February 10, 2024

Is marriage counseling confidential?

A happy couple in front of a computer


  • What is marriage counseling?
  • Is marriage counseling confidential?
  • The limits to confidentiality in marriage counseling 
  • No-secrets and limited-secrets policies for couples
  • How to find confidential marriage counseling 
Couple counselling

What is marriage counseling?

Marriage counseling is a type of counseling that helps couples navigate problems and challenges in their relationship in order to build stronger and more mutually satisfying marriages. Many marriage counselors work to help couples improve their communication skills and solve relationship problems within a supportive and neutral environment. Couple walk a way from marriage counseling feeling better able to resolve conflicts, communicate more clearly, and having a stringer foundation for their marriage. While there are many benefits to marriage counseling (read more about the benefits here), a common question that comes up when couples are considering marriage counseling is whether marriage counseling is confidential. This article will work to answer this question as well as explain limits to confidentiality within marriage counseling sessions. 

Is marriage counseling confidential?

Confidentiality is an important aspect of all types of counseling including marriage counseling. Confidentiality in marriage counseling is necessary to help couples feel safe and comfortable to open up about what is going on in their relationship as well as about how each person if feeling about the counseling process. Confidentiality ultimately helps build trust between therapists and clients, and this trust is needed one of the most important aspects of a therapist-client relationship. When couples trust their therapist,  they are more likely to be honest and open in the therapy sessions which can help them make more progress in improving their relationship. 

So, is marriage counseling confidential? The short answer is yes. It absolutely should and needs to be confidential. Therapists are typically legally and ethically required to keep information confidential. There are exceptions to this where marriage counselors in the United States are legally required to break confidentiality in certain circumstances. 

The limits to confidentiality in marriage counseling

The times where marriage counselors are legally required to break confidentiality is commonly referred to as the limits of confidentiality. One scenario where confidentiality is broken is in the event that a client is at a high risk of harming themselves or other such as in instances of suicidal thoughts, homicidal thoughts, or child abuse. If a therapist believes that a client is at risk for harming themselves or someone else, they are required to contact the police or other authorities in order to try to prevent the potential harm. 

Another scenario where there is a limit to confidentiality is in the case of court proceedings. A judge can subpoena information from the therapist. However, when this happens the therapist will let the clients know before sharing any of the information with the court, and they will try to share only the minimum amount of information that is required in these situations.

couple hugging while watching the ocean

No-secrets and limited-secrets policies for couples 

While confidentiality is an important aspect of marriage counseling, it is common for marriage counseling to use a no-secrets or limited secrets policy for secrets between the couple. 

No-secrets policies are when clients agree that there will be no-secrets in the marriage counseling process. Both partners agree that any personal information shared with the marriage counselor can be discussed with their partner. The goal of this policy to enhance transparency between everyone and to prevent any secrets from preventing progress in couples counseling. 

Other therapists use a limited-secrets policy for marriage counseling. With this policy, if one person told the therapist a secret, the therapist will keep that information from their partner. This is typically used when information is personal in nature and does not directly impact the relationship. If it is a harmful secret, the therapist will either discontinue therapy until the secret is shared or will hold the secret until the it naturally comes out in the therapy process. 

Different marriage counselors have different policies around secrets between couples. It is important to be aware of your therapists polices on secrets before getting started and to discuss what your preferences are as a couples around what you would like from the therapist if there is a secret in marriage counseling.

How to find confidential marriage counseling

Therapists in the United States are all required to maintain client confidentiality in marriage counseling if they hold a license as a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), a licensed professional counselor (LPC), a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), or a licensed psychologist. ​one of the easiest ways to find a marriage counselor is to complete a google search. you can also use a therapist directory such as TherapyDenZenCare, or PsychologyToday to find both local and online marriage counseling options.

Looking to start confidential marriage counseling?

​​Elizabeth Polinsky Counseling provides online Emotionally Focused Couples Counseling, as well as weekend-long Marriage Intensives, throughout the states of Virginia, 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.


    My podcast, blogs, videos, newsletters, and products are general information for educational purposes only; they are not psychotherapy and not a replacement for therapy. The information provided is not intended to be therapy or psychological advice; and nothing I post should be considered professional advice. The information provided does not constitute the formation of a therapist-patient relationship.

    I cannot answer questions regarding your specific situation; you should consult your doctor or mental health provider regarding advice and support for your health and well being. If you are experiencing a medical or mental health emergency, you should call 911, report to your local ER, or call the National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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