Before tying the knot, many couples seek out some form of premarital counseling, as this is one of the most helpful things you can do to build a strong foundation for marriage. The common misconception is that counseling is for couples who are going through a tough time, but experts agree that therapy is ideal for all soon-to-be brides and grooms. While some seek advice from a religious leader before getting married, it's not your only option. We spoke with Matt Lundquist, LCSW, a couple's therapist in Manhattan, to better understand all the different types of premarital counseling couples can consider.
Some religions will encourage or even require couples to attend premarital counseling in order to exchange vows in their specific house of worship. Lundquist explains that the origins of premarital counseling are largely religious, and it's often a requirement for couples hoping to marry in a church or temple. In the Catholic church, for example, couples must complete pre-cana in order to be married by a priest. In the liberal Jewish faith, premarital counseling is not a requirement, but is encouraged as a way to help you and your spouse-to-be get on the same page about your shared future. If you're not sure if it's required by your religious institution, or you're interested in setting up a few counseling sessions, speak with your officiant directly.
For those having a non-denominational wedding, know that premarital counseling can be completed with a licensed therapist, too. Lundquist, who suggests a minimum of eight sessions, says that the purpose of premarital counseling is to get on the same page about everything from communication, conflict, sex, money, extended family, and other important topics, and to gain tools to handle issues together when they arise as a couple. "A surprising number of couples choose to work with us for more than the eight weeks and others transition into a couples-therapy relationship, coming in periodically to get help from a trusted source for years," he shares.
While most premarital counseling sessions will include both members of the couple, some therapists will suggest having a few one-on-one sessions mixed in as well, with plenty of time to reflect in between. If seeking counseling with a therapist or religious leader doesn't feel right for you, consider attending a workshop or group therapy session instead. Self-help books and DVDs may also be of help to couples looking for alternative forms of premarital counseling, but getting an outside perspective is something most couples finds helps them navigate their engagement and, ultimately, their marriage.