Premarital Counseling Online: Is Premarital Therapy Right For You?

Premarital Counseling Online: Is Premarital Therapy Right For You?

You’re getting married! It’s time to pick a caterer, a photographer, a florist, and a therapist for premarital counseling. Hold up. Did you say therapist?

Yes, I did!

It turns out there are a whole lot of issues that many couples forget or are too shy to discuss before getting married. Seeing a couples therapist for premarital counseling is a great way to get these topics out in the open and come to decisions about them before problems arise.

What is premarital counseling? It’s a multi-part process that starts with an assessment of both partners as individuals and as a couple. This helps you and your therapist understand where you are aligned and where you are not. 

The premarital counseling assessment then acts as a personalized guide for the topics you’ll discuss in counseling. In your sessions, you’ll learn about each other’s emotional needs, personality types, communication styles and more.

If you’re considering premarital counseling, questions about how it might impact your relationship are common.  But there are many premarital counseling benefits. In fact, couples who engage in premarital therapy prior to their wedding day have a 30% lower chance of divorce than those who don’t.

Let’s dig deeper into some of the common questions we hear about premarital counseling.

Won’t premarital counseling stir things up unnecessarily?

Now, some of you may be worried about seeing a premarital counselor because you don’t want to “rock the boat” or start trouble where there is none. I get that and I want to reassure you that premarital therapy is NOT about creating problems and starting fights. 

Premarital counseling is actually about preventing problems, deepening your connection, getting to know each other better than ever, and getting clear on your values and expectations for marriage and your future life together.

Will I be forced to share things I don’t want to share in premarital counseling?

Maybe you’re afraid you’ll find out or be forced to share things about yourself and your soon-to-be-spouse that you’d rather not talk about. Trust me, it’s better to know now! 

First of all, most things can be worked out through negotiations and good communication with the help of your premarital counselor. Fortunately, you will learn a lot about healthy and effective communication in premarital therapy. That said, if there is a deal-breaker in your relationship, it’s much better to find out before your big day. I know it sounds extreme and heartbreaking but calling off a wedding is a lot easier than getting a divorce.

Is premarital counseling right for you?

What will we do in premarital counseling sessions?

Ok, enough doom and gloom, geez! If you are considering pre-marriage counseling, you might be wondering what you will talk about with your therapist. Everyone does things a little differently, but here are some of the premarital counseling topics we cover with our online couples therapy clients at Couples Learn.

Premarital Counseling Assessment

Premarital counseling programs at Couples Learn start with an assessment. This is where you’ll learn about each other’s emotional needs, personality types, communication styles and more using various assessment measures based on your individual needs.

Communication Exercises

It’s always important to set the groundwork of effective communication in premarital counseling before getting into the hard stuff. And trust me, there will be hard stuff that comes up in your marriage no matter how perfect you are for each other. If you know how to talk about issues as they arise, you’ll likely have many fewer and less severe issues throughout your marriage. In premarital therapy we teach couples specific communication techniques that include learning how to empathize with and validate each other to make sure both parties feel heard and understood.

Premarital Counseling Topics

Once you know how to communicate, then we can start getting into some other premarital counseling topics, including the future you envision for yourself and your marriage.

Kids

Do you want kids? How many? Would you be open to adoption if the need arose? How about in-vitro? What kind of parenting style do you think you will use? Would you be okay if your spouse believed in spanking? How will you handle it if your spouse decides after trying for 2 years that they no longer want kids?

Some of these may seem like worst case scenarios, but, again, premarital counseling is all about helping you be better prepared for marriage. Plus, as long as one of you isn’t dead-set for kids while the other is dead-set against them, we should be able to work things out with proper communication.

Money

Premarital counseling is a great place to talk through some of the money issues that often cause issues in marriages. How will money be handled in your relationship? Will you share an account or keep separate ones? If one of you is a saver and the other is a spender, how will you handle these differences? What limits will you put in place (e.g. talk to each other before spending more than $100) to ensure that major decisions are made as a couple?

Different money-styles brings many married couples into couples therapy. Talking about these things in advance during premarital therapy can save you from headaches (and thousands of dollars in fees) later. See, you’re already making good financial decisions together by investing in premarital counseling now!

Sex

How often would you each like have sex once you are married? Will you have regular date nights? What does each of you like/dislike in bed? What are your fantasies? What are you willing/not willing to try? How will you let your partner know if you feel you are letting your romantic life slide?

