Marriage Counseling and Divorce Prevention Services by:

Charles E. Martin, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

Helpful Information About Marriage Counseling

Notice: This information is given for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to be treatment or counseling advice.

Click on any question to be taken to that specific answer, or scroll down through the answers to all questions below:

When should a couple seek marriage counseling or family therapy?

What kinds of skills do couples usually learn in counseling?

How many sessions are usually needed?

What does it cost, and will insurance pay?

Do both spouses come to the first visit or should one of us go first?

What do I do if I want marriage counseling but my spouse refuses to come?

What can we expect to happen in the first session?


When should a couple seek marriage counseling/family therapy?

      1. When communications between the partners often takes on a tone of being negative, hostile, or antagonistic to each other.

      2. When arguments have led to violence or physical fighting, such as slaps, shoving, hitting, or holding down.

      3. When things have become so bad that one partner leaves home overnight or longer.

      4. When marital problems cause one spouse to become depressed, anxious, drink excessively, feel insecure, lose their self-esteem, or withdraw.

      5. Whenever one or both partners avoid or withdraw from the other or develop a lifestyle that excludes the other against their wishes.

      6. When there are sexual problems in the relationship that cannot seem to be solved, and especially if the sexual problems cause bad feelings or frustration.

      7. When either marital partner is seriously considering having an affair or has been unfaithful. This is true even if the affair is non-sexual but the feelings that have developed are of closeness and intimacy.

      8. When a child is having serious problems and the parents disagree on how to handle the problem.

      9. Whenever a couple agrees together that they have problems and do not know how to change things or solve their differences.

    10. When there is excessive jealousy present without reason.

    11. When a spouse acts out feelings with actions that are spiteful, mean, hateful, or vengeful.

    12. When the feelings of "us" in the marriage become replaced with feelings of "me" by one or both partners. That is, when what one spouse wants to do is more important than what is best for them as a couple.

    13. When there is a feeling that the partners are just sharing living quarters and not really sharing a relationship together.

    14. When partners stay together just for the sake of the children and would otherwise divorce.

    15. If communications are so bad that most talks about problems end up in arguments or verbal fights.

What kinds of skills do couples usually learn in counseling?

    Examples of skills couples learn in sessions with Dr. Martin:

      1. How to stop fighting and start problem-solving.

      2. Dr. Martin's "Ground Rules" for improving the communications process.

      3. Learning how to avoid the "hot buttons" and other triggers to arguments.

      4. How to prevent talking about problems from escalating into fighting about problems.

      5. How to avoid blaming each other.

      6. How to agree to disagree about problems and what to do next.

      7. How to plan for the best times to talk about problems.

      8. How to know when to bring up the past and when not to.

      9. How to develop "win-win" solutions.

    10. How to state a complaint that has the best chance of your spouse wanting to correct the problem.

    11. Learn the most important factor that should be present when starting marriage counseling.

    12. What to do when you feel misunderstood.

How many sessions are usually needed?

    This is a difficult question to answer because the problems couples experience range quite a bit in terms of severity.   In very general terms, most couples come 6 to 12 sessions.   The longer the problems have existed, the longer it usually takes to find workable solutions.

    There are usually no one-visit solutions to marriage problems.

What does it cost, and will insurance pay?

    Dr. Martin's fees are as follows:  For the initial session, which usually lasts an hour and a half, the fee is $200.   All remaining visits are $125 for a 50 minute session.

    Most insurance companies have benefits for family counseling, but the benefits vary greatly.   Our office is accustomed to finding out exact insurance benefits and will gladly do so.   Just give us a call (865) 690-9998 for the Knoxville office. You need only pay, at time of services, the deductible or co-payment.   As a courtesy we will file the insurance claims for you.

Do both spouses come to the first visit or should one of us go first?
    It is almost always best if both partners come together to the first visit.   Quite often Dr. Martin will ask to see each spouse at least once individually sometime after the initial visit.   In some cases, where circumstances dictate, it is necessary for only one spouse to come to the initial visit.   Dr. Martin will try to accomodate whatever schedule is important to the couple.

What do I do if I want marriage counseling but my spouse refuses to come?

    If a spouse is resistant to the idea of marriage counseling, first try to help them understand what marriage counseling is about.   They may have some misconceptions which are making them reluctant.   For example, saying something like "I love you very much and I am unhappy that we are having some problems.   I want us to find ways to find solutions we can both be happy with so our marriage can be happier."

    Often a reluctant spouse is concerned he or she will be blamed or 'raked over the coals' in a session.   If you help them understand that you are wanting solutions, not a blame session (provided this is true), they may reconsider.   If, after this, a spouse still refuses to come, then you may still be able to benefit from individual counseling.

    For example, you can learn ways to reduce the tension between the two of you.   You can learn ways to improve communications with you spouse and begin practicing these methods at home.   Sometimes the other spouse will notice a change for the better during conflict and problem-solving and may enter into the spirit of the change also.

    When positive changes in the relationship are experienced by the reluctant partner, they sometimes decide to come to counseling sessions.   If nothing else, the partner in counseling can often learn how to cope with and survive a stressful marriage situation.

What can we expect to happen in the first session?

    During the initial session, Dr. Martin will want each of you to describe the problems from your perspective.   (Often couples see problems differently).   He will also ask how long these problems have existed and what has and has not worked in the past in finding solutions.

    Dr. Martin will want to know what goals and expectations each partner has for counseling.

    Together Dr. Martin and the couple will formulate a 'game plan' to tackle the problems.   Dr. Martin will try to answer any questions the couple have about counseling or about the problems presented.

    Very often Dr. Martin will suggest a 'homework' assignment or some special activity for the couple to do between sessions.   These, of course, are voluntary.

    Dr. Martin's approach is to be solution-oriented and help couples develop immediate skills in working on problems.

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