How to pick the right couples therapist for you and your partner

It’s almost as hard as finding a partner

Couples therapy can be a challenging experience. Discussing the most intimate details of your life with someone you barely know is not easy, nor is confronting your role in harmful patterns in your relationship. But with the right therapist, it can also be a game-changer. Unfortunately, not all therapists are going to be the right therapist, and in fact, most of them probably won’t be a great fit for you. So here are seven questions you can ask yourself to help you figure out if a particular couples therapist is right for you and your partner.

1. Are they willing to do a free consult before your first session?

They should be. In fact, they should offer. But if they don’t, ask for it! This is a great way to get a sense of whether they’re going to be a good fit before you start paying them.

2. Do you both like them?

This may seem obvious, but it’s hard enough finding an individual therapist, when you’re the only person who has to like them. Finding someone that you both like and feel you can work with can be a challenge, but it’s worth it to keep looking until you have.

3. Are they educated about your identities and lived experience?

You shouldn’t have to spend your precious time and money educating them. Or worse, have to deal with a racist/ableist/anti-queer/kink-shaming/anti-poly person saying something harmful to you when you are at your most vulnerable. It’s perfectly okay (and a good idea) to directly ask what experience they have working with people with similar identities and experiences as you during your consult.

4. Do they have empathy for both of you?

Once you get started, if they consistently seem to relate to and understand one of you but not the other, that probably isn’t going to be the most effective therapeutic relationship. One partner could end up feeling misunderstood or even ganged up on. It may feel good for your therapist to seemingly “side with” you, but don’t forget: the point of couples therapy is not to be right but to improve your relationship.

5. Do they know how to talk about sex?

Not every couples therapist is a sex therapist. We’ve heard of couples therapists who can’t even bring themselves to say the word “sex,” much less help their patients delve into their sexual issues. If you want to talk about and work on the sexual aspects of your relationship in therapy, make sure to see a certified sex therapist. You can find one through the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT).

6. Do they have antiquated beliefs about gender roles?

This is a deal breaker for us. If your therapist is not on board with helping you build an equal partnership (in a society that doesn’t make that easy), it’s time to move on.

7. Are they a flexible thinker?

If they think everyone should have sex a certain number of times a week, if they think couples should spend a certain amount of time together or apart, if they think sleeping in separate bedrooms is inherently problematic—basically if they are spouting fixed beliefs about how a healthy relationship “should” look—that’s a no from us.

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