The busier you get, the more you may need to rely on a bit of planning to ensure that your sex-life stays active. In premarital counseling, you’ll learn a simple and fun way to make sure you keep having sex no matter how busy you are. 

Find out if premarital counseling is right for you.

Religion

What religion, if any, do you practice? How about your fiancé? If you plan on having children, will you want religion to be a part of their lives? If so, how much a part? Discussing these topics in premarital counseling can help reduce potential conflicts in this area later on.

Values

A related issue is that of values. Even if you don’t practice a particular religion, are there values that are important to you? For example, do you believe in “The Golden Rule,” of treating others as you’d like to be treated, or are you more of a “fend for yourself” kind of person? A premarital counselor can help you identify how your values – and those of your partner – align or differ, and can work on proper communication to navigate any differences.

Politics

The country has become more and more divided when it comes to politics. Will or does this play a part in your relationship? How would you handle one of you changing political parties? Would it matter? While politics may seem like a small issue when it comes to marriage, discussing it in premarital counseling can ensure it doesn’t become a big issue down the line.

Dreams

It’s important that your partner knows about the dreams that you have for yourself and your family. What are the hopes and wishes you want to achieve one day? How can you support each other in achieving those dreams?

Have you always wanted to live out of the country? Is it your goal to go skydiving one day? Let’s discuss these topics during premarital counseling to make sure that your partner will be on board (pun intended!).

Getting Started with Premarital Counseling

This article covers a basic list of the premarital counseling topics you might discuss during a session. But the process should be slightly different for everyone and tailored to your specific wants and needs as a couple.

If you’re interested in finding a premarital counselor to help you prepare for a happy marriage, it’s important to understand your options. Online premarital counseling, for example, can be a great way to fit couples therapy into your busy lives – especially when you’re planning a wedding!

If you would like to learn more about how premarital therapy can help your relationship, contact Couples Learn today!

Is premarital counseling right for you? Find out if premarital therapy can help.
The Real Reasons (That Nobody Tells You) About Why Therapists Don’t Accept Insurance

The Real Reasons (That Nobody Tells You) About Why Therapists Don’t Accept Insurance

Should I Use My Insurance Plan To Pay For Therapy?

 

Deciding to start therapy is a huge milestone in life. I’d even say it’s as big as getting married or starting a new job. I mean, think about it. What could be more important than committing to work on yourself and become the best version of you? Who you are and who you become influences every part of your life.

 

That’s why choosing the right therapist is SO important. It’s essential you and your therapist are a good fit and that the person you choose has the experience and expertise to get you to the next level in life, whether you’re working on career goals, relationships, self-exploration or all of the above.

 

One of the considerations you might take into account when looking for a therapist is whether that therapist accepts your insurance. For many people, this is a deciding factor when choosing someone.

 

After all, you’re paying a premium every month for your insurance so why wouldn’t you want to use it? It can save you money on your session costs and it can help you narrow down your search by ruling out therapists who don’t accept your plan. You use your insurance for all other doctors so why not do the same for therapy, right?

 

New therapy seekers with this belief are often confused and frustrated by the number of therapists they find that do not accept insurance. It can be really difficult to find someone that specializes in your area of need, is close to home, fits your personality, and accepts your insurance.

 

But why is it so hard? Why are there so many therapists out there that don’t accept insurance?

 

Many consumers don’t realize that there are several downsides for both therapists and clients when using insurance to pay for therapy.

 

So what do private pay clients who are shelling out big bucks for therapy know that you don’t?

 

 

Here are 4 reasons why you should not use insurance to pay for therapy:

 

1. Less Confidentiality

 

Everyone knows that what happens in therapy stays in therapy. Your therapist is required to keep everything you say confidential no matter what, right? Wrong! When you use insurance to pay for therapy, your therapist is required to provide your diagnosis and treatment notes to your insurance company in order to get paid. This undermines the basic premise of therapy and also gives a lot more people access to private health information about you. If this is news to you, you’re not alone. It’s all written into the HIPAA document you get when you start therapy (or go to any doctor’s office) but most people don’t read all the fine print.

 

2. Higher Insurance Premiums

 

Even if you’re okay with your information being shared with your insurance company from a confidentiality standpoint, you probably didn’t realize that sharing this information can have unintended consequences in the future.

 

As mentioned above, your therapist has to provide your insurance company with your diagnosis to get paid. But what if you don’t have a mental illness? After all, many people seek therapy for personal growth and exploration, not because they are depressed or anxious or have a serious mental illness.

