Marriage counselors take different approaches to working with different issues. What one could expect from a marital counseling session would be an enormous amount of effort on the therapist's part to get information from both parties, to remain neutral, to form a respectful alliance with both individuals while remaining neutral, and to really engage and teach the couple. A goal is to teach individuals in that couples session about themselves, but also to educate them on and help them identify important goals that they need to set. Begin to develop a plan, a concrete plan, and provide some level of accountability for them to be able to work on a concrete plan over a designated period of time. Knowing that there's a plan is reassuring to the clients, but it's also a roadmap for the therapist. I think it's very important that there be a treatment plan and that the patients be very clear on what that is, then there can be a level of accountability.
Some important things to consider is if they are licensed, how many years they've been practicing, what they specialize in and do they have the training and the experience to support that as a specialty? Another important consideration is gender, to ask yourself would I be more comfortable with a male therapist or a female therapist? Another important consideration is their spiritual or religious views, or is it important for them to see someone who shares the same values or views as it relates to their spirituality, Christianity, or religion? And I think also to ask someone that you trust who has had a positive experience with counseling whom they saw - with someone else having a positive experience, then that sometimes can set one at ease about making that initial contact.
Yes, most insurances cover marriage counseling, but I will say that there are some behavioral health, there are some policies that cover behavioral health that do distinguish they do not cover marriage counseling. In all of my years of experience, there has only been one instance where a policy covered behavioral health services but had a disclaimer that it did not cover marriage counseling. So that would be important for a person to know going in if they're expecting to file it on their insurance.
Each marriage counselor can set their own rate. What is important to know is that if they accept your insurance, then they likely have a contract rate, which they are required to accept irregardless of what they charge. The nature of that contract also clearly states that they cannot charge the patient for the difference, to do so would be illegal. If the patient has a co-payment, then they can collect the co-payment, but they cannot collect the difference between the agreed contract amount and what the marriage counselor charges.
In a self-pay situation, where a person is paying for it out of their pocket, I think it would be important for them to call several clinics in order to find out what is the going rate. There are instances in which random clinicians charge exorbitant rates, and it's left to the individual to decide what they can afford. But I would be concerned if after calling several clinics a particular professional was charging significantly more. And if I were entitled to go and see them I think I would want to understand, and I think it would be fair to ask, what specifically is the difference in what they're providing from others based on the rates that you've been quoted.