Virtual Marriage Counseling: Is it a Viable Option for Couples?

Virtual Couples Counseling

With the country experiencing the effects of a Pandemic, online couples counseling has exploded due to the restrictions in the current climate.  Along with individual telehealth sessions, the need for virtual couples counseling has increased significantly, especially with the high stress couples may be experiencing during the pandemic.

Many couples are seeking therapy now as a result of:

  • increased stress,
  • children being home schooled,
  • lack of support, and
  • inability to engage in social coping skills.

As expected, many of these couples have questions as to the process and effectiveness of virtual marriage counseling or sometimes referred to as online couples counseling.  Below I have listed some common questions and information that can help a couple make the decision to move forward with couples counseling.

Is online marriage counseling effective?

Online marriage counseling is not only effective, it is being seen more and more as a preferred choice.  The ability to be with your partner during marriage counseling, in the comfort of your own home, benefits the couple in therapeutic ways by providing a sense of safety and security.  Feeling comfortable in an environment decreases stress, which increases one’s ability to share more openly as well as listen and understand more effectively.

A 2020 study investigated the expectations and experiences of 15 couples receiving online marriage counseling via videoconferencing software. Overall, the study found that couples experienced a positive shift in their expectations of the process and the effectiveness of online couple’s therapy.

Some initial concerns for couples included the therapist’s ability to empathize through virtual technology as well as the potential for technological issues that could create a barrier to treatment.  However, despite these concerns, couples reported that engaging in online couples counseling allowed them to feel a greater sense of control and comfort because virtual sessions created a component of physical distance.  Couples consistently reported the ability to effectively connect with their therapist, and they found the process of therapy to be better due to their increased focus on the methods used with virtual counseling.

What are the benefits of online marriage counseling?

There are actually many benefits to online marriage counseling.  The biggest benefit I’ve noticed in my practice is the couple’s ability to respond and behave in more authentic ways.  Being in their own home helps a couple feel more comfortable and often they forget the therapist on screen.  The authenticity this provides in the couple’s behaviors is helpful to the couple’s therapist who can intervene in real time and help them through their struggles.

Our practice utilizes the Gottman Method for Couples Counseling which is an evidence-based approach focused on skill building techniques for the couple.  Online therapy for couples is truly a perfect set up for teaching skills to couples, as our goal is for couples to learn and utilize these skills at home outside of session.  Think about it, isn’t practicing how to properly field a baseball on actual dirt and grass better for developing that skill compared to fielding a ball on the gym floor.  Absolutely!

Although virtual marriage counseling is best when both partners can be in the same room together on the same device, the other benefit of engaging in sessions online is that if you need to be in separate locations, it is possible with virtual counseling.

There are couples who may be currently separated, have differing schedules, or spend time away for work travel.  Virtual marriage counseling makes it possible for these couples to get the help they need as well.  I have worked with couples in this capacity, and it is equally as effective.  Although it is important for couples to engage in eye contact and turning toward one another, this forum allows for couples to slow down and more naturally give each other the time and space to speak.  This is an important skill to learn in couples counseling, and the three-way virtual session for couples promotes that.

What are the logistics needed for successful online marriage counseling sessions?

Couples seeking virtual couples therapy need consider what environment and equipment will allow for the best experience.  A mobile phone can be used, however, the bigger the screen, the better. For online couples counseling, I typically suggest a computer or laptop, however, I do have couples who also use a tablet.

As mentioned earlier, it’s best if couples are together on the same device so the therapist can have them turn toward one another to talk so the couple’s counselor can see the interaction and dynamic that occurs between the partners.  Good lighting is helpful.  Sitting with a window behind you can make it difficult for the therapist to see your faces and body language, which by the way, it VERY important in couples counseling.  Make sure that you have a private area to speak and a good internet connection.

How do we know if virtual marriage counseling is for us?

Virtual marriage counseling is appropriate for anyone who has access to a secure internet connection, a tablet, computer, or laptop, and who has a private space where they can engage in the therapeutic process.  Some couples who prefer in person marriage counseling, like to be in an environment outside of their home.   Even in those cases however, I have found that couples who are resistant to online couples counseling sessions at first, decide to proceed with these sessions once they give it a try.

People who are hearing impaired often wonder if virtual sessions are for them.  As someone who wears hearing aids, I prefer the virtual sessions because I can adjust volume and read lips more closely.  Current in-person sessions can be more difficult for the hearing impaired due to the need to wear masks.

Online couples counseling is a great option for busy couples, who don’t have time to meet with a couple’s counselor in an office setting.  For couples who want to engage in evidence-based practices and learn the skills that have been proven to build a stronger and healthier relationship, the benefit of virtual marriage counseling is that you can do it with us even if you live hours away within in the state of Ohio.  Virtual marital therapy gives you the opportunity to seek out therapists who have specialized training in couples and marriage therapy regardless of your location in the state you reside.

On average, a couple waits 6 years before deciding to seek help for their relationship.  Why wait? Couple’s counseling should be utilized as a proactive response to your relationship, not a reactive response to serious problems.  There is a reason we have yearly dental appointments, doctor appointments, and get the oil on our car changed every 3,000 miles.  Keep this in mind for your marriage.  Breakdown can be avoided by being proactive in your relationship.  Virtual marriage counseling is now making this more accessible.  Take advantage!

To learn more about our Couples Therapy Program and online couples therapy, click here.