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How to Know if Relationship Counseling Is Worth It

by Christopher L. Smith, studioD

Knowing whether relationship counseling is worth it is a highly personal decision and may vary depending on the stage of your relationship and what you are facing. There is a difference between investing in a relationship during pre-marital counseling and going to see a counselor when you have already decided to get a divorce. Despite these differences, there are common areas to consider when deciding whether to enter into counseling with your significant other.

Consider the Cost of Negative Patterns

As you approach a consideration of whether it is worth starting relationship counseling you are likely aware of negative patterns within your relationship or you are concerned that they will develop. Think about the costs associated with each of these negative patterns - remembering that the costs are in terms of emotions, time and not just finances. In fact, the cost of spending hours arguing daily may be greater than any associated financial costs. As you evaluate these costs, think not only about the current costs but also what these costs will be as time goes on and the situation changes on its own or continues to stay the same.

Consider the Non-Financial Gains That Are Possible Through Counseling

As you engage in relationship counseling, the goal would be that you would experience gains either for yourself and/or in your relationship. Consider what value these will have to you, again thinking about all of the types of value you might experience and not just financial. As you do this, make sure you consider not only the direct benefits (such as less anxiety because of decreased conflict) but also the gains you might experience in other areas of your life (such as the way learning to be assertive in the midst of conflict in your relationship may also prove beneficial in your professional work environment). Understand all your benefits of counseling - including financial, emotional and time.

Consider All the Costs of Relationship Counseling

Entering into relationship counseling does require a significant investment. Financially, this can be non-trivial, especially as health insurance often does not cover the cost of couples therapy. In terms of time, you will be devoting time not only for the sessions themselves but also travel and perhaps to doing work between the sessions (depending on the counselor's style). Emotionally, the counseling process is often not easy, especially as you usually end up dealing with parts of yourself that you would prefer to ignore. All of these costs (and others) are real and must be considered. Both parties in the relationship need to be ready to pay this price as the full involvement of both of you is needed to maximize the possible gains.

Weigh All Of These Factors

You have determined the various costs of not getting relationship counseling as well as the valuable benefits that can be gained from counseling. These need to be carefully balanced with the costs (of all types) of counseling. Weigh them up against each other holistically. Looking at the balance, you will decide in some cases that relationship counseling is worth it and in other cases you will decide it isn't. In considering it, carefully think about alternative outcomes and differing goals you might have. It may be that relationship counseling isn't worth it to try and save a severely fractured engagement but that it is worth it in the same situation to plan for the raising of the child you have together. In any case, this analysis will allow you to come to your conclusion in your situation.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Christopher L. Smith has been writing since the 1998 publication of "Honest Talk About Serious Mental Illness." Smith brings professional experience in education, religion/spirituality and mental health, including as a licensed marriage and family therapist. Among Smith's graduate degrees is a M.Div. from Yale.

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