Relationship wellness

How to find a couples therapist

  • Published Dec 20, 2023

    6 mins read
  • Written by:Adam Putterman
How to find a couples therapist

contents

Finding a couples therapist can be intimidating, exhausting, and seemingly never ending. Although there’s no right answer, in this piece we’ll explore the key questions you should consider before getting started.

At least once a week a friend asks me if I can help them find a couples therapist. I always end up having the same email exchange. I’d like to publish this one in case it’s helpful to others.

Hey! I’m happy to help. Ideally we would do this over a call, but I know you’re busy, so here is a very long email with all of my thoughts. You had a couple questions in there, so I’ll go one at a time.

Can you refer us to a few couples therapists?

That’s a much bigger question than it seems, and I need to know a bit more before answering. First, what are you looking to change, learn, or get out of the experience and how urgently would you like to start?

Possible solutions

  • Couples therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Couples coaching
  • Community / peer support
  • Books, blog posts, videos, or courses

That list is in order of most acute/urgent to most proactive. For example, if you’re trying to work through a very specific issue like infidelity or “should we be together,” a couples therapist is almost definitely the right choice. On the other hand, if you’re looking to learn more about how you might split your finances, I have a few amazing blog posts for you.

This question is also important because it will help me find someone with the appropriate theoretical approach. Like most aspects of wellness, there are many different approaches to couples therapy. Each is founded in different techniques and philosophical approaches to love and relationships.

To be candid, most couples don’t really care about this. It’s kind of like caring what type of hammer a carpenter is using to make your house. Most of the major approaches today are backed by research. If you’re curious, you can learn more by Googling “EFT,” “Gottman,” and “PACT.”

For now, we’ll assume you’re looking for couples therapy and don’t care about the specific theoretical background. Next you’ll want to think about logistics: What’s your budget and what state are you in?

Most couples therapists charge $200 per hour and, on average, couples will go for 10-12 sessions to work through a specific issue.

I can’t stress enough that these numbers are averages and will vary wildly based on your needs and location. For example, if you’re looking to work with an experienced and specialized couples therapist in NYC, you’d be hard pressed to find someone charging less than $350 per hour. On the other hand, if you’re able to find a couples therapist covered by insurance, you might pay as low as $25 per session. Similarly, you might only need 2-3 sessions or you might end up deciding to keep working with a therapist indefinitely, for years.

A quick note on insurance. Some couples therapists are covered by insurance. Most are not. If you’re able to find someone great and covered by insurance, jump on it immediately.

Where you live affects the price, but also availability of therapists.

Legally, a therapist cannot work with you unless you live in the same state that they are licensed in. There is a massive shortage of couples therapists and this is one of the reasons why. This is also why many people end up seeking out a coach or course instead of a therapist (coaches and courses can serve anyone anywhere, but they are also often less qualified and less regulated).

Next up is non-negotiables: Are there any characteristics or experiences that are important to you in a couples therapist?

For example, I recently had a couple ask if I knew any therapists with military experience or a track record of serving military couples. I also frequently get requests for couples therapists that are gay, of a certain race or gender, bi-lingual, etc. Similarly, you might also feel strongly about seeing them in-person or virtually.

Additional filters like this will make finding someone more difficult. But, they can also be absolutely crucial to your experience. Wonderful organizations like this and this can help here.

Ok that’s everything I have for your first question. If you can reply to this email with those answers, I can then see if there’s anyone in our network that might be a good fit.

Now for your second question…

How do we choose which couples therapist to work with? How do we know if it’s a good fit?

This is a tricky but important question. There have been dozens of studies looking into what best predicts whether a couple will be successful during therapy.

It usually boils down to just a few, surprisingly simple factors:

  • ‘Fit’ with the therapist (do you trust them and think they will do a good job)
  • Mutual buy-in (do you and your partner want to do this and think it will work)
  • Timeline (how long do you wait between having a problem and going to therapy)

You’ll notice that the biggest two factors are incredibly subjective and will require some self-awareness to navigate. You might find that what makes you trust someone is credentials or ‘vibe’ or years of experience. Interestingly, most couples end up reporting that – similar to many romantic relationships — ‘fit’ came down to the intangibles more than anything else.

All of that to say, I don’t have a great answer and it’s not something you can really quantify. What’s most important is that both you and your partner like and trust the therapist and that you go as soon as possible (the average couple waits years between having an issue and doing something about it).

Ok next up is…

What should we expect / what does this look like?

Ah, the trickiest of all the questions. In short, it’s going to vary a ton based on your specific situation and the approach of your therapist.

Therapy norms

  • ‘Homework’ or other guidance to keep in mind outside of sessions
  • 1 on 1 sessions with each of you individually
  • Role-playing conversations with strict structure
  • Learning specific tools and techniques

Some of these are a little theatrical or extreme, but one way to ‘experience’ a session would be to watch this show or listen to this podcast of real, live sessions. And that’s it!

Or, we can find a therapist for you

Get match with a licensed therapist without having to do the heavy-lifting of the search.

Get matched

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