 

In the eyes of your insurance company, these are not valid reasons for seeking therapy on their dime. If you don’t have an actual diagnosis, they aren’t interested in paying for your sessions and will not continue to authorize future sessions.

 

This puts your therapist in an awkward and ethically challenging position if you don’t meet criteria for a mental illness. He or she is left with choosing between 3 options.

 

  1.  Assign a diagnosis you don’t meet criteria for so that your insurance company will continue authorizing sessions.
  2.  Discontinue therapy.
  3.  Continue to work with you without assigning a diagnosis but risk having claims denied and not getting paid for the work.

 

At this point, you are probably starting to understand why so many therapists don’t accept insurance.

 

Ok, so you might be wondering how this all relates to increased premiums for you.

 

Let’s say your therapist opts for option 1 and assigns you a diagnosis so that your insurance company will authorize future sessions. Maybe you meet criteria for a diagnosis, maybe you don’t. Either way, you now have a diagnosis on record with your insurance company.

 

When it comes time to renew your insurance or switch plans, your premiums could rise as a result of your “pre-existing condition.” In addition, you may be required to share your diagnosis in future job interviews, which is awkward, to say the least.

 

3. Insurance-Driven Treatment Plan

 

When therapists take insurance, they are required to use treatment methods that are covered by your plan. This means they have less say in how to treat you based on your specific and individual needs. Ironically, the people who work in your insurance company and decide which methods of therapy can be used, are usually not even therapists! And they certainly haven’t met and assessed you personally like your therapist has.

 

This leads me to my next point…

Psychiatric Help 5 cents!

 

4. Questionable Quality

 

Let me preface this by saying that there are some fantastic therapists who take insurance. Sometimes highly skilled therapists accept a few insurance clients on their caseload to fill less desirable times slots or sometimes they do it as a way to “give back” to society and offer high-quality services to those that wouldn’t be able to afford it any other way. If you don’t know anything about insurance payouts (and why would you if you’re not a therapist or a doctor?), this last statement probably doesn’t make sense. Bear with me while I help clear that up and give you some rarely discussed insider info from the therapist’s perspective.

 

The going rate for a great therapist in most major cities is between $150-$350 per session. Most insurance companies pay therapists between $40-$90 per session. This is a fraction of what therapists receive from private pay clients and it requires a lot more paperwork and time to get paid by insurance companies. Submitting insurance claims is time-consuming and confusing as is getting approved to be on insurance panels in the first place. Many therapists have to hire a billing professional to help them manage insurance claims and make sure they actually get paid.

 

So why would any therapist ever take insurance if they get paid less and have to jump through paperwork hoops to get paid?

 

The answer is because they have to.

 

Again, something that is rarely discussed with consumers is the fact that insurance companies provide a steady flow of referrals to therapists. Let’s take a moment to think about who might need a steady flow of referrals to their practice and would be willing to take a major pay cut for said referrals.

 

  • New therapists just starting a private practice. Therapists who just graduated usually have some serious student loans to pay off and they need to start making money fast. It can take time to build up a positive reputation in a community so getting referrals from insurance panels (even if it means making significantly less per client) is a great way to get started. Often, therapists who opt for this route will start phasing out insurance clients as their reputation grows and they start getting more organic referrals from satisfied customers.
  • Therapists in low-income areas. If there are very few clients that can pay full price for sessions in the area, therapists in private practice will have to accept insurance or move to a community where there are more affluent people. For this reason, lower income communities do not have a lot of therapists in private practice but they do have more government subsidized community treatment centers where people can get help.
  • Therapists who do not have a lot of satisfied customers. As a therapist myself, this is a delicate situation for me to discuss and I suspect it will upset many of my colleagues. That said, the ones it offends are probably the ones who fall into this category. Many therapists who accept insurance do so because they are not good enough at what they do to facilitate referrals and command a higher fee.

 

Yep, I said it.

 

Satisfied customers talk. They leave positive reviews online. They tell their friends and family how happy they are with their therapist and they refer the people they love. They build their therapist’s practice for them by becoming walking billboards. Their friends and family start to notice positive changes in their personality and ask them what they are doing…and they tell them about their therapist.

 

Not only do satisfied customers refer to skilled therapists, other professionals do too. Medical doctors hear from their patients that they got great results working with a therapist and they send more patients. Other therapists who get asked by friends and family for referrals, send them to other skilled therapists in the community.

 

Therapists who don’t take insurance have to be really good in order to create a thriving practice. With therapy, you usually get what you pay for and if someone is charging a high fee, it’s usually because they are worth it.

