February 10, 2024

What type of therapist is best for marriage counseling?

A therapist smiling



  • Types of therapists
  • Factors to consider when choosing a marriage counselor 
  • The best type of therapist for marriage counseling 
Perfect young couple

When there are relationship problems, it can be very challenging on a marriage. Marriage counseling can be a helpful tool for couples to work on repairing their relationship and finding solutions to problems. There are many benefits to marriage counseling and picking the right marriage counselor is one of the most important steps in starting the process of marriage counseling. You will want to choose someone who can help you improve your communication and resolve any issues. Since there are so many types of therapists, it can be hard to know which is the best for couples therapy and marriage counseling. This article will explain the types of therapists, factors to consider when choosing a marriage counselor, and the best type of therapist for marriage counseling.  

Types of therapists 

In the U.S.A., there are several types of therapists and they each have unique training and qualifications. Here is an overview of the similarities and differences between each type of therapist. Hopefully, this list of types of therapists will help you decide which therapist might be best to meet your marriage counseling needs. 

  • Psychologists: Psychologists are therapists who have completed a doctorate degree in psychology. They are trained to diagnose and treat mental health disorders through individual therapy. Some but not all psychologists decide to pursue additional training in working with couples and families.  
  • Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists are medical doctors who complete a 4 year mental health training residency after graduating with a doctorate degree in medicine. They diagnose and treat mental health disorder through the use of medications. While some provide individual counseling, most primarily provide mental health medication management. Very few provide couples counseling. 
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT): LMFTS are trained to specifically work with couples and families. They complete a masters or doctorate degree specific to marriage and family therapy, and then complete 2-4 of supervised training on providing counseling too couples and families. While they can diagnose and treat mental health disorders, even in individual therapy they are thinking about how couple and family relationships are impacting the individual. 
  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW): LCSWs have a masters of doctorate degree in social work, and then complete 2-4 years of supervised practice in clinical work. This clinical work can vary from child protective services, to foster care and adoptions, to hospital case management. While clinical social workers are qualified to provide individual and marriage counseling services, much of the clinical work they do is actually not counseling or therapy. So you will want to make sure their work experience is focused on counseling and working with couples. 
  • Licensed Professional Counsellors (LPC) or Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC): LPCS and LMHCS are the same thing, but different states use different names for the license. These therapists have a masters degree in psychology, or a doctorate degree in psychology but from a program that did not meet the requirements to become a psychologist. After their degree program, they complete 2-4  years supervised counseling experience. LPCS/ LMHCS can diagnose and treat mental health disorders and most commonly provide individual counseling. While some of them provide marriage and family counseling services, you will want to make sure they have additional training and experience to work with couples and families. ​
Older Couple Spending Time Outdoors

Factors to consider when choosing a marriage counselor

There are several factors to consider when choosing a marriage counselor, including the counselors training and qualifications, their experience working with couples, the type of marriage counseling they provide, the logistics of working with them, and the goodness of fit between you and the therapist. 

  • Training and Qualifications: Regardless of which type of therapist you pick, make sure they have specific training and experience working with couples and that they are a licensed therapist in your state. 
  • Experience: All of the above license types have several years of student internships and pre-licensure practice. The benefit of working with someone who is pre-licensed and under supervision is that their rates are often reduced for counseling. At the same time, they have less experience providing the marriage counseling. Ideally you would work with someone who has several years of experience providing marriage counseling along with a proven track record of success at helping couples repair their marriages. 
  • Type of Marriage Counseling: There are several types of marriage counseling, and each one works on slightly different things (Learn more about types of marriage counseling here). The marriage counsellor should have the type of therapy they provide listed on their website, and if they don’t they should at least be able to tell you what it is over the phone. You might want to look up to see if they are certified in the type of therapy they are providing and how effective their approach is for helping couples improve relationships. While all marriage counseling types can be helpful, currently there is only one evinced treatment for couples and it is called Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) (Learn more about how EFT works here, and learn more about the effectiveness of EFT here). 
  • Logistics: The logistics of working with a marriage counselor need to work for both you and your partner. This may include things such as frequency of sessions, cost of sessions, and the times the therapist has available to work with you. This information may be listed on the website or you can find out by contacting the marriage counselor. 
  • Goodness of Fit: I always recommend that everyone complete a consult with a therapist before starting to work with them. Whether or not you click well with the person can account for up to one-third of how successful therapy is. Because of this, both you and your spouse need to feel like it is a good fit to work with the marriage counselor. Both of you need to feel comfortable and get a sense that the therapist will be neutral, non-judgemental, and supportive. 
Outdoor Protrait of Couple Embracing Each Other

The best type of therapist for marriage counseling

Ultimately the best type of therapist for marriage counseling will depend on each couples specific needs. Personally, I would encourage people to work with someone who is Certified in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy or who is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). If they are both, then that would be ideal. EFT couples therapists and LMFTs will likely be the most helpful for relationship concerns such as communication, rebuilding trust, and recovering from infidelity. 

However, there are times that another therapist may also be a good fit. For example, if there are a severe mental health diagnoses (such as bipolar disorder, personality disorders, or schizophrenia, etc.), then  working with a psychologist or psychiatrist could be really helpful. If your family is navigating social services such as foster care or adoptions, then working with a clinical social worker or professional counselor may be helpful. 

Whoever you choose, make sure to put some time and effort into choosing the best type of marriage counselor for you. You will want to look into their training, qualifications, and experience, as well as meet with them to make sure both you and your partner feel like they are a good fit. By taking the time to make sure it’s the best marriage counselor for you, you will save your self time and likely help your relationship improve at a faster rate.  

Looking to start 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.


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