15 Signs of a Bad Marriage Counselor (& How to Find a Good One)

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Marriage counseling can be a valuable resource for couples who are facing difficulties in their relationship.

However, the effectiveness of this process largely depends on the quality of the counselor you and your partner choose to work with.

In this article, we’ll discuss signs that may indicate you’ve got a bad marriage counselor, as well as how to find a good marriage counselor you can trust.

Here’s a brief summary of the main signs of a bad marriage counselor:

  • Being overly involved or completely ineffective
  • Lack of empathy or neutrality
  • Inadequate communication and listening skills
  • One-size-fits-all approach
  • Ignoring ethical boundaries

If a bad therapist has made you give up hope, there’s a different kind of program for couples who want to get away from the typical marriage therapy methods (that don’t work for everyone).

It’s called the Save The Marriage Program by Dr. Lee Baucom, and you can get started from home now.

Click the link above, or learn how to catch the signs that a marriage therapist is a bad one below.

Signs of a Bad Marriage Counselor

When you seek marriage counseling, it’s essential to identify the traits that make a bad counselor to avoid investing time and energy in the wrong professional.

Because the fact is, working with a bad therapist could ultimately hinder your progress toward healing and growth in your relationship.

Here are the major red flags you should look out for.

Read Next: How to Save Your Marriage

Your therapist doesn’t suggest tangible changes in your daily lives

frustrated couple arguing on a couch with a quote about marriage counselors needing to offer actionable advice to help your marriage

A good counselor should provide practical guidance for couples to implement in their daily lives.

They shouldn’t be just sitting back and nodding their heads, then vaguely talking about making progress at the end of a session.

If your counselor fails to offer actionable advice, then their services are not very helpful to you.

Poor listening skills

Effective counseling requires active listening.

Marriage counselors who consistently interrupt or talk over you may not be genuinely invested in helping you and your spouse.

They may do all the talking and not let you really explain yourself, or they may just be bad at listening and frequently miss your point.

Either way, this is not what you signed up for and it can unfortunately lead to failed couples therapy.

Lack of empathy

Empathy is vital for any therapist.

A counselor who struggles to understand your feelings and emotions cannot effectively guide you through your problems.

You may be surprised that any therapist would lack empathy, but it does happen and it’s important to be aware of it so you don’t question your own experience.

Your therapist jumps to take sides

husband and wife ignoring each other on a couch with a quote about how a marriage counselor taking sides can create resentment and conflict

A counselor should remain neutral and unbiased.

Yet this is easier said than done.

Taking sides can create additional resentment and escalate conflicts.

Marriage counselors should be wary of resorting to blaming or taking one spouse’s perspective based on sexism, their own experiences or any number of biases.

They won’t take a stand at all

While neutrality is crucial, a counselor should also assert their professional opinions when needed.

A therapist who is overly passive might not be helpful at all in resolving conflicts.

That’s the whole reason you started couples therapy, isn’t it?

They don’t challenge you to take responsibility

One of the main goals of therapy is to assist each partner in being accountable for their role in the relationship’s difficulties.

A good therapist knows there’s more to most marital problems than meets the eye and will take the time to help you understand how your relationship dynamics play a part.

But if your counselor fails to challenge you, this might stall your progress as a couple.

They sit back while you argue in therapy sessions

husband and wife arguing in couples therapy with a quote about an ineffective marriage counselor not stopping the fighting

Arguments during therapy may sometimes be expected.

However, they shouldn’t dominate sessions.

A bad counselor won’t intervene or guide the conversation toward constructive outcomes.

Otherwise, you may as well just argue at home.

Read Also: Reasons Not to Give Up on Marriage

Unprofessional behavior

Don’t be afraid to call a couples therapist out on unprofessional behaviors.

Examples of unprofessional behavior include:

  • Frequent tardiness and not respecting appointment times
  • Sharing inappropriate personal information
  • Venting to you about their own issues
  • Arguing with you or disrespecting you

If your marriage therapist is not living up to their professional credentials, then they’re not good for you. Period.

Taking a cookie-cutter approach

A couples therapist who hands you a marriage prescription based on what they think works for every marriage is not working for you.

They are working for a system.

If they frequently use language like “all marriages” and make it seem like there’s a fast, easy fix based on some sort of relationship mold you fit into, beware.

They make sweeping judgments before meeting your spouse

Judging your relationship prematurely can damage trust and rapport.

A competent counselor will gather information from both partners before drawing any conclusions.

They will not diagnose your spouse from their chair without ever meeting them and push you to adopt certain views of your partner.

Again, a good couples therapist should be more objective and try to gather the whole picture with both partners’ perspectives, if possible.

