Affordable Couples Therapy Exists! Here’s Where to Find It.

Many couples consider seeking out therapy for a number of reasons - perhaps they are facing a major life transition, are coming up against the same barriers and hurdles in their relationship, or are finding that the connection and intimacy between them is fading. We know how effective couples counselling can be - especially when there is a lot of conflict or tension in the relationship. Having the support of a trained, impartial and compassionate person allows us some space to examine patterns and dynamics within the relationship - and then be guided in how to resolve these and support each other.

As useful as couples therapy can be, one major barrier - once we’ve gotten past the stigma and awkwardness of sharing personal details with a (trusted) stranger - is cost. Unfortunately couples counselling is generally not covered by insurance as it does not necessarily fall under a ‘mental health’ diagnosis. The average cost of a therapy session can also vary widely depending on where you live. Those living in Ohio can expect to pay around $75-150 an hour, while a typical session in New York City can cost upwards of $200-300 an hour. This is really unfortunate, since we know that turbulent or unhappy relationships do impact our mental health and contribute to depression and anxiety - but unfortunately for the moment this is the general rule. This means that while we may be able to access individual therapy for mental health issues, if a counsellor or therapist sees a couple it is often paid mainly out of pocket. (There are some exceptions to this and it is recommended that you contact your insurance to clarify their policy on couples therapy, or shop around to see if there are insurers who do cover this type of therapy).

Cost can therefore be a major barrier, since couple therapy is often something that continues for more than one or two sessions - and is most effective when delivered weekly or fortnightly. Suddenly, we can find ourselves hundreds of dollars out of pocket each month, for this unforeseen and unexpected cost. Most of the time it is certainly worth the outlay - since this is something that we will benefit from for the rest of our lives - but that doesn’t mean the financial blow doesn’t hurt! Particularly for couples who might be going through stress due to financial issues and juggling parenting and working, adding the cost and time burden of relationship counselling can feel like an enormous balancing act.

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So - how can couples access affordable and effective couples therapy? The emphasis needs to be on effective as well as affordable, since relationship therapy can be a landmine if the therapist has not undergone appropriate training in the theory (eg. attachment theory, interpersonal dynamics, family systems) and practice (eg. doing a certain number of hours of practical, supervised training as a therapist, where their sessions are recorded or observed by an experienced therapist). This training and experience is of huge importance, perhaps more so in couples therapy than any other type of therapy - as the possibility for ethical violations or boundary breaches is significant.

A well trained couples therapist has likely had their own therapy and will be aware of their own ‘hot spots’ (eg. they may have gone through divorce and find certain clients challenging) and any ethical issues that arise (eg. they may seek supervision and advice if they find themselves wanting to ‘side’ with one of the people in a couple). Many of the stories we hear in the news about therapists who have ‘crossed the line’ have either had insufficient training in how to manage these issues - and the result can be quite dangerous for clients who have trusted them to offer unbiased help.

It is good to remember that a really good relationship counsellor is not ‘perfect’ in that they don’t have any baggage or personality - after all, we don’t want a robot counsellor - but more that they are aware of how their own experiences and feelings might affect the therapy they are providing, and how they can make sure that the couple they are working with gets the fairest and most effective treatment regardless. In therapy this is referred to as transference (what the client projects onto the therapist) and counter-transference (what the therapist, in turn, projects onto the client - eg. they may remind them of their child or a friend). Transference is a useful tool in therapy as it allows us, as clients, to understand how we relate to people - but countertransference is less useful, as it can sometimes cause therapists to be less effective or get in the way of helping a client.

A good example of this is if a therapist clearly takes sides during couples therapy and berates or shames a client - this is a sign that their countertransference is acting up, and that they may need some supervision with this. One of the reasons that the process of training to be a therapist takes so long is that, as we are working with people and emotions, it is important to be very self-aware of our own reactions and understand how to manage them - and, possibly, use these insights to help clients. Therapists certainly aren’t perfect, but the best ones are the ones that can be self aware enough to put aside their own personal feelings and reactions and focus on what it is the clients need from them.

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So - the help we seek needs to be affordable, effective and safe- a tall order! Fortunately there are several options available if cost is an issue for you, or perhaps you’re not quite ready to invest hundreds of dollars per month into therapy - and want to dip your toe in the water. Here are some options that are more reasonably priced- without sacrificing safety and quality:

Online Therapy

Despite 2020 being a fairly awful year, it has been great in growing the online therapy space. A number of new online and app services have sprung up with 24/7 counselling and coaching available, with many providers accepting insurance and offering high quality counselling. Websites such as betterhelp and Talkspace are two market leaders and have huge directories of therapists you can look at to choose one who suits your needs.

