9 options for online couples counseling during the pandemic and beyond

couples therapy

Photo by Cottonbro

Everyone knows the purpose of couples therapy is to finally shine a bright light on your partner’s unacceptable behaviors including but not limited to thoughtless comments, inattentive evenings spent staring at a computer, sex with other people, lack of effusive compliments, not sufficiently acknowledging sacrifices, litter box avoidance, and puddles left at the rim of the sink which transfer a wet strip onto one’s shirt.

Finally, a way to make the offending party fucking listen.

But get this: once you get in there and pay your $300, the therapist wants to talk about your behavior, too? She might even suggest you make some sort of effort to improve the relationship.

Be warned, you’ll be expected to take responsibly for yourself. It’s obnoxious.

Apparently, that’s just how couples therapy works. But don’t feel bad because Michelle Obama figured it out the hard way too.

“Well, you go because you think the counselor is going to help you make your case against the other person,” she told Oprah in 2018, in a conversation about her book Becoming. “‘Would you tell him about himself?!’ And lo and behold, counseling wasn’t that at all. It was about me exploring my sense of happiness. What clicked in me was that I need support and I need some from him. But I needed to figure out how to build my life in a way that works for me.”

While it might be easier if your partner did all the work, we all know it takes two to tango. And like Michelle, I can attest that therapy can be helpful and even life changing. I 100% would not have my family right now if we hadn’t sought out therapy at some critical points in our relationship (if you’re in the SF Bay Area I can’t recommend Adriana Marchione highly enough. She is not specifically a couples therapist but she helped me individually as well as my husband and I as a couple. She also offers online courses and individual therapy.).

The pandemic has made online therapy more popular (and in some cases more necessary) than ever, and I can’t help but think it’s a great choice, coronavirus or not. Finding a conveniently located therapist has always been the biggest hurdle to getting my husband and me to a session. Another issue was the time investment—in addition to carving out an hour for the therapy itself, roundtrip commute time was often an hour or more.

With online therapy there’s no commute time, and it doesn’t matter where your therapist is located (except to consider time differences), which means you have more professionals to choose from. And in some cases you can all participate from different locations if necessary (note that some services require you to actually be in the same place for the session).

But is online therapy effective? If this 2014 study is any indication, the answer is yes. It found that online therapies for depression were just as effective as in-person therapy sessions. One caveat: face-to-face therapy may be necessary in some cases, for example if you need an official diagnosis, need to fulfill any court order, or get a prescription.

In any case, even post-pandemic, if (ok when) we need therapy again, I’m all for virtual couples therapy. It’s the best way to guarantee it will actually happen. If you’re thinking similarly, here are some services to help you find someone both you and your partner will click with.

ReGain

Regain provides licensed therapists online who are trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, and professional counselors. Each has a masters degree or a doctoral degree in their field and have been certified by their state’s professional board. Their experience, expertise and background varies but all have at least 3 years and 1,000 hours of hands-on experience under their belts. Regain operates under a membership model and costs $60 to $90 per week billed monthly and you can be cancel any time.

Talkspace

Talkspace declares itself the most popular destination for online therapy, and with Demi Lovato as a spokeswoman and more than 1 million users, that’s probably accurate. After answering a few questions, the service will match you with three therapists to choose from who, according to its algorithm, will best suit your needs. Talkspace is also a subscription service with plans starting at $99 per week.

Our Relationship

This is not exactly therapy, instead it’s a program to guide you and your partner in improving your relationship through an online course. It’s a good choice if you’re a self-starter who doesn’t need that weekly appointment to keep you accountable. You can get started for just $150, which includes access to a coach for two months. Or, you can choose to do the program without a coach for $50. The doctors who developed the program say they’ve tested the OurRelationship course in five nationwide studies involving thousands of couples who consistently report significant gains in relationship satisfaction, communication, emotional and sexual intimacy, emotional support and trust and commitment to the relationship.

Couples Therapy Inc.

This team of more than two dozen clinicians practicing in 30 U.S. states and 4 countries focuses exclusively on relationship therapy. The service offers relationship coaching, counseling, and therapy for between $119 and $199 for a 55-minute session. It also offers targeted services including affair recovery, premarital counseling, discernment counseling and a sexuality retreat.

Bound Together Counseling

Bound Together specializes inclusive counseling services ​for adolescents, adults and couples from a sex-positive, feminist perspective. It also offers self-guided help via online courses and ebooks. Whether you’re polyamorous, strictly monogamous or something in between, Bound Together has a therapist for you.

The Marriage Restoration Project

This platform was cofounded by Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a licensed clinical professional counselor, and his wife, Rivka. They offer a boot camp style approach, starting with a two-day Marriage Restoration Retreat (performed online during Covid), which is followed by eight online 90-minute couples therapy sessions. They call the approach “no blame no shame,” and they use imago relationship therapy techniques, which help couples bond and communicate more effectively, finding common ground partially by learning to recognize how early childhood relationships affect our communication, behavior and responses as adults.

Pride Counseling

Pride Counseling specializes in therapy for the LGBTQIA+ community and offers licensed therapists, psychologists, counselors, and social workers. Pride is another service that operates on a membership basis: It costs between $60 and $90 per week and is billed monthly (you can cancel at any time). The service offers counseling to people from every gender, orientation and identity with 24/7 messaging available.

Growing Self

Growing Self offers everything from premarital counseling to emotional intelligence coaching to traditional couples therapy. Founded by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, the site also offers free resources including articlespodcasts, and classes. Forty-five-minute session with early-career therapists and coaches are available for around $95, or meet with a doctoral level expert for approximately $150—the cost will depend on the individual therapist and many offer a sliding scale.

E-Therapy Cafe

Through videos, chats and online journals, this service promises to take the fear out of therapy with an approach that feels like “coffee with a friend.” The E-therapy express option offers one-off sessions for just $50 each, or get three sessions for $135 per month ($45 each). The premier membership is $210 per months for five sessions ($42 each), and the elite membership is eight sessions for $320 per month ($40 each).

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