If you’ve been considering seeing a marriage counselor I want you to ask yourself the following: “How much does my marriage mean to me and what am I willing to do to save it?”
You may have just thought about things like, “stop smoking,” “change my job,” “move to ______.” What if, for starters, it were simply, “go to counseling and pay ___ dollars.” How would that sound?
Not that you can buy your way into or out of a truly healthy, attached relationship, but sometimes a time commitment and a credit card are what it takes to get the healing process going. It’s certainly what typically starts and ends relationships (think Friday night at 7:45 and $43 for movie tickets, popcorn, and 64oz of Diet Coke) (or, much costlier and less lighthearted, 2 days in court and $15,000 in legal fees for a contested divorce).
What is the price on your relationship?
We all put a price on our relationships. What’s yours? What are you willing to pay to get back or even improve upon the amazing relationship you used to have with your loved one? What would it be worth to you if not only were you able to stand being around them again, but you actually craved that time?
What if your spouse wanted to leave you? Maybe you’re there right now. What would you pay to get them back? Would you quit your job? Pay a $10,000 “I’m sorry, please forgive me” fine? Give up poker on Tuesday and Friday nights for a year? Everybody’s got a price.
I know this because I am a marriage counselor. I know this because there are regularly people who call me and talk about how their marriage is in trouble and counseling is their last hope. Then they typically do one of two things. They either hear my fee and say “When is the soonest we can come in?” or they occasionally ask if I have a sliding scale or accept insurance.
Will my insurance cover marriage counseling?
Most insurance carriers don’t cover your relationship. I seldom see any that will pay for couples therapy, but there are rare carriers out there who may cover it for the right deductible. Generally speaking though, treatment for your marriage is not seen as what their industry calls a “medical necessity.” (Mental health parity laws have slowly begun to shift this trend, but there’s still room for change here!)
But let’s get back to what happens when people call. In my experience, the couples that jump in with both feet and essentially consider the financial cost of counseling something that they will take care of however they can tend to be committed to the counseling process and see dramatic change in their relationships.*
Whatever the reason for the differing levels of commitment, there’s no judgment on my part. I just make myself available to help save your marriage if that’s what you both want to do.
What should you pay for counseling?
So what should you pay for marriage counseling? What is a “good price to pay” for life-changing, empowering, relationship-saving counseling? Let me put it this way: Suppose you have brain cancer. What would you pay for a good neurosurgeon? Would you try to negotiate down his/her fee? Or would you simply tell your partner, don’t worry about the cost. We’ll figure it out.
Of course, you would likely ask around for a referral to the best oncologist/neurosurgeon people had heard of and go there as often as the doctor recommended, for as long as they recommended, and concern yourself with the cost after the treatment had taken place. Your primary concern would not be the drive or the fee, but rather, is this person going to provide me with the life-giving healing I need?
Another reasonable point to consider here is the cost of not saving your relationship. Citing Forbes, LegalZoom.com wrote about the average cost of divorce in various circumstances. The average cost of a “contested divorce” is between $15,000-$30,000. One year of marriage counseling (if it ends up going on for that long) is typically less than $10,000.
Certainly, finances are important. We should aim to be good stewards of our resources. But if we are poor stewards of our relationships, what we do with our money is of little consequence. Effective marriage counseling may cost you anywhere from approximately $100 to $300 per hour, but these numbers really are arbitrary. The therapist may be licensed, perhaps not. These details only matter if they help you feel more comfortable. They will not necessarily make your therapist better or worse.
There are plenty of high-priced therapists out there that will struggle to help you, and plenty of pre-licensed, inexpensive therapists that will change your relationship for the better in record time. Read. Watch. Call. Learn what you can, and take a leap. It’s mostly a matter of finding a therapist that’s a good fit for you and your partner.
What’s the bottom line?
So again, ask yourself, “How much does my marriage mean to me and what am I willing to do to save it?” If my marriage were in trouble I would not look for a marriage counselor on Groupon. I would not Google, “discount marriage counselor as close as possible to my house.” I’m all for using free benefits, but I’d probably not go to a counselor covered by my Employee Assistance Program for the small handful of sessions they cover.
I’d ask around. I’d check with my colleagues, friends, and family to see who they’ve gone to that was helpful. I’d look up therapists online and read what they’ve written, watch their videos, and call them to talk for a few minutes about how they can help save my marriage. I’d do whatever I could to make sure that the most important relationship with my favorite of the 7 billion people on this planet did not end prematurely.
And I sure as heck would not worry about whether they cost $75 per hour or $250 per hour. The right counselor is the right counselor. 40 years from now when my wife and I celebrate our 50th anniversary I won’t care at all whether it cost me a few thousand dollars more or less to keep my amazing wife in my life.
That’s the perspective I take on marriage. If it’s yours too, give me a call. Let’s get to work saving your marriage. Let’s do it today.
Dr. Robert Pate is a licensed Clinical Psychologist practicing in Huntington Beach (Orange County), California. If you’d like to set up a consultation at the Orange County office call 657-200-8080 or visit www.californiaalturavista.org.
*I recognize that there are many couples out there that truly cannot afford private pay therapy without a serious reduction in fee from the therapist. They’re probably working one or more minimum wage jobs and struggling to get by week to week. They don’t have an iPhone and are definitely not spending $4 on a latte every morning. If they would prefer not to pursue community mental health services and would rather pursue a private pay therapist, there are options. Many therapists build in low-fee or pro-bono slots into their practice. I have a small part-time practice and find other ways to contribute low-fee and pro-bono time in my professional activities and have chosen not to build such slots into my weekly client hours. An example relevant to this post is the work I do with missionary couples in Central America as a volunteer marriage counselor. It’s such an honor getting to serve those who have dedicated their lives to serving others. The fees I collect from my weekly clients allow me to fly down once a year and provide a small service to couples in need who otherwise wouldn’t see an American counselor for years at a time.