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60 Marriage Counseling Questions to Ask Clients in Therapy Sessions

As time goes on, relationships evolve and shift to reflect our experiences and perceptions of the world around us. As we continuously evolve, our relationships go through shifts and bends as well. Marriage counseling is a form of psychotherapy that aims to provide support to partners who have found that they are experiencing lingering difficulties or distress that is impacting their relationship satisfaction. Marriage counseling differs from couples counseling in the sense that couples counseling is for a broad group of couples, whereas marriage counseling focuses on couples who are married.

Marriage counseling can help couples reestablish a couple’s connection, intimacy, and trust. They may find that learning new communication strategies allows them to communicate their thoughts and emotions more effectively, which can have a positive impact on other areas of their life besides their marriage. Marriage counseling can be impactful for partners who feel as though they have experienced a decrease in physical intimacy, have experienced a major life change, those experiencing broken trust, and are transitioning into different phases of life.

Marriage counseling is a brief, solution-focused treatment that works towards specific goals with an “end” to therapy in mind from the beginning, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). Using a whole-person lens, marriage counseling can help tease out individual experiences that are impacting their relationship, including depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns.

With approximately 40% to 50% of first-time marriages ending in divorce, it is undeniable that marriage counseling can provide a pivotal form of counseling and support. The rise in divorce can also be found in countries where divorce is uncommon. New approaches to counseling have a focus on the possibility of a divorce, aimed to support couples who are ambivalent or are unsure if they want to proceed with a divorce.

Examples of therapeutic approaches that may be used in marriage counseling include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)- CBT can be used to help couples identify negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to the distress that they are experiencing within their relationship. Working to replace negative thoughts and beliefs that improve relationship satisfaction and improve the couple’s problem-solving skills.
  • Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)- EFT can be used to help couples identify and verbalize their underlying emotions, which can then improve how they respond to each other, and improve their attachment to each other.
  • Gottman Method – With an emphasis on building friendship and managing conflict, the Gottman Method can be used to find meaning again within a couple’s relationship. Couples will strengthen their connection and learn to work through conflicts healthily.
  • Imago Relationship Therapy – This therapeutic approach focuses on having both partners heal old wounds, and foster empathy and understanding towards each other. Previous concerns could be from a person’s childhood, previous relationships, or current relationship dynamics.
  • Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)- SFBT is a goal-orientated approach that focuses on finding solutions instead of focusing on their problems. Time is spent identifying strengths as well as setting specific and realistic goals that can help strengthen their relationship.
  • Narrative Therapy- Narrative Therapy can be used for couples who would benefit from reframing the narratives within their relationship in a way that empowers them and elicits positive change. Negative narratives are challenged, and new ones are formulated.
  • Family Systems Therapy- With a broader lens, Family Systems Therapy explores how a couple’s current pattern of interaction and communication is influenced by their family system.

Getting Ready for Your Marriage Counseling Session with a New Client

Preparing for your marriage counseling can help you set a positive tone for your session from the moment that your clients walk in. You may begin by reviewing any paperwork, referrals, or screeners that you have received before the session. This can provide you with some insight into their current distress and goals for counseling. You can then develop a rough outline for your session that can be modified as you learn more about your new clients.

During your first session with a married couple, it can be helpful to spend time exploring their goals and motivations for therapy. From there, you can help them understand what they can come to expect from their sessions and set some expectations for everyone. This can include being mindful of the language used, trying to keep an open mind, identifying priorities for counseling, clarifying boundaries for all parties, and having a discussion about active participation in sessions. Developing ground rules can help develop therapeutic rapport as well as maintain consistency and build trust within their relationship.

After your first session, you should have a solid understanding of your client’s current challenges and the goals they would like to work towards. With this information, you may find it useful to find worksheets and activities that can be impactful for your clients. Examples of worksheets that could be beneficial include:

Marriage Counseling Questions to Ask Clients in Therapy

Marriage Counseling session questions can be used to explore your client’s thoughts and feelings during the session, as well as encourage active participation and involvement throughout your sessions. Examples of Marriage Counseling questions you could use include:

