How Online Marriage Counseling Works + 11 Programs To Try
Marriage counseling can feel daunting, especially if you know you and your partner have some work to do within your relationship. But the good news is, taking the step to give couples' therapy a try means you're both willing to put in that work—and there is no shortage of options available today.
Online marriage counseling is a great alternative to in-person sessions, as it can be easier to work into a busy schedule, it's often cheaper, and it can feel less intimidating to folks who may be wary to try it. Here's what to know about online marriage counseling and whether it's right for your marriage, plus some options to consider.
What is online marriage counseling?
Online marriage counseling is a type of marriage counseling that uses virtual communication, such as video, live chats, and messaging. Couples are connected with a therapist and focus on working on their relationship, either in real time or at the convenience of the couple and the therapist, who can message each other back and forth when they're available.
Anything that could come up during in-person marriage counseling is still on the table when the counseling goes online. Discussions around finances, sex, parenting, and any other recurring issues can be addressed and worked on with the help of a therapist, who provides mediation and feedback.
How it works.
Depending on which program you try and who the therapist is, online marriage counseling can have some variety. In most cases, you'll be one-on-one with the therapist. Therapists will make an effort to personalize your sessions, offering specific feedback, questions to reflect on, and sometimes "homework" to work on between sessions.
"A majority of therapists who do online counseling conduct the sessions 'live' via Zoom or another platform," psychologist and relationship expert Karin Abrell, M.A., Ph.D., explains. She notes that the online counseling process "moves a bit more slowly, and therapists have fewer 'readability' moments," as far as body language and visual cues. Nevertheless, "the depth of the counseling can still exist."
There are also options that are more akin to workshops or group therapy, in which multiple couples can attend and learn together. That one-on-one feedback isn't there in quite the same way, but there's the benefit of learning in a group instead of feeling all the attention and spotlight on your relationship.
"I offer classes online, and those are also fabulous. Many people like learning in a class but not having to be in a room with other people," licensed marriage and family therapist Linda Carroll, M.S., LMFT, tells mbg.
How much it costs.
Online marriage counseling can be significantly cheaper than in-person sessions. Weekly sessions can range anywhere from just $25 to $45 on the lower end, with more robust programs costing $150 or more. It all depends on what you're looking for, how long you plan on participating, and what your budget is.
Therapy may be covered by some insurance plans—but in many cases, it's not, making online a good option for the frugal couple.
Is online marriage counseling effective?
Carroll describes it as "really excellent." As a marriage therapist herself, she was reluctant to take her practice online at first, but now that it's been a few years, she's definitely behind it. "Several studies have pointed to it being as effective as in-person," she tells mbg. In her own experience, she thinks online works well in the beginning though does note that as things start to get deeper, "I still prefer us all to be together."
Abrell agrees that online counseling, and even counseling over the phone, is effective, despite some of those nonverbal elements not being as apparent.
How do I know if it's right for my relationship?
According to Carroll, the only way to truly know if online marriage counseling is right for your marriage is to give it a try—and at least a few times. Then, the two of you can discuss as a couple how you felt about your first days of couples' therapy. "As with so many issues between couples, one person may prefer online while the other finds it doesn't work well for them," she explains.
Abrell notes that online marriage counseling is great because it also allows you to connect with therapists around the country, and even around the world. Plus, with the pandemic still ongoing, "COVID-cautious clients may prefer online," she says.
And if one partner is a bit reluctant to try therapy (which Abrell notes is more common in men, according to research), they may be more willing to attend because they can stay in their own environment. "Many therapists find men are more open to it if they're able to remain in their own space," she explains.
Online marriage counseling programs to try:
ReGain offers both individual and couples counseling with the goal to help you "regain" aspects of your relationship you want to work on. You can specify your goals, as well as preferences and specialties as far as what you're looking for in a therapist. From there, you and your partner will be matched with one of ReGain's certified relationship experts—from psychologists to counselors—with whom you can correspond through live video, telephone, and messaging sessions. According to their website, costs range from $60 to $90 per week based on your location, preferences, and therapist availability.
2. Pride Counseling
If you and/or your partner are members of the LGBTQ+ community, Pride Counseling offers specialized services that may appeal to the specific type of counsel you're looking for. All of their psychologists and counselors have experience working with LGBTQ+ couples, offering a safe—and affordable—space for your relationship to grow stronger. Just like ReGain, the cost of Pride Counseling ranges from $60 to $90 per week, and you can cancel your membership at any time.
