Marriage Counseling FAQs

Marriage counseling FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Couples & Marriage Counseling in Orange County with Dr. Kathy Nickerson.

If I need relationship counseling, does it mean I'm weak or something's wrong with me? Shouldn't I be able to figure out my problems on my own?
No, not at all. The people I take care of are smart, creative, resourceful, caring people who just want to learn how to do things differently. They are CEOs, community leaders, teachers, doctors, moms, business owners, contractors, and dads. They are people like you! There is nothing wrong with them, they just want a little expert guidance. It turns out that it is really hard to figure out how to fix your marriage when you are in the marriage. Because you are emotionally involved in the relationship, you can't see things objectively. This doesn't mean that anything is wrong with you, it just means that you are too close to the situation to see it clearly. As a wise person once told me, you can't read the soup label from inside the can. You are inside the soup can and you need a way to get a clear and objective perspective on your problems. I'm here to help you do just that.

How do I know if I need couples counseling?
You will benefit from counseling if you've hit a bump in the road of your relationship and you don't know what to do to make it better. Or you've tried some things to make it better and it isn't getting better. Most of the couples I take care of are dealing with one or more of these common relationship problems:

  • Frequent fighting
  • Feeling unheard or misunderstood
  • Having the same fight again and again with no progress
  • Recovering from an affair
  • Rebuilding trust after an affair
  • Understanding why an affair happened
  • Restoring intimacy and closeness after an affair
  • Increasing friendship and connection in their marriage
  • Bringing more happiness and positivity to their marriage

Is it ok for me to come alone to the first session?
Yes, it is fine for you to come alone to the first session. Some people would like to have an individual session before their first couples session. This absolutely fine. My only request is that you run this plan by your spouse, so he or she feels included in your decision from the beginning.

What if my partner doesn't want to come to counseling?
This is actually very common. While I'd love to see you and your spouse together, if only one of you is open to counseling right now, that is fine. I am happy to work with you individually to discuss what you can do to make your marriage stronger. There's a lot you can do to make it better on your own and often, when things start getting better, your spouse will open up to the idea of coming in for some help too.

What can we expect from couples counseling?
You can expect to feel comfortable and safe within a supportive, non-judgmental environment. You will not be blamed, criticized, or "beaten up." Rather, you will be heard and respected for your thoughts and perspective. You can both expect to get feedback from me on how to improve your relationship. I typically give guidance to each of you on what you can do differently to make the relationship stronger and more positive. I will specifically coach you on:

  • how to talk to each other
  • how to fight fairly
  • how to resolve conflicts
  • how to build and increase trust
  • how to increase closeness and connection
  • how to bring love and passion back to the marriage
  • how to increase positivity
  • how to improve the quality time you spend together
  • how to prevent your relationship from getting in a bad spot
  • how to handle problem areas - like affairs, addictions, parenting issues, trust issues, and other

What specific kind of relationship therapy do you do?
Through the years, I've found that a blend of therapeutic approaches delivers the best and fastest results to my clients. My goal is to help you  improve your marriage and get back to "life as usual" as fast as possible. To do this, I use a custom blend of the following techniques: Gottman Marriage Counseling Therapy, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Positive Psychology and Humanistic Therapy.

What happens in the first marriage counseling session?
While every couple is unique, I start with the following agenda for the first meeting with a new couple: 

(1) Quick History: I'd like to get a little history on your life together. How long have you been together? How did you meet and fall in love? What's happened since you got married? How would you describe your life together in the last couple of years?

(2) Overview of Current Problems: What's going on now? What made you decide to come in for therapy now? What is your perspective on your relationship problems? What have you tried to make things better?

(3)  Therapy Wishlist:  What are you wishing for? What are you craving or longing for in this relationship?

(4) Sample Conversation Exercise: this is an exercise where I ask the two of you to talk to each other as you would at home (i.e.,pretend I am not in the room), so I can get a sense of how you communicate.

(5) Feedback and Homework: I give everyone a packet of helpful handouts that cover communication basics, how relationships heal, and some reading recommendations. I will also give you  some fun and easy homework to help you continue healing your relationship at home.

How much does therapy cost?
Please click here for our current price list.

How many sessions will I need?
That is really up to you and it depends on your goals. Some couples want to come in 1-2 times for an evaluation and to get some advice on what to do to make things better. Others prefer to have a little more help and choose to come in weekly for 6-8 weeks. Some have experienced a serious issue or severe trauma and choose to invest in intensive counseling for a few months. My goal is always to get you better as fast as possible. I encourage you to do as much work on your relationship on your own as you can; I am best used for consultation when you reach a point where you don't know what to do next or have hit a wall.

Do you take insurance?
I am an out-of-network provider for nearly all PPOs and HMOs. This means that your insurance company MAY reimburse you for all or some of my fee. If you would like to use your insurance, please contact your insurance company and ask what coverage you have to see an "out-of-network provider." They will tell you what your coverage is. If possible, ask them to email you a copy of your coverage so that you can use this when you submit superbills to them in the future for reimbursement.

How does it work if I want to use my insurance benefits for marriage counseling?
Once you have confirmation from your insurance company that they will cover couples counseling, please let my office manager, Erla, know that you'd like to use your insurance benefits and will need a superbill. I will then see you for your session and at the end of the session, you will be responsible for payment. We will then email you a superbill that you can print and send directly to your insurance company. Your insurance company will then reimburse you at the rate they discussed with you when you called them.

Some marriage counselors don't take insurance, why?
It's true, many therapists do not take health care insurance and there are several reasons why. Insurance companies require therapists to give you a mental disorder diagnosis in order to pay for your counseling. Most people don't have a mental disorder, so many therapists feel it is unethical to give them a diagnosis. Insurance companies also put profound restrictions on what types of services they will cover, many do not cover marriage counseling or family counseling. Insurance companies also regulate how many sessions you may have, what types of treatment you should have in those sessions, and the companies often reserve the right to review your medical record. Most therapists find these practices to be very inappropriate. A final reason why many therapists decline to take insurance is because the diagnosis they are required to give you becomes a permanent part of your medical record and that medical record may be accessed by anyone who has the legal right to see it. This severely jeopardizes your confidentiality. I'm happy to chat with you further about this if you'd like to know more, just ask me.

What are your office hours?
Our office hours are by appointment. The first appointment of the day is at 11am, the last is at 7pm. If you have a complicated schedule, don't worry, just call or email us to see what time we can work out for you.

Where is the office?
My office is nestled in the historic eucalyptus grove in Lake Forest, California and provides a very private, calm, relaxed setting for couples wanting to rebuild their relationships. Exact driving directions will be provided when you make an appointment.

How do I make an appointment?
You can make an appointment by calling the office at 949-500-0546 or click here to schedule online.

What if I need to cancel my appointment?
That is fine. Just give us a call at 949-500-0546 and we'll happily cancel or reschedule your appointment with no charge, provided you give us at least 24 hours notice. If it's an emergency or you are ill, we will give you "store credit" to use for your next session. All other missed or cancelled appointments will be billed at full fee.