Not understanding the nuances of your relationship

couple in marriage counseling with a therapist holding a clipboard that says broken marriage and a quote about a bad marriage therapist not trying to understand your relationship

Every relationship is unique.

A skilled therapist should recognize and accommodate the specific needs and issues of your relationship.

A marriage therapist should never be lazy about trying to understand your relationship.

If you feel they’re just not understanding—or attempting to understand—what’s underneath the surface of your issues, listen to your gut.

It might be telling you an important truth.

Your therapist is a poor communicator

Do you often find yourself not understanding your therapist?

Do you come away from counseling sessions feeling fuzzy on what they were talking about, and feeling lost when you get home on what you’re supposed to do now?

That’s a sign that the couples therapy has little value due to a therapist using too much jargon or otherwise not being clear enough.

They need to be able to simplify and break down their marriage strategies for you to be able to use them.

Lack of experience and credentials

Inexperienced counselors may not have the skills needed to help you and your spouse reach your marriage goals.

Now, that’s not to say that experienced professionals can’t be bad at their jobs.

But many times, inexperienced counselors lack the practical know-how to tailor their approaches and pivot when necessary.

Providing ineffective communication strategies

camera shot of a couple communicating on a couch from above with a quote about how couples counselors should facilitate effective communication in marriage

Couples counselors should facilitate effective communication between partners.

If your therapist struggles to promote productive dialogue, it could hinder your progress inside or outside of therapy sessions.

But considering that communication is a huge reasons why many couples land in the therapy process together, it’s pretty important that your therapist attempts to teach you and your spouse to express yourselves in a healthy and constructive way.

Ignoring cultural and personal differences

Attention to cultural and personal factors should be fundamental in therapy.

Your counselor should respect and acknowledge these differences to provide appropriate guidance.

They may not always mean to ignore them, but if you’ve made mention and they make no changes, it’s time to find a new therapist.

Inability to establish trust

A strong therapeutic relationship is built on trust.

This is how you come to confide in them and feel confident about the advice they give you, knowing they are acting professionally and in your relationship’s best interest.

If you cannot trust your counselor, it may be a sign that they’re not the right fit for you and your spouse.

Don’t let a bad experience with marriage counselors hinder your relationship progress—check out Save The Marriage by Dr. Lee Baucom if you need help now.

How Do You Know If a Marriage Counselor Is Good?

Here are some important qualities a good marriage counselor has:

  • They focus on the relationship, not the individual – A family therapist or marriage counselor who pits one partner’s needs and perspectives against the other’s misses the ultimate goal of the marriage counseling, which is to mend the relationship – This is why a good marriage counselor will focus on ways to repair the marriage and put the relationship itself at the center of the therapy process.
  • They help you relearn how to relate to each other – A successful relationship requires that two people know how to relate to each other in healthy ways. This means shifting their attitudes, perspectives, communication and treatment of one another.

couple in marriage counseling with a quote about a good marriage therapist making a couple feel comfortable

  • The marriage counselor will create a unique plan for your marriage – Marriage therapy should be customized according to the dynamics and needs of each individual relationship. A good marriage therapist will listen and learn from you first in order to give you the greatest benefit.
  • They make you feel heard – It’s essential that you feel comfortable and safe discussing your relationship with your therapist. A good therapist is well-versed in knowing how to establish trust and rapport. They will make you feel heard, seen and understood, helping to build your confidence in their ability to guide your marriage.
  • You feel clear-headed, hopeful and empowered – Rest assured, if you’re walking out of therapy sessions feeling confused and hopeless, they’re probably not going to work. A good therapy session leaves you feeling like you understand your situation better and that you have clear instructions on what you need to work on.
  • Approach and techniques – Professional counselors use evidence-based methods tailored to the couple’s needs. They utilize current research and don’t fall back on outdated methods of marriage counseling or superficial trends to try to repair the relationship.

Keep in mind that the effectiveness of marriage counseling can be influenced by the quality and skill of the counselor, the willingness and motivation of both partners to work on their relationship and the compatibility between the therapist’s approach and the couple’s needs.

How Do You Evaluate a Marriage Counselor?

When looking for a marriage counselor, you need to have peace of mind that they have certain qualifications.

