The Ultimate Guide to Couples Counseling in San Diego

Couples therapy is a good way for married couples, cohabitating couples, and engaged couples to work through communication challenges in a safe, structured environment. Relationship counseling is not just for solving big problems; it can also be a great way to prevent future challenges to your mental wellness. 

Are you struggling to communicate with your partner?

Effective communication is one of the biggest challenges that couples face. Different communication styles, personality types, and personal histories add to the complexity of talking about issues. Sometimes those issues become too much for a couple to iron out themselves—ongoing problems fuel resentment and dissatisfaction, which leads to arguing and more. Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse can follow from or cause all manner of relationship problems.

Marriage counselors specialize in helping people find healthy ways to deal with relationship issues or with past trauma. Sometimes you need a neutral third party to mediate, teach new skills, or diagnose the cause of the problem. A counselor can also create a structure for working out the issues that a couple faces.

Don’t wait until you feel like the relationship has reached the crisis stage before encouraging your partner to attend couples counseling. Most issues in a relationship are easier to handle if both partners are involved in talking about them. Further, it can take time to find the right therapist.

Keep reading to learn more about the counseling process and get some of your questions answered. Then, if you are pretty sure that couples therapy is right for you, please call or email me for a free 15-minute telephone consultation.

What Couples Counseling Looks Like

My counseling sessions allow each partner to talk about their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a safe, non-threatening environment. Couples therapy generally involves weekly meetings that run for a few weeks to several months, sometimes longer. The length of the counseling depends on the severity of each couples’ challenges.

You probably have some questions about the counseling process. Here are some common questions or concerns regarding couples therapy. If your question isn’t answered here, feel free to call my office.

Does counseling work for couples?

It works, but it does take time and effort on the part of each person. If only one person in the relationship is committed to the counseling process, it might not work. However, recent research indicates that 75% of couples who went through therapy are better off because of it.

The first step is to decide on counseling and commit to it. Then, if you can get your partner to at least attend an initial meeting with your therapist, they can help get the other person involved and keep them interested.

And, while people think of couples therapy as something for married people, it also works for other couples. For example, couples therapy can also be valuable to couples who are planning to get married.

What is the best therapy for couples?

Therapists use a wide variety of therapeutic approaches and theories in their marriage counseling work. However, most couples counselors and marriage and family therapists probably use one of the following evidence-based practices to help clients:

  • Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) – This approach to therapy focuses on using talk to create a sense of emotional safety for each partner. A therapist will help each person outline their emotional needs and how their partner can meet those needs.
  • Gottman method – This approach teaches individuals to use positive communication with their partners instead of contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling, the four horsemen of relationship failure. However, this is a structured approach to treatment that might not work for all couples.
  • Imago relationship theory – According to this theory, we tend to seek relationships that remind us of early caregiver relationships, which can sometimes be a bad thing.


These are only three popular approaches. As you search for the right counselor for your needs, you are likely to encounter others, like cognitive-behavioral therapy, narrative therapy, and solution-focused therapy.

Sometimes couples therapy can work if only one partner is involved.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions about whatever therapeutic approach the counselor favors. First, ask about the typical therapy session. Then, ask about what happens between therapy sessions.

Can Counseling help a broken relationship?

Good couples counseling can, in time, help a couple to heal relationship stress. But, again, it takes a commitment from each person. A relationship on the verge of ending might take a significant amount of time to repair. Not every relationship can be saved by therapy, but if both parties are committed to the process, the odds of success go up. Not every relationship can be saved, and sometimes, one person isn’t even sure they want to keep the relationship.

Therapy can be useful in these situations in two ways. First, someone who commits to the counseling process may re-commit to making the relationship work. Second, even if the relationship doesn’t work out, counseling can provide an opportunity for personal growth. 

Counseling does take a commitment from both partners to work on their communication skills. If one partner has little or no interest, you will find it impossible to make good progress. However, it can often be enough to get the other person into therapy. Once they are willing to go to counseling, a good psychologist can get the reluctant partner more engaged.

Don’t wait until the relationship is in crisis mode. It can be helpful to think of couples therapy as a preventative measure. In counseling, you and your partner can surface and work out any issues that have the potential to create a serious problem later on.

If you live in the San Diego area and want to get started on solving those relationship issues, call or email to set up your free initial consultation.

What can we expect in couples counseling?

After a free phone consultation, you and your partner will need to show up for each session. Your therapist will talk to you about their approach to counseling before your first meeting. You may also want to ask for some recommended reading materials related to their chosen therapy method. Then, you and your partner can review those readings and come to therapy with more knowledge of what to expect.

What happens in marriage counseling varies with the method or theory that your counselor uses. In general, your first session will look very much the same, though. Your therapist would ask about your relationship history, any recurring communication issues, and your goals for counseling if you weren’t thinking about setting a concrete goal to focus on. A good therapist will help you and your partner begin to frame a tangible and realistic goal for your counseling at this point.

Depending on the methodology, you both may be assigned homework between sessions. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy often uses journaling to help patients process their thoughts and emotions.

You and your partner may want to define one or two goals for your sessions. You may already know the goal or what you think the plan needs to be. That’s fine. But, couples counseling takes work by both parties. Your partner may have a different goal, and it may be possible to work on both at once. Defining a concrete goal and focusing on it is one of the three keys to success. The other two keys are:

  • A commitment to being open, honest, and present in each session.
  • Doing any homework that’s been assigned.


You can make therapy sessions more productive and valuable if you keep some guidelines in mind:

  • You need to build trust with your therapist. In the beginning, it can be hard to share all of your pains, failures, and insecurities. That is normal behavior, but you will need to open up over time.
  • Your discussions with the therapist should make you feel understood. In addition, a therapist should offer encouragement and motivation.
  • Be open-minded. This will help you build trust, make yourself understood, and create a realistic goal.


And, what could go wrong? Some people worry that therapy will lead to the end of a relationship. They fear a therapist will recommend breaking up or getting a divorce. This should never happen – they are there to facilitate discussion and problem solving, not to share a judgment about the relationship’s prospects for the future.

What does couples counseling cost?

Relationship counseling tends to be a little more expensive than individual therapy. The fee can range from $90 to $250 per hour, sometimes more. The hourly rate depends on where you are and on the counselor’s experience level.

Will insurance cover it? Many marriage and family therapists don’t take insurance. Some do. Always ask what insurance, if any, a therapist accepts when decided who to work with. Even if a therapist doesn’t take insurance, your insurance company may reimburse you.

Family Therapist Specializing in Helping San Diego Couples

Feeling stuck when it comes to being heard and understood by your partner? Stop avoiding problems and learn effective ways to deal with them. 

Relationships take constant work, and good communication is one of the most common challenges that couples face. When partners don’t talk, one or both ends up experience frustration, anxiety, anger, and emotional distance.  Some couples work out these issues independently, but many split up because of constant conflict and misunderstanding.

Counseling is an effective and efficient way to overcome relationship challenges or to prevent them. Don’t wait for a serious problem to emerge, and then think of getting your partner to see a therapist at that time. I have many years of experience helping individuals in the San Diego area work on understanding, intimacy, and trust.

Please don’t hesitate to call me or email me for a free 15-minute telephone consultation. I am sure my many years of experience and training will allow me to lead you to a new phase of your relationship marked by peace, understanding, and enjoyment. Video sessions are also available.