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Marriage therapy or marriage education?

marriage woes

Getting stuck in ongoing marital distress often leads to significant emotional and physical health consequences. Recent studies have shown marriage education and marriage therapy can have a positive, lasting impact. Consider the cost, time and benefits of each approach.

A recent UCLA study (“Therapy Can Help Even Very Distressed Married Couples, Largest Study Finds,” ScienceDaily.com, 4/20/10), reveals that after 26 sessions of marriage therapy over the course of a year, half of the couples who began therapy in “consistent and serious distress” showed significant improvement five years later; 25% ended up separating or divorcing; 25% were unchanged.

“Given this population, that’s a good figure,” said Andrew Christensen, a UCLA professor of psychology and lead author of the study. Christensen has been working with couples in therapy for more than 30 years, as well as training and supervising others doing couple therapy.

A recent PAIRS Foundation study on distressed couples participating in marriage education found that 77% achieved significant improvements that were sustained six months after completing nine to 12 hours of a PAIRS Essentials relationship skills training course.

According to the National Directory of Marriage and Family Counseling, “Family and marriage counseling costs can vary widely. Rates vary from about $75 to $200 per hour, but many therapists offer sliding scale fees based on income, while some accept insurance and some do not.  The average cost for marriage and family counseling is about $100 per session. Since most marriage counselors see couples one session a week for the first three months, you can expect to pay about $1200 in that period of time if it’s at about $100/hr.” For couples with insurance that covers marriage therapy, the typical co-pay is approximately $30/hour.

With insurance coverage, the cost of 26 sessions will be approximately $780. For couples paying out-of-pocket, they can expect to spend $1,950 to $5,200 for a marriage therapist over six to 12 months.

Many PAIRS classes are available for free or reduced cost as a result of federal grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, as part of the national Healthy Marriage Initiative. The cost of a typical weekend or multi-week PAIRS class not subsidized by federal grant funding is between $400 and $1200/couple, depending on location and instructor. Online classes delivered over four weekly two-hour sessions typically cost less than $300/couple.

The average cost of divorce is estimated at $20,000 – $30,000. Nationally, American couples spend nearly $28 billion annually on divorce; billions more are spent by taxpayers through state and federal expenses associated with the impact of marital and family breakdown on children, schools, and communities.

For couples experiencing continued marital distress, both studies show meaningful potential for couples to save their marriages before heading down the road to separation or divorce. Considering the emotional, physical, social, and economic benefits of sustaining healthy, happy marriages, the studies offer strong incentive for couples to pursue marriage education or marriage therapy before actively considering divorce.

marriage therapy versus marriage education

PAIRS Foundation Chart based on statistics from UCLA Study, PAIRS Research, and the National Directory of Marriage and Family Counseling. http://www.pairs.com.

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April 2010
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