Here are key factors to consider:

  • Credentials and experience – Ensure the counselor has the necessary qualifications and licenses to practice. Also, look for someone with experience in the issues you want to address (communication, infidelity, etc.).
  • Therapeutic approach – Understand their counseling methods and principles. There are different counseling styles and techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, solution-focused therapy or emotion-focused therapy. Make sure their approach aligns with your needs and preferences.
  • Initial consultation – Often, a marriage counselor is willing to offer a free initial consultation, where you can get a sense of their personality, approach and rapport. This can be quite valuable to you in evaluating a therapist beyond what you read on paper.
  • Compatibility – It’s crucial that the counselor is unbiased and fosters a comfortable environment for both partners. Assess how well you and your spouse can communicate with the counselor during the initial consultation.
  • Comfort – If, for whatever reason, you don’t feel good with a therapist, they may not be a great pick for you. This is despite their qualifications and experience.
  • Availability and cost – Evaluate their availability times and session frequency to ensure it works with your schedule. Also, consider the cost per session and any insurance coverage you may have.
  • Recommendations and reviews – Consider seeking referrals from trusted sources, such as friends, family or healthcare professionals. Also, you may want to read testimonials or reviews online to learn about the counselor’s reputation.

Bottom line: When assessing a marriage counselor, take your time, ask relevant questions and do research.

Talking with other couples who have had a positive experience or reading reviews online can offer additional insights.

Remember, the right counselor can make all the difference in the success of your therapy journey.


Choosing the right marriage counselor can be a make-or-break decision when it comes to fixing your relationship.

Recognizing the signs of a bad marriage counselor can help couples make informed decisions and avoid worsening their problems.

By identifying the red flags talked about throughout this article and seeking a counselor who exhibits empathy, professionalism and competence, you’ll have the opportunity to really work on your relationship in a productive and supportive environment.


Can couples therapy make things better?

Yes, couples therapy can improve relationships when both partners are committed and make an effort to change.

A skilled marriage counselor can help identify underlying issues, teach communication skills and facilitate conflict resolution.

However, you’ll need to find the best counselor for your needs.

For what reason is marriage counseling not successful?

Marriage counseling may not be successful for several reasons:

  • Unwillingness of one or both partners to participate fully in the process
  • Poorly qualified or unprofessional counselor
  • Unrealistic expectations or lack of patience for progress
  • Failure to address individual issues that impact the relationship

How do you know when marriage counseling isn’t working?

These are some signs that may indicate marriage counseling is not working:

  • No improvement in communication, understanding or empathy between partners
  • Feeling worse or more stressed after sessions
  • Consistent focus on blame instead of problem-solving
  • Lack of progress in addressing individual or relationship issues

What not to say to a marriage counselor?

There are a few things you might not want to say to your marriage counselor, such as:

  • “Can you keep this secret for me?” – Marriage counselors are there to help your relationship survive and thrive, not keep secrets from each other. The exception is when there is abuse involved and a marriage counselor is trying to get you help without alerting the abuser and putting you in a worse situation.
  • “Can we cut to the chase?” – The therapy session should dive deeper into your marital relationship issues and solve them properly, not give you a ready-made outcome on the spot.
  • “If this doesn’t work today, I’m not coming back.” – Couples therapy is not a magic bullet. If you expect it to fix your relationship in one session, it’s probably not for you.
  • “It’s all my partner’s fault.” – It’s rarely the case that one spouse bears all the responsibility. Allow your therapist to do what they do and help you and your spouse gain equal footing both in accountability and conflict resolution.

How do you know when your marriage is done?

Signs your marriage is over include:

  • Not getting or giving respect to your spouse
  • Having no desire to fix the issues
  • Giving up on trying
  • Already leading separate lives
  • Having incompatible needs and desires in a relationship

Recommended Reading: How Do I Know If My Marriage Is Over?

Do marriage counselors ever advise to break up?

In most cases, no.

At least, they generally won’t.

In most other cases, therapists try to remain neutral and let their clients come to their own conclusions about breakups.

But sometimes a therapist will advise that one partner should leave the other if there is, for example, physical abuse.

If one partner is in danger, then a therapist will do everything in their power to get them out of a bad situation.

Should you tell your counselor everything?

Yes, you should tell your counselor everything.

The more mental health professionals know, they better able they are to assist you.

Withholding information may impact the therapy outcome and essentially make it so that you’re wasting your time and money.

When to give up on marriage counseling

There is no set time or rule about when to give up on marriage counseling.

However, it’s good to be aware that marriage counseling won’t work if both partners aren’t in it as a team.

If you or your partner has checked out of the marriage, no therapist can make you want to do the work it takes to save the marriage.

It’s also possible that you haven’t find the right marriage counselor for your specific problems and comfort level.

Consider, too, that you may need individual therapy rather than marriage therapy at this time.

If you believe marriage counseling isn’t working for you and you want to try something different, we recommend starting with Dr. Lee Baucom’s Save The Marriage Program.

It will guide you to change how you and your spouse relate to each other to rebuild a successful relationship with practical techniques and suggested activities.

Check out Save The Marriage here.

Marlene Davis is an experienced blogger with a focus on interpersonal relationships. Her dream is to help improve people's lives and relationships through sharing of practical knowledge and evidence-based practices.