, not each individual. There can be no secrecy between the therapist and either party in the couple.