February 10, 2024

How long does marriage counseling take?

Married couple holding hands


  • What Affects the Duration of Marriage Counseling? 
  • Short-Term vs. Long-Term Counseling 
  • How to Make Marriage Counseling More Effective 
  • Average Duration of Marriage Counseling 
  • Signs That You Might Need More Counseling 

Being in a committed relationship can be a wonderful experiences when it is filled with love, companionship, acceptance of each other, and support for both individual and shared dreams. For many couples, committed relationship are not always smooth sailing. Couples often face challenges that can strain their relationship, leading them to seek help through marriage counseling. One common question for those considering counseling is, “How long does marriage counseling take?” In this blog post, we’ll delve into the factors influencing the duration of marriage counseling and provide insights into what you can expect from the process.

What Affects The Duration Of Marriage Counseling?

Marriage counseling is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and the time it takes to see meaningful progress can vary greatly. Several factors contribute to the duration of counseling:

  1. Severity of Issues: Couples dealing with deep-rooted or complex problems may require more time to work through their issues. I heard one couples therapy trainer for Emotionally Focused Therapy state to expect couples counseling to take about half the amount of time that the problem has been going on. For example, if the problem has been gong on 2 years, then it may take about one year to fully address. Addressing relationship concerns early can help the process of marriage counseling go more quickly.
  2. Willingness to Participate: The commitment and active involvement of both partners significantly impact the speed of progress. If one partner is willing to work on the relationship and the other isn’t, it can make it hard to create momentum in the process. Additionally, if both partner are willing to go to counseling, but one persons isn’t willing to look at their part in the relationship dynamic, this can also make the length of marriage counseling take longer. Marriage counseling goes best when both people are committed to working on the relationship and when both people are willing to look at how they contribute to the relationship concerns. 
  3. Therapist’s Approach: Different therapists employ various techniques and strategies, which can affect the pace of improvement. Some types of therapies are more focused on quick tips that couples can utilize at home. This is great for couples with lower distress levels and who are highly motivated. For many couples, they aren’t able to use the skills at home for a variety of reasons. In this situation, longer term counseling may be needed to help work through underlying issues that make it difficult for the couple to actually use effective skills at home. (Learn more about the types of marriage counseling here.)
  4. Frequency of Sessions: Regular sessions often help accelerate the process, while infrequent meetings prolong it. Just like working out once or twice a month doesn’t help you loose weight or develop healthy habits, marriage counseling requires a regular commitment to working on the relationship. Typically, counseling once a week is the norm, although many couples find it helpful to attend twice a week. In addition to the regular marriage counseling appointment, couples get the most benefits when they are regularly trying to practice the skills at home in between couples therapy sessions.  
Married couple during a therapy session with a psychologist

Short-Term Versus Long-Term Marriage Counseling

Marriage counseling can be categorized into short-term and long-term approaches. Short-term counseling typically addresses specific, immediate concerns and might be completed within a few sessions. Again, this is great for couples with lower distress levels and who are highly motivated. Long-term counseling, on the other hand, delves deeper into relationship dynamics and may take several months or even years to achieve lasting change. The choice between short-term and long-term counseling depends on the complexity of the issues and the goals of the couple. Longer term counseling is helpful when couples aren’t able to use the skills at home for a variety of reasons and works to help couplles address underlying issues that make it difficult for the couple to actually use effective skills at home

How To Make Marriage Counseling More Effective

Regardless of the duration, the effectiveness of marriage counseling hinges on certain key factors:

  1. Active Participation: Both partners must actively engage in the process, demonstrating a genuine willingness to make things work and to look at how they each contribute to what is going on in the relationship.
  2. Having the Same Goals: It is important to be on the same page with what you hope to achieve. When partners in the relationship have different goals, especially if they are in conflict, it can be hard to make progress. Marriage counseling works best when both partners are in agreement about what they want to improve. 
  3. Honesty and Open Communication: Openly discussing feelings, concerns, and expectations is crucial for a productive marriage counseling experience. Lying or keeping secrets will delay the process and prevent a feeling of safety in the relationship. The more open and honest couples are, the faster they can get to working on the root of problems. 
  4. Homework Assignments and Practice: Therapists often assign exercises or tasks to be completed between sessions in order to reinforce what’s learned in therapy. It is important to complete these exercises at home to help get the new skills into your muscle memory and develop new more effective habits within the relationship. 
  5. Finding the Right Therapist: The therapist-client relationship is the most important aspect of couples counseling. About one third of the progress in counseling can be attributed to feeling like the therapist is a good fit for you. In couples counseling, this means both partners needs to feel comfortable with the therapist. Make sure to do consultation or bring up concerns around things you don’t like or would prefer from your therapist, so that way you can make sure it feels like a good fit for everyone involved. (Learn more about how to find the right therapist here.)

Average Duration Of Marriage Counseling

The duration of marriage counseling varies based on many factors. Some couples experience significant improvement within 12 to 16 sessions, especially when they are experiencing lower conflict. However, it’s essential to remember that each case is unique, and some may require more time, while others may need less. Couples with more distress and conflict between them can take 1-2 years, and sometimes longer, to see significant benefits. 

Couple in a Therapy Session

Signs That You Might Need More Counseling

It’s important to monitor your progress during and after counseling. If you notice lingering issues, new challenges, or a sense of dissatisfaction, it might be an indication that additional counseling is necessary. Reevaluating your goals and discussing them with your partner and your therapist can help with creating a plan to move forward.

Marriage counseling  is a process and it can serve as a guiding light through stormy waters. “How long does marriage counseling take?” is a question that cannot be answered definitively, as it depends on a variety of factors. Patience, commitment, and early intervention are key factors in having a more successful marriage counseling experience. Remember that seeking help is a great way to work towards a healthier, happier relationship. Regardless of the duration, the destination of a stronger, more connected partnership is well worth the effort.

Looking To Start Marriage Counseling?

Elizabeth Polinsky Counseling provides online marriage counseling and sex therapy to those looking to improve their relationships throughout the states of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Nevada. Click the button below to schedule a complimentary consult. 

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    About Author

    Elizabeth Polinsky is a Certified Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist (EFT) providing EFT marriage counseling in the states of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Nevada. She also provides EFT training and supervision to therapists looking to become certified in EFT Couple Therapy. As a military spouse, she has a special passion for working with military and veteran couples, and is also the host of The Communicate & Connect Podcast for Military Relationships.


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