Pre-Marital Counseling

Parent Q&A

  • Hi there! I saw a thread on BPN for pre-marital counselors, but the latest entries were about 6-10 years ago. I'm wondering if anyone has more recent recommendations on a great pre-marital counselor in the east bay who will focus with us on open communication (around finances, kids, disagreements, our families, etc) as we head into marriage. We don't have any glaring problems, just want to set aside time to really give this life step the attention it deserves. Also we are a real opposites attract situation, and we have about a 9 year age difference, which sometimes can create tension. Being able to talk through how to manage that would be helpful. Neither of us have had good experiences with counselors who sit back and don't offer much advice or facilitation - an active style would be better for us I think. Any recommendations are very much appreciated! Thanks so much!

    Anna Marie Franco is a wonderful couples counselor. She helped us develop tools for communication during our pre-engagement and engagement phase that we still use years (and 2 kids) later. She is wonderful as an active, hands-on facilitator. Very highly recommend. Website is and her email is relationshipsalive [at]

    Congrats on your engagement. My husband and I wanted to do a similar thing before we got married. I just wanted to share our experience in case it is helpful to you. We met with a marriage/family therapist and it wasn't very helpful as we didn't have specific issues to work through. I spoke with a couple others and it seemed like without a specific goal/objective it would have been hard to get a lot of concrete support this way.  So if you're just trying to do some pre-marital education work, you might find the therapist option to be a bit challenging, unless you can find someone who has a specific program/course for this.  What ultimately worked for us: we spent 3-4 months working through the topics in this book: 10 conversations you must have before you get married by Guy Grenier. The chapters are well-structured, he has great tips about how to communicate and work through conflict and meaningful suggestions about what to discuss to make sure you're on the same page. We recommend this book to every engaged couple we know.  Good luck!

    You might want to ask whoever is officiating your wedding.  Whenever I officiate a wedding, I always offer pre-marital counseling sessions if they couple would like them.  There are many pre-marital counseling curricula that exist in almost every religious tradition.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

See also: Couples Counseling
Jan 2010

I've been with my current boyfriend for 6 years, living together for 5. I'm currently 24 and he's 28 so we've basically grown up together. We've reached a point where we need to decide if we are going to make it official and take the next big step. Both us want to, but have hesitations for various reasons. Also we've both had major family crises this past year (life-threatening long term illness of a sibling, death of a parent) and so just recently started arguing due to all the stress, not exactly a romantic year to get engaged!! I've heard of pre-marital counseling and wonder if it would help to go to a few sessions...

Do any of you have good or bad experiences with pre-marital counseling and if so, know of any good counselors? Some topics I think we'd like to discuss are going back to grad school, sibling/parent in-laws, communication and stress management for life crises that come up. thanks! anon

My husband and I saw Sandy Steinman in Berkeley. His contact info is 526- 9699. We saw him for 2 years prior to getting married and then continued to see him when we needed it after getting married. He helped us develop great communication skills and coping strategies. He gives homework! I found him because he does great work with adult children of alcoholics (me) and has extensive background in working with addictions.

Our situation was vastly different than yours in some ways... we were older by more than 10 yrs. My husband had previously been married to a very, very difficult person and had many children with her. I definitely attribute the development of our abilities to communicate and understand and empathize and just BE with one another to the work we did with Sandy. We have been married for just about 12 years and have been through many, many major stresses... death of a parent, life-threatening cancers in another parent, bankruptcy, a few moves, adding 4 children of our own into the mix, experiencing profound loss in a few arenas, serious legal issues.... man, have we been through it!

We still love each other and are very much in love with each other. There are still difficult issues, but we are infinitely more able to cope with whatever is tossed our way.

I highly recommend him. Sending my best!

My now-wife and I went to four different therapists during our nine-year courtship. We found Aliyah Stein 848-5167, and we got married about a year after we started seeing her. We still see her on a less-frequent basis. Unlike other therapists, she will take time during a couple's session to dig into the background of one member to better understand a particular feeling that comes up. Then she asks the partner to be a source of support. She also teaches an assertiveness training course at Kaiser, that non members can attend inexpensively. We both took her course. She demonstrates how you can be both assertive and sweet. ...happily married
I recommend Cambria Lowe, very highly. (510)704-4002. She's been astute, helpful, gentle, understanding, validating, wise, easy to work with.

We've been seeing her on and off for several years, as a ''proactive'' measure, not because anything was wrong but so we could have some help building a strong relationship, and so we'd have a resource available if things did start to get difficult. Still Happily Married!

March 2008

Can anyone give current recommendations for a good, experienced pre-marital/marriage counselor? We are considering marriage but have some reservations. We also have somewhat tight budgets. Thanks for the help! anonymous

If you are looking to save some money, I know that a lot of local churches also offer marriage prep programs (usually in a weekly, class format) for engaged couples or those considering marriage. Something else to consider if resources are tight. Stu
Dec 2006

Does anyone have any experience with the following therapists? I'm looking for a pre-marital counselor and these providers are on my insurance list. Thanks!

Before you choose a therapist from your insurance list, make sure that your insurance will cover ''pre-marital'' counseling. Many insurance companies will only cover conditions that are deemed ''medically necessary,'' and I doubt that pre-marital counseling would qualify MK
May 2004

We are a young couple looking for a great pre-marital counselor. Our wedding date is less than 90 days away so we are kind of late getting started on this issue. We have been friends for a very long time and are looking for an opportunity to learn richer ways to communicate with one another and skills to help address any negative scripts/dialogue patterns we have established as ways of significantly enhancing our current relationship. We live in Berkeley, we're open to groups, weekend seminars or individual counseling. We are also open to programs that are religious in nature (Baptist or African Methodist). As is common my husband-to-be is less gung ho about this so it would be great to have a male therapist.

Betty Tharpe is a counselor/therapist/whatever-she-is my wife and I used for pre-maritial counseling. We liked her. She's located on Solano Ave in Albany. She recommends 6 or 8 weekly one-hour sessions. I don't remember her address or phone number, I do remember she's in the same building at MPR Financial (a mortgage broker).
I have two suggestions that you might want to look into. The first person is Adria Blum. She is a great counselor who you might be able to get into to see. The second individual is a mediator that I went to for pre- marital legal work, however, she is also great at just working back and forth between the two sides to sort of reach common ground. You might discuss the possiblity of her helping you come together to reach your desired goal.

Ruth Cohn MFT (Rockridge location) uses the approach you are looking for. I've worked with her in the past with a different method (Imago) and it was very helpful. anon
Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! We were referred to a premarital counselor, Ruth Cohn, in Rockridge who we really liked. I too had a reluctant fiance who initially didn't really see why this was a good thing to do but thankfully, he ended up liking Ruth (she wasn't too touchy feely for him). One of the most helpful things she did for us was providing a framework for helping us stop and truly listen (and get!) what the other person was trying to say. That might sound too simplistic but it's amazing how that part can be the primary source of misunderstanding! Her number is 510/653-6256. patrice
June 2003

My fiance & I are interested in couples counