How Much Does Marriage Counseling Cost?

Marriage counseling is not a specifically designed approach that fits all couples. Therefore, requirements may be different, as well as the costs. Many counselors charge a fix cost for all couples, while others charge costs based on a couples’ household income. It is not cheap to undergo marriage counseling, especially if long term counseling is needed, but in general, the cost of therapy is lower than a divorce.

What is the average cost for marriage counseling?

First things first, we need to see how much marriage counseling cost. Some professionals charge one session as one hour, so usually the hourly costs are also the per session costs, while others offer complete packages and bill accordingly. Marriage counseling can range anywhere from $80 to $275 per session depending on the level of training and experience of your therapist. Most marriage counselors recommend at least 10 sessions (1 weekly session) and they will most likely use the first couple sessions to assess your marriage and the problems that concern you. Then, they may design a custom-made plan for you and your partner, depending on what they learn from the first sessions. So, in general, the average cost of marriage counseling is $1,000 for 10 weeks of therapy, but it could end up being anywhere between $800 and $2750+.

Is Marriage Counseling Covered by health Insurance?

An important question that concerns most couples that seek marriage counseling is, “Does my health insurance cover marriage counseling?” Most couples would like to do marriage counseling, but they worry about the costs, thus many of them hope that their health insurance will cover the costs of marriage counseling and they will be able to get the help they want. Certainly, being able to use your insurance to cover the costs can make marriage counseling much more accessible and a preferable choice for dealing with your marital problems. Unfortunately, the answer is No. Insurance companies will not cover the costs of your marriage counselor, unless at least one of the spouses is suffering from a mental health disorder. That means in order for your health insurance to pay for your marriage counseling, either you or your partner need to have a diagnosable mental illness. Furthermore, the marriage counselor you are being treated by has an ethical commitment to resolve the symptoms of the diagnosed spouse and not focusing on improving your marriage.

So, what that means, is that the therapist will view one of you as ‘the identified patient’ or “sick partner” and will help that person get ‘better’. Yes, sometimes when there are mental health issues, relationships do suffer, but generally, therapy aimed at a mental health disorder is not what most couples want when they seek marriage counseling. Furthermore, most therapists who bill health insurance companies, are specialized in treating individuals with mental illnesses and are not licensed or highly trained enough to be marriage counselors. So, while you have your bill paid by your health insurance company, your therapy will be focused on one of you and it’s not going to be specialized on treating your marriage, unless the counselor is willing to commit insurance fraud.

Basically, keeping all above aspects in mind, someone can certainly use their health insurance to cover the costs of therapy. However, most couples are not looking for a disorder-focused treatment, but marriage counseling that will better or repair their relationship. They want to learn new ways how to communicate, enhance their emotional connection, improve their intimacy and strengthen their bond.

The 5 Disadvantages of Having your Health Insurance Cover your Marriage Counseling

  1. Finding a specialized marriage counselor through health insurance.

Accessing therapy through health insurance, requires that one of the partners is diagnosed with a mental health illness and that therapy will be focused on treating them. Therefore, therapy will be focused on the individual and ‘their’ problem, instead on the marriage. Professionals of that type are specialized in pathology and therapy for mental health disorders; thus, you are less likely to find a professional that is a licensed marriage counselor and knows how to treat your marital problems.

  1. A future medical record with a diagnosed mental health disorder present.

Covering the costs of marriage counseling sounds good, but the truth, is that if you have a mental health disorder on your medical record, you may face issues in your professional life, especially if you are a high level professional, such as a pilot, a law enforcement office or a doctor. In fact, a University of Illinois study revealed that half of the Fortune 500 corporations admitted to using employee medical records in making employment decisions, 20 percent of which did not inform the employee. So, don’t let your medical mental health history shape your future.