The price range is similar to face to face therapy, but some services offer reduced rates or the option of working with a Coach or mental health counsellor (rather than a Psychologist or therapist) - these can be good options as they are often more affordable and can still be helpful. Relationship Coaches, in particular, can be useful lower cost options to therapists because they are focused on solutions and addressing the ‘here and now’ issues - so rather than looking at the past and some of the deeper dynamics, they work to make change quickly and with the assumption that the client has the solution - they just need help to find it.

As the process of training for Relationship Coaching is less involved than therapists, sessions are often less expensive, and can be empowering and useful for couples who are having issues. It is recommended, however, for more serious issues such as anger management, mental illness, self harm or complex trauma, that the help of a trained therapist is sought - as these might require a longer term and more specialised approach.

With Relish, you’ll get unlimited one-on-one time with a qualified relationship coach, customized lesson plans and more, all on your own time. Download now and get started with a free one week trial.

Sliding Scale Therapy

Many therapists in your area offer therapy on a sliding scale, based on your income. If you google ‘sliding scale therapy in my area’ you’ll likely find a list of therapists who offer this option. You can visit their websites to look at their biographies and choose someone who fits your needs and seems like they would be a good match.

A lot of the time these are therapists who are completing their licensing requirements, and so are able to charge a lower rate due to the fact they are still being supervised. Although this doesn’t sound ideal, remember that these therapists have already gone through extensive training and are at the very end of their studies - so they are likely to be able to offer you high quality help. In addition to this, interns are closely supervised by highly experienced therapists - so the help you receive is likely to be of a high standard even if the therapist is not overly experienced.

This can be a good option if you’re wanting to dip your toe in the water and see what couples therapy is like - and if you don’t gel with the first therapist you see, feel free to try another. Feeling like you trust your therapist and that they can help you is crucial to success in therapy, and outcomes are often dependent on a positive and trusting therapeutic relationship.

Although some face to face services may be closed due to COVID-19, there are many that have moved to telehealth and you can have online sessions via secure video link. This can be even better than face to face if you are pushed for time - and many people feel even more comfortable speaking with someone from the comfort of their homes.

Because Relish is a fraction of the cost for a single hour of couples therapy, it’s a no-brainer investment for your relationship. What’s more? Your first week is completely free. Get Started!

Relationship Apps

One of the biggest changes to relationship therapy in the past five years has been the rise of therapy apps - initially quite clunky and nowhere near as effective a real-life therapy, they have evolved over the past few years to be useful companions to couples therapy - or, for some people, possible replacements. Relationship apps like Relish have an advantage over face to face therapy in that they are available 24/7 - so rather than having to wait a whole week before you can talk to your counsellor about a disagreement you had with your partner, you can now instantly get some support and read more about how to manage serious issues.

There are, of course, some drawbacks too - common complaints from users are that they miss the ‘face to face’ aspect of meeting with their therapist, and that sometimes they miss the opportunity to have that hour every week where the focus is the relationship. The benefits of a relationship app, however, are significant - not only are they substantially less expensive than therapy ($100/year for a subscription, rather than $1800-3000 a year for traditional therapy), members enjoy being able to learn on their own time (with self guided lessons), sharing lessons and notes with their partner in the app, and having support with them at all times, whenever they need it. Relish offers one on one Coaching as part of the subscription, with their Coaches hand-picked for their experience working with relationships and in areas such as sex and intimacy.

For many people, relationship apps are the first step towards getting help, and they later decide whether they also need therapy - and this is different for everyone. Relish offers a 7-day free trial for new users - where they can try out Coaching, complete their lessons for the week, take part in the community forum and take quizzes to share with their partner on topics like communication, sex and connection. Some Relish members have tried therapy and are wanting something different, whereas others use it as a way to keep up the communication and friendship in their relationship - kind of like a ‘self care’ app for their relationship health.

As you can see, now is a great time to reach out for some support, even if you’re not wanting to spend a lot of money. Research tells us that our relationships are the biggest determinants of our wellbeing and quality of life - so it makes sense to invest some time into improving them and ironing out any issues that are happening between us and our partners. We know that when we take that step towards getting help, we need to make sure the help we’re getting is safe and professional - as well as actually effective - and that will suit the needs of both you and your partner.

If you’re considering getting some support, but aren’t sure where to start, it might be useful to try one of these lower cost options as a first step towards making changes - and begin to think about some of the issues in the relationship that have been impacting you. Most people who enter into couples therapy Coaching find that things do change for the better - once they have identified the issue, and had some impartial and informed advice about how to do things differently.

If you’re interested in learning more about Relationship Coaching, visit Relish to sign up for a free 7-day trial today - you’ll have the opportunity to reflect on some of the issues in your relationship, as well as some of the changes you’d like to see - whether this is more closeness, less conflict, more sex or more support. It is never too late to get some help for your relationship - and now is a great time to take the first step.

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