 

Speaking of that price tag, I know it can feel scary to drop a couple hundred dollars on a therapy session, especially if you don’t have a ton of disposable income. However, what I’ve seen in my practice (and in many other settings besides therapy) is that those who pay the full fee and make a substantial investment, are actually more committed to doing the work than those who pay less.

 

Think about it. If you paid $20 for a meal or $200, would there be a difference in how you treated it? Would you rush through the $200 meal and then throw half of it away if you didn’t feel like eating anymore? I’m guessing not. You would savor that meal and ask to take anything you couldn’t eat home with you to enjoy later.

 

People who pay more for therapy are literally and figuratively more invested and it shows in their results. They make the most of every session, they do their homework, and they get great results. In my opinion, there is nothing worth more than your personal growth. If you take the work seriously, you will see your investment pay off in every area of your life. By the way, this is coming from someone who has spent tens of thousands of dollars on personal growth and I truly feel it’s been worth every penny.

 

Ok, but what if you literally CANNOT afford to pay the full fee but you also want to make sure you get a great therapist? Fortunately, there is sometimes an in-between option.

 

Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get reimbursed for out of network benefits, which can mean a savings of up to 40-60%. This is typically available with PPO plans. To find out, call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask how much your plan pays for out of network therapists.

 

Then, if you do have out of network benefits, ask your therapist if he/she can provide a superbill for you to submit to your insurance for reimbursement. You will pay your therapist for the sessions up front but your insurance company will reimburse you for some of the session fees. Not every insurance plan has this benefit but it’s definitely worth a phone call to ask!

 

The other option is that you can use your Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to pay for therapy. This allows you to save money because you are paying with pre-tax dollars.

 

So there you have it. That is the good, the bad and the ugly of using your insurance to pay for therapy as I see it. I’d love to hear from you. Have you used insurance to pay for therapy in the past? If so, how did it go for you? Let me know in the comments on this Facebook post.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go? How To Decide If Your Relationship Is Worth Saving

Should I Stay Or Should I Go? How To Decide If Your Relationship Is Worth Saving

Divorce rates are nearly 50% in our nation and more people than ever are opting to stay single longer in today’s day and age. Men and women all over the US are deciding to breakup when their relationships get tough rather than riding out the waves. Is this the right choice? How can you tell when it’s time to throw in the towel on a partnership that isn’t working?

 

No one wants to make rash decisions or worse, the wrong decisions when it comes to love. Sure, in the heat of the moment you may want to wring his neck and tell his mother all the terrible things he has said and done, but you also realize those feelings might pass. And when they do, you want to know that you’ve brought your most rational self to the table and made a decision you won’t regret. Granted it’s not always easy to be logical when it comes to matters of the heart but with practice, it can be done.

 

Make a List, Check it Twice

One thing you can try is a technique logical minded people have been doing for centuries – make a list. Divide a piece of paper in half lengthwise and write “pros” and “cons” at the top of each column. Start with the pros. What do you love about him? What made you attracted to him in the first place? What qualities do you see in him that you know you want and need in a partner? Next, move on to the cons. What bothers you about him? What do you wish you could change about his personality or way of being? What do you most commonly fight about?

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Next, rank the importance of each pro and con on a scale of 1-10 and write that number next to each item. This part is important because not every item holds the same weight. One of your cons might be that he has brown eyes instead of blue. While that might be true, it also might not be a determining factor in your relationship. Thus you might rank this a 1 on the scale of importance whereas you might rank “poor communicator” a 10 if it has a big negative effect on your relationship.

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Now, add the numbers in each column and take a look at your list. If the score is completely lopsided, your answer might be staring you in the face. If that’s the case listen!

 

Be honest – Are you willing to do the work?

However, chances are your choices won’t be so cut and dry. In many cases, you may find that there are things about the relationship that need mending but you have hopes that they can change. Get clear about what BOTH you and your partner need to do to address the problems, and ask yourself this very important question: Am I willing to do the work required to improve this relationship? Then ask your partner if they are willing to make the changes and put in the work necessary for you both to be happy. There is no right or wrong answer here as long as you answer honestly. If the answer is “no,” this is a good indication that your heart just isn’t in it.