  1. Can you tell me about what led to your interest in marriage counseling?
  2. Have either of you been in therapy or counseling before?
  3. How would you describe your precious experiences with therapy or counseling?
  4. Can you tell me about your own mental health experiences?
  5. Has there been a time in your life when you struggled with your mental health? Can you tell me about it?
  6. How do you feel that your mental health affects your partner?
  7. How does your mental health affect your behaviors within the context of your relationship? As an example, are you able to express yourself freely, or do you have the same desire for intimacy
  8. In one word, how would you describe your relationship?
  9. How does that make you feel saying that?
  10. How do you feel about the state of your marriage?
  11. Can you tell me about your hope for the future with your partner?
  12. Have there been previous periods of difficulty within your marriage?
  13. Can you briefly describe what your marriage looked like at that time?
  14. What helped you get through those tough times?
  15. How would you describe your ability to communicate with each other?
  16. Do you find that you feel heard by your partner?
  17. Can you tell me about that experience for you?
  18. How do you feel your relationship would change if you were able to communicate in a clear, or healthy, manner?
  19. Do you trust your partner?
  20. What has contributed to that?
  21. Can you tell me what behaviors help build trust within your marriage?
  22. Was there an event or a change that broke trust for one or both of you?
  23. How does it make you feel when you think about not being able to trust your partner?
  24. Can you tell me about how you each cope with challenging emotions like anger, sadness, and guilt?
  25. How would you describe intimacy within the context of your marriage?
  26. How often do you find yourselves connecting on an intimate level?
  27. What are your thoughts about sex?
  28. Are you happy with the amount of physical intimacy in your relationship?
  29. Can you think of a time when you felt satisfied sexually? What was different during that time?
  30. Can you think of any barriers that impact your desire or ability to have intimate relations?
  31. Can you tell me about any life changes that you have experienced together?
  32. How did you work together to navigate your new circumstances?
  33. Can you describe how you, as a couple, respond to life changes and losses? Do you find that you come together, or do you isolate?
  34. Can you please tell me about your use of drugs and alcohol?
  35. Have either of you felt as though your partner’s use was a concern?
  36. Do you still feel as though their alcohol or drug use is a problem?
  37. How do you feel substance use affects your relationship?
  38. Can you think of any ways that your current challenges are influenced by previous experiences you have had?
  39. Can you tell me about some shared values that you have?
  40. Are there any notable differences within your values?
  41. How do you manage spirituality and religious differences?
  42. Can you tell me how you respond to differences in political opinions?
  43. How would you describe your communication?
  44. Where do you feel there is room for improvement in your relationship?
  45. Can you tell me about any areas of your relationship where you feel there may be misunderstandings or disconnection?
  46. Please walk me through a recent disagreement and how you worked through it?
  47. How would you say that you express your desires or wants to each other?
  48. Can you each tell me about how you express love?
  49. And what makes you feel loved?
  50. Could you each share with me what you admire about your partner?
  51. What are some of your strengths as a couple?
  52. How about the individual strengths of your partner?
  53. Tell me about your hopes for the future.
  54. If you were to wake up tomorrow, without the current challenges that you were facing, what would be different in your relationship?
  55. What changes do you think you’ll notice when you are making progress in counseling?
  56. Do you feel as though you have the same thoughts about raising children and discipline?
  57. Using one word, how would you describe your partner?
  58. Can you tell me about what you can do together that helps you feel connected?
  59. How often are you able to do enjoyable activities together?
  60. Can you tell me something about your relationship that you are grateful for?

Final Thoughts on Marriage Counseling Questions to Ask Clients

Thank you for dedicating time to review our marriage counseling session questions! Marriage counseling is an evolving field of psychotherapy, and it can have a profound influence on the satisfaction and overall well-being of married couples experiencing distress. Couples who engage in marriage counseling and later determine that they would like a divorce can use couples counseling to navigate the upcoming changes to their circumstances, especially if they will be co-parenting or continuing to share other responsibilities.

If you find yourself interested in learning more about Marriage Counseling, we encourage you to explore continuing education and other training opportunities within your respective niche.

TherapyByPro is an online mental health directory that connects mental health pros with clients in need. If you’re a mental health professional, you can Join our community and add your practice listing here. We have assessments, practice forms, and worksheet templates mental health professionals can use to streamline their practice. View all of our mental health forms, worksheet, and assessments here.


Kayla Loibl, MA, LMHC
Author: Kayla Loibl, MA, LMHC

Kayla is a Mental Health Counselor who earned her degree from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. She has provided psychotherapy in a residential treatment program and an outpatient addiction treatment facility in New York as well as an inpatient addiction rehab in Ontario, Canada. She has experience working with individuals living with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and trauma.

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