Is premarital counseling worth it?

By Bre Jessen, CSU Marriage and Family Therapist Intern

Benefits of marriage counseling When the person you love gets down on one knee, or you are that person who is popping the question, it is the most joyful time of your life. After the question gets asked, most couples jump into planning their wedding; however, are they also preparing for marriage?

Although divorce rates are steadily declining, the rate is still at 40-50% for first marriages and around 60% for second marriages (Clyde et al., 2019). Even though divorce rates are decreasing, research shows that marital quality may also be on the decline (Hicks et al., 2004). Also, marital distress is associated with higher mental health problems (Hicks et al., 2004).

When planning your wedding, the last idea you want to be thinking about is that your marriage could end in a divorce, or that you will have low relationship quality. The good news is that divorce is often preventable.

Premarital counseling is associated with lower divorce rates, lower relationship conflict, and higher quality in your relationship (Carlson et al., 2012). If you are still on the fence about considering if you and your partner should start premarital therapy, let’s review the benefits.

Benefits of premarital therapy

Learning Conflict Resolution Skills: Every relationship has arguments, and you know how you and your partner typically react during conflict. There are always areas for improvement, and after times of conflict, people can often think back and tell themselves, “I probably shouldn’t have said that.”

A therapist can help you and your partner listen to each other more effectively and increase communication skills. The therapist can also help you both have a more positive outcome when you do have conflict. All couples have arguments, but the ratio between the positive and negative conflict is a strong predictor of marital dissolution (Hicks et al., 2004).

Noticing the Positive Qualities of Your Partner: It is relatively common for people to start only seeing the bad characteristics of their partner, instead of the good parts. How a couple interacts with each other, primarily when not in conflict, actually determines what their arguments will look like (Hicks et al., 2004). A therapist can work with you and your partner to improve your fondness and appreciation for each other.

Support in Discussing Difficult Topics: There are several topics that when discussed before tying the knot can improve further discussion throughout the marriage surrounding these matters (Hicks et al., 2004). These topics can be quite challenging but is important to consider for the future, such as finances, children, religion, etc. A therapist can help you decide what topics should be discussed and how to compromise if you each have different decisions.

With these benefits in mind, there still can be some concerns you might want to consider before making an appointment.

Addressing apprehensions

Uncovering Additional Problems: Most couples are fearful that by going to therapy, there will issues that are discovered that were not problems before therapy. Although this can increase conflict during, in the long run, it is best to resolve these issues.

Money: Therapy can be expensive, and this is something you and your partner should discuss. The Center for Family and Couple Therapy has a sliding scale, accepts Medicaid, and offers students and faculty members a discount.

Time: Therapy does take up some time during the week, and especially with planning a wedding, it might be hard to open your schedule. This is a conversation you and your partner will have to discuss together.

Research shows that those who attend premarital counseling were better off than 80% of couples who decided against counseling (Carlson et al., 2012). Also, couples who attend therapy after they are married, report increase satisfaction, communication skills, and reduction of negative conflict (Hicks et al., 2004). Overall, this will be a decision that you and your partner make together.

If you would like additional support navigating the realities of this time, the CSU Center for Family and Couple Therapy has registered counselors available to meet with you now. The CFCT is currently providing all Colorado residents low-cost individual, couple, and family online video sessions during daytime and evening hours to fit your schedule. To schedule an appointment, please call (970) 491-5991 or email


Carlson, R., Daire, A., Munyon, M., Young, M., & Carlson, R. (2012). A Comparison of Cohabiting and Noncohabiting Couples Who Participated in Premarital Counseling Using the PREPARE Model. Family Journal20(2), 123–130. doi:10.1177/1066480712441588

Clyde, T., Wikle, J., Hawkins, A., & James, S. (2019). The Effects of Premarital Education Promotion Policies on U.S. Divorce Rates. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law26(1), 105–120.

Hicks, M., McWey, L., Benson, K., & West, S. (2004). Using What Premarital Couples Already Know to Inform Marriage Education: Integration of a Gottman Model Perspective. Contemporary Family Therapy26(1), 97–113. doi: 10.1023/B:COFT.0000016915.27368.0b