 

Be Realistic

Still, before you split, consider the fact that there are at least 10 areas of compatibility that exist within every union. These are things like: the importance of sex and romance; financial styles; attitudes toward extended family; and attitudes towards having children. Some of these areas are workable, while others are more difficult – you can’t have 1/2 of a child, for example. So, think about whether the areas where you are incompatible with this partner are truly deal-breakers. Because, chances are, a new partner will come with his own list of incompatibilities and you will undoubtedly be trading one set of problems for another.

 

Make Sure Your Vision is 20/20

Whether or not you choose to stay with your current partner, one thing that I like to encourage clients to do is create a relationship vision. This is, essentially, a list of things that you would like to see in your ideal relationship. As you can see on the sample relationship vision in this blog post, your vision can include things like: having a date night once per week; spending time with each-other’s families; having sex 3-4 times per week; vacationing twice a year; supporting each-other’s goals and dreams, etc.

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Making a vision statement for your relationship can help you decide what is really important to you. It will help you see what kind of partnership you want to engage in and it will empower you to create that for yourself. It’s also important to look at what kind of partner you are being and whether or not you are being the type of person you want to attract.

 

Hopefully, some of these ideas can help you with your decision. Yet, if all else fails, you can always flip a coin. I’m half kidding but in reality, you can learn a lot about your true desires when you notice which outcome you suddenly hope for when it’s in the air. Hey, the psychology of decision making is not always a scientific process 😉


If you are in the process of deciding whether or not to stay or breakup and really can’t decide, I think contacting a therapist is always a good idea. You may not know exactly what steps you and your partner need to take to improve the relationship but a well trained couples therapist should. If you’d like some help with this or any other relationship issue, I’m here to help!

Love or Lust? How to Tell If It’s the Real Deal

Love or Lust? How to Tell If It’s the Real Deal

You met someone. You can’t stop thinking about them. You want to spend every waking minute with them, talking to them, or talking about them to anyone that will listen. You feel high with emotion. This is so exciting! You’ve been waiting so long for this! It all seems too good to be true. Then, the question creeps up on you. Is this love or is this lust? How do you know?

 

Well, first, what is love? According to the ancient Greeks, there are actually 4 types of love:

  1. Storge – kinship love
  2. Philia – friendship love
  3. Eros – romantic/sexual love
  4. Agape – divine love

 

Reading those, it seems crazy that English only has one word that is supposed to encompass it all. Love is such an intricate and complicated emotion with so many different levels.

 

For the purposes of this article, we are talking about “eros,” or romantic love. Arriving at that state of bliss can take many different paths. Some couples start out as friends and become pleasantly surprised when they catch a spark of desire in each other’s eyes. Other couples meet and instantly feel attracted to one another. Others break up and make up multiple times before truly falling in love.

 

And some couples think they are in love but over time, find out it wasn’t the kind of love that lasts.

 

Here are some telltale signs that attraction is turning into love:

 

  • You look forward to being with him or her
  • You prioritize your time together
  • You give up opportunities to do fun stuff because you’d rather be with him/her
  • You genuinely care about his/her thoughts and feelings
  • You think about him/her when he’s not around
  • You find his/her imperfections cute
  • You start thinking about a future together
  • You feel like a better person when he/she is around
  • You want to see him/her thrive and grow for their own sake rather than for your own benefit

 

Another thing about love, that many people miss, is that love doesn’t have to be crazy and sudden and full of passion. There is this Hollywood notion that suggests true love is always a roller-coaster ride and you have to be falling over yourself and unable to speak in the presence of “The One.” Sometimes love develops slowly over time and you don’t even realize it’s happened until one day you realize you can’t imagine your life without this person. It doesn’t make for a very exciting movie but the slow and steady love can make for a great life.

 

However, here’s the rub: Just because you are attracted to someone, or even in love with them, doesn’t make them right for you.

 

In fact, there is evidence to suggest that attraction is an unconscious process, and it stems mostly from unhealed childhood wounds. In other words, sometimes we are attracted to others because of unhealthy family patterns that we were exposed to in early life. Our unconscious mind attracts certain people to us so that we can heal those wounds, but that doesn’t mean that those people are meant to be our life partners!

 

I mention this because I’ve seen many clients struggle to form healthy relationships because they continually seek out unhealthy partners who they feel strongly attracted to while ignoring possible healthy connections because “the initial spark wasn’t there.” Maybe true love isn’t about the spark at all. Maybe, it’s more about feeling comfortable with that special someone who doesn’t judge you for being you.

 

That’s the thing about love. It’s really hard to define.

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If you would like to ponder more about falling in love, being in love, or simply understanding what love is, contact me. This is my favorite topic!