What is Premarital Counseling?

March 27, 2019

What is Premarital Counseling?

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Curious about premarital counseling, and if it might be right for your situation? Here’s what you need to know about this helpful tool, including whether – and how! – it might work for you and your partner.

What is premarital counseling?

Premarital counseling is therapy for couples who are engaged, considering engagement, or entering a new serious level in their relationship. In premarital counseling, couples attend sessions with a therapist who guides both partners through discussions about:

  • Their plans for the future
  • Their hopes and expectations for married life
  • Strategies for coping with problems that might come up down the road

You don’t need to be facing a particular issue or challenge to seek premarital counseling. The process is much more about planning proactively for the future than it is about addressing current problems.Couple holding hands walking

Some religious traditions recommend or require various forms of premarital counseling. You might seek counseling with a religious leader if you’re planning to marry in a religious setting. That said, there are also plenty of secular options for premarital counseling. Providers are most often mental health professional such as licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs). 

Some therapists assign homework and provide educational tools for you and your partner to use at home. These might include a financial planning guides, or strategies for managing a shared schedule.

What topics are covered in premarital counseling?

Premarital counseling usually covers a wide range of topics, including (but not limited to):

  • Your sex life
  • Financial planning
  • Career trajectories
  • Thoughts on spending time with family
  • Religious perceptions

The goal is to help you and your partner consider each of the many areas that you’ll need to balance in your married life. Ultimately, you’ll learn to make sure you’re on the same page, reach compromises where your desires differ, and plan ahead for anything that seems like it might cause conflict.

How long do couples typically see a premarital counselor for?

Premarital counseling usually happens on a short-term basis. This is typically a set number of sessions that everyone agrees upon before counseling begins.

Some religious traditions, or even secular practitioners, may have a requirement for the number of sessions you have to attend. But many others are flexible, and can adapt to your needs.

Some couples may feel that two or three sessions is plenty, while others may schedule ten or more sessions. Weekend retreats are also a common model for premarital counseling – in which you and your partner spend a concentrated day or two working through premarital discussions and activities, often alongside other couples.

The exact number of sessions is less important than making sure that you and your partner both feel that your needs are being met by whatever session schedule you choose for premarital counseling.

Does premarital counseling cover the same ground as prenups do?  

couple having coffeeYes, premarital counseling often does cover much of the same information that is relevant for a prenup, particularly around financial planning and management of your shared resources. Counseling can also offer you an opportunity to discuss the option of a prenup and decide together whether you want or need one.

However, premarital counseling is not a legal resource. You’ll still need to work with a legal professional to complete your full prenup, should you decide to get one. Some premarital counselors may be able to refer you to a lawyer to work with on a prenup, and vice versa. Be sure to ask if this is an option you’re interested in exploring.

How can we find the right premarital counselor for us?

If you’re planning to work with a secular counselor, you’ll want to look for a practitioner with advanced training and experience in premarital counseling. This will often mean working with a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) or another licensed mental health professional who has a background in premarital counseling. If you’re an interfaith couple, it may also be helpful to seek out a therapist who has experience working with other interfaith couples. Similarly, if your cultural or racial identity, gender identity, or sexual orientation may play into your needs in counseling (if you’re an interracial couple or an LGBTQ+ couple, for example), you might also want to look for a premarital counselor who has experience working with people who share your identity or identities.

Planning to get premarital counseling through your religious community? You might be most comfortable working with a religious leader whom you already know and trust. Also try asking for recommendations from family and friends who share your religious values.

And if you’re in New York City, Rhode Island, or Boston, visit Zencare.co. You can search for therapists by fees and locations, watch introductory videos, and book a free initial call to assess fit before the first session.

This is a guest post from Zencare, a website that helps people find their ideal talk therapist. Visit Zencare.co to browse their vetted network of top therapists – using criteria like insurance, sliding scale, location, and specialties. You can also directly book a free assessment call from the Zencare site!

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