How to know if a marriage counselor is a relationship saver or a relationship ender before you ever do a first session with them

Marriage Counseling Insider secret for Saving Your Marriage: How to know if a marriage counselor is a relationship saver or a relationship ender before you ever do a first session with them

By Fred R. Talisman Licensed Marriage, Family Counselor

For over 20 years as a couples therapist, I‘ve specialized in saving relationships that were on the verge of ending even when only one person still wanted the relationship to work and even when they had no hope that it could be saved.

You’ve probably known of couples that went to couples counseling and wound up breaking up.

Even one session with the wrong couples therapist can finalize your breakup. The right one can be one of your biggest assets in saving your relationship.


When a relationship is in crisis, it’s in a very delicate state. Relationship counseling is not neutral. It can help make the relationship better. If done incorrectly, it can push the relationship over the edge.

All couple counselors have their biases.

Some marital counselors think that if a relationship isn’t working, a person should get out. They’ll tend to guide an individual or couple in that direction. I call them relationship enders.

Other marriage counselors, like myself, believe that, with rare exception, an individual and/or couple should do everything possible to learn and master the skills to make their relationship work and thus to save their relationship and keep their family together. And, we show you step by step how to save it. We’re relationship savers.

It’s my professional belief and experience that most romantic relationships that end, end unnecessarily and end with the couple still having love for each other.

It’s my experience, that for most relationships in crisis, that when an individual or couple gets the right kind of help and training and consistently practices those skills that they can actually not just stay together but can both individually thrive staying together.

What you should look for when you’re interviewing relationship counselors?

It would help you to understand, in general, how couples counseling is conducted.

There tends to be two different ways that couple counseling is done.

The way it’s often conducted, the relationship therapist will get the couple to talk about the marriage problems and their upset feelings. Each session they will have them talk about their feelings and problems and perhaps give them insights and understandings as to why they have those feelings and problems.

It’s a process that can go on for months and even longer.

That way of working takes a long time. Often, a person that’s ready to leave the relationship won’t stick around that long.

There’s a bigger problem with that way of working.

If a therapist gets a couple to talk about the relationship problems and to continue to rehash those problems and upsets each session, without giving them tools and solutions early on in the process, the couple and especially the person that’s on the verge of ending the relationship, will tend to get even more upset.

It’s a potentially destructive way of working and can wind up finalizing the breakup.

A competent, experienced relationship saving marriage counselor can usually get the bulk of the information they need to help you to save your relationship within that first session and can also, during that first session, give you an overview of how specifically they can help you to get the relationship back on track.

With the right counselor, if your partner is in any way open to giving you a last chance, your partner will often leave that first session with you with a feeling of guarded hopefulness. They are likely to see that with the counselor’s help, that if you two follow through with what you’re learning from the counselor that you really can make your relationship work.

When your partner has told you they want to break up, that first couple counseling session will either help you to get a last chance with your partner or, if that session is conducted incorrectly, it can finalize the breakup.

In my experience, that first session with a couple, when a person has already told their partner they want to break up, is a very delicate, critical time.

As a Relationship Saver, I find that it’s useful to assume that the leaving partner is one step away from leaving for good. If I’m wrong, no harm. If I’m right, then I will proceed with a caution that can help that couple to have a turning point.

In my experience, in most cases, that despite their insistence that the relationship is over for them, the leaving partner is willing to do that first session because they secretly hope there really is a way to save the relationship and they really do want to be able to justify to themselves giving their partner a last chance.

In my experience, most come to realize, by the end of the first session, that with my help, the relationship really can get better for them. They are now willing to give their partner a last chance and to have more sessions with me to learn how to make their relationship really work for both of them.

When you’re interviewing marital therapists first pay attention to how you feel when you talk to them.

Pay attention to how you feel when you talk to the therapist. If they talk down to you or they make you feel uncomfortable, they are probably wrong for you.

If you feel calmed or reassured when you talk to the counselor AND they meet your other criteria, that’s a good sign.

Other qualities to look for when you’re talking to a potential marital counselor: Do they have a positive attitude; are they confident in their abilities to help you save your relationship; are they friendly, encouraging and supportive?

What should you ask relationship therapists when you interview them and what should you look for in their approach to couples counseling?

Here’s an example of how to interview potential counselors to help save your relationship:

You(Y): Hi, my relationship is in trouble and I was wondering if you could help me. Do you have a couple of minutes so I can tell you, briefly, what’s going on and find out how you would work with us?

Th(therapist): sure, go ahead.

Y: You briefly tell them your presenting problem. (For example): My partner caught me cheating on them and they’ve said they’re fed up and they’re going to leave me. Can you help us?

Th: I hope so. I can see you this Friday at 3pm.

Y: Can I ask you a couple of brief questions?

Th: sure.

Y; How long have you been in practice and what do you specialize in?”

(Usually, nothing takes the place of experience. A therapist that’s been in practice for 10 years or longer, and who specializes in saving romantic relationships, has a level of understanding based on their experience that newer less experienced therapists or one’s that don’t specialize in saving relationships don’t have access to. However, you will occasionally run across a newer, very competent therapist that can really help you out.)

Y: How specifically would you work with us?

(If you ask a marital counselor how they approach saving a relationship and they can’t tell you their process of how they go about doing that, they either are “unconsciously competent” in saving relationships or they probably aren’t relationship savers.)

When you’re trying to find a relationship saving couples counselor, what if the therapist you call won’t talk to you on the phone and their receptionist says you have to make and pay for an appointment to talk to them?

My bias is, that I wouldn’t recommend that you “blindly” pay for and do a session with a professional before you’ve had the opportunity to interview them by phone.

What if they won’t answer your questions on the phone and just say “oh, sure I can help you, just make an appointment.”

If they can’t or won’t answer your questions, you have no basis to make a decision to take the next step with them. You also don’t know if they’re a relationship saver or a relationship ender. It’s time to call the next relationship counselor on your list.

What can you do if you can’t find the right relationship saving marriage counselor?

If you can’t find the right couple counselor, or if you prefer to work with me, you can reach me at 310 321-4658 or you can email me .

Free Initial Save Your Relationship Consultation With Fred Talisman MFT

The best way to know if I can help you to save your relationship is to give me a call right now at 310 321-4658 or to email me at [email protected]. Once I briefly hear from you more specifically about your situation, I can be more accurate in answering the question weather or not I think I can help you to save your relationship. This consultation, by phone, will take about 10-15 minutes. There is no charge for that initial feedback from me. If you are more comfortable, you can email me your questions at [email protected]


I wish you the best of luck.

Fred Talisman MFT

Licensed Marriage Counselor
Saving marriages for over 20 years
Author of: Save Your Relationship
A proven system to rescue your relationship and to keep your family together.
Cell: 310 321-4658


P.S. As part of the couples therapy I do, I sometimes recommend inspiring dvds for couples to watch together. I just watched a wonderful and touching dvd, “Snowmen.” It’s based on a true story.