Talkspace is great for the busy couple and also offers individual services should you desire them. You and your partner send your therapist messages any time (whether text, audio, video, etc.), and they get back to you daily, five times a week. You can also schedule live video sessions to get some face-to-face time. You'll be matched with a therapist who's aligned with your goals and needs, with experts specializing in everything from finances to infidelity to health problems. Talkspace is a subscription service with plans starting at $99 per week.
4. Couples Learn
Couples Learn offers online individual therapy, couples' therapy, and even premarital therapy, perfect for the engaged couple. You'll also get a free 30-minute consultation from the get-go so you and your partner can figure out if this service is right for you. Sessions are primarily conducted over video chat, once a week, with the option to move to a biweekly or monthly schedule depending on your needs. According to their website, they'll also soon be offering self-study programs and master class webinars. Prices range from $125 to $420 per session depending on the length of your session and the skills and qualifications of your therapist.
5. Open Path
For an affordable, lifetime guarantee, Open Path offers a lifetime membership for $59 with no annual fees. As stated on their website, Open Path is intended for "people who either lack health insurance, or are underinsured, and cannot otherwise afford to work with a therapist." There's still a price per session, ranging from $30 to $80 for couples and family counseling. (They offer individual counseling, too.) They also have online and in-person sessions, for anyone looking to try both. This service is helpful for connecting you with affordable therapists in your area that are part of the Open Path collective.
6. Relationship Hero
Relationship Hero gives you instant access to a coach, with the ability to reach out to them 24/7. The very first thing you'll do is describe why you're seeking marriage counseling, and from there, you'll answer other questions like your sexual orientation, how old both of you are, and even what your arguments look like. Their "relationship profiler" helps you to get clear on how you are in relationships, and questionnaires may be recurring so coaches can better understand you. The cost is $1 per minute, and they also offer master classes starting at $45.
7. Couples Therapy Inc.
Couples Therapy Inc. is one of the pricier options, but it's very, very thorough. In the beginning, you'll start with an in-depth questionnaire and a two-hour session with your therapist. They do offer weekly online sessions, though they also offer weekend couples' retreats for a full-blown therapy experience. They offer specialties ranging from healing after an affair, premarital and pre-divorce therapy, and individual therapy for the "hopeful spouse" going to therapy alone. Their experts are highly qualified, with sessions costing upward of $500 and weekend retreats ranging from $2,500 to $5,000.
Relish is a relationship coaching and wellness app for couples that gives you access to customized relationship-care packages. It includes interactive lessons and activities for strengthening your relationship, and if you want, you can also get in touch with a Relish relationship coach, with who you'll be able to chat over text messages. The primary focus is changing behavior and habits, to improve your relationship in the long term. The price of a subscription can vary depending on your location (and currency). In the U.S., it's $99.99 per year for two people.
Lasting is a couples' therapy app, self-described as a "relationship health program," not to be confused with one-on-one couples' therapy. With Lasting, couples have access to workshops, daily reflection questions, and other activities for you and your partner to tackle together. Different sessions include everything from emotional and sexual connection, trust, finances, family, and more. You can try it for free for seven days, and after that, it's $15.99 a month for two people.
If your primary focus for starting a couples' therapy program is to address a sexless relationship or deepen your sexual connection, you might want to try Coral. It's a sex coaching app that includes personalized lessons, guided exercises, and more, all focused on improving your sex life. You can use it on your own or with a partner, and it's $59.99 for a yearlong subscription.
11. Individual therapists
Many individual therapists have private practices where they offer couples' counseling and marriage therapy, and many therapists offer online, virtual sessions that mirror in-person sessions. Consider using online therapist directories, such as those offered by Psychology Today, The Gottman Institute, Alma, MyWellbeing, the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, and the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists to find a therapist you like. Then see if that therapist offers online marriage counseling sessions.
The bottom line.
Whichever online marriage counseling service you decide to go with, should you move forward, this is a great step for your and your partner to start improving and strengthening your marriage. As Abrell notes, "Effective therapy rests on the state of the clients and how motivated they are for heart and soul work."
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