  1. Confidentiality issues and concerns.

Are you aware that therapist and counselors can share information that is discussed in therapy, with the insurance company? Will you be okay with him or her sharing intimate information like problems with sex, affairs and so on? Therefore, another reason why couples should not use health insurance to cover their therapy is that counselors who are working with insurance companies often have to disclose confidential information about what is being discussed in the sessions when they submit their billable notes. This can end up being problematic and feel invasive for most couples, since marriage counseling explores sensitive topics such as affairs, substance use and sexuality, among others.

  1. Labeling one partner as the sick or problematic person.

When a couple is undertaking therapy under the terms of health insurance, there is the risk that one of the spouses will be labeled as the ‘problematic spouse’ and the one responsible for the problems in their marriage. Furthermore, it may affect the other partner’s will and commitment to do their part.

  1. Limited sessions bound by insurance.

Using health insurance to pay for marriage counseling, places one important limitation. You have a specific number of sessions you can enjoy with one counselor. While many couples require long term therapy because of the nature of their problems, their marriage counseling may face early discontinuation because they have a limited number of sessions available. Counseling takes time to treat a marriage, therefore short-term sessions may not work.

You get what you pay for and the same applies to therapy 

We all get excited at the thought we can use insurance benefits for freebies and unfortunately many couples settle for any therapist who is able to see them. Too many of these so-called therapists have no training and experience as marriage counselors yet accept couples. When couples trust these therapists to fix their relationship, they may not see the life changing result they were hoping for. At the end, while worrying about the costs for marriage counseling, they will end up worrying about the financial consequences of divorce. Therefore, one thing to consider is whether marriage counseling through health insurance is worth it. Here are some things to help you with your decision:

  • Read the contract thoroughly. Most people do not read their contracts because they are lengthy and too technical. It is important to read the contract thoroughly to understand your rights and obligations and to understand how insurance works. If you have any difficulty understanding some terms, ask the insurance company to clarify the points.

  • Consider the costs for marriage counseling and the expenses for taking a divorce. Costs can vary, depending on who you see and what you choose. Definitely taking marriage counseling would be cheaper and healthier in the long run. Divorces end up traumatizing the spouses and kids, have high expenses like monthly child support and alimony. Getting some information from both counselors and lawyers will definitely help you choose where to invest your money.

Is marriage counseling worth the cost if you are the one paying?

If you are between choosing a divorce or treating your marriage through marriage counseling, then you should choose the latter. Marriage counseling is always cheaper and way more fulfilling. You will get the opportunity to learn about yourselves and become better partners. Now, let’s look at the cost of couple’s therapy from a different angle. For example, the average cost of divorce in the state of North Carolina is roughly $13,100. These fees may include attorney fees, the cost of maintaining separate households, child support, childcare, and the list goes on. You will have to fight over the house, your cars, your savings and other belongings, while on top of that, there is the emotional trauma placed on the kids; and we still haven’t mentioned anything about alimony or child support.

As you can see, divorce should be avoided at all times unless your safety is at risk. Even if you are very close to running away, give it one more chance and go to marriage counseling with your partner. It will be worth it if you can get things back on track.

So, let’s say you and your partner decide to invest in marriage counseling. You are looking to invest in weekly 60-minute sessions priced at $100 per session. At the end of treatment your total will be $1000 compared to the thousands of average costs of divorce. 

Regardless of whether your health insurance does or does not cover marriage counseling, you should still consider other options open to you. Talk with professionals from both fields (marriage counselors; lawyers) and weigh your options.

References:

APA Practice Organization; Coding and Billing Guidelines (2020, June 21). Retrieved from https://downloads.cms.gov/medicare-coverage-database/lcd_attachments/30489_8/L30489_PSYCH014_cbg_070110.pdf

Many companies fail to protect confidential employee data (2020, June 21). Retrieved from https://www.epic.org/privacy/workplace/linowesPR.html

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). (2020, June 21). Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/cciio/programs-and-initiatives/other-insurance-protections/mhpaea_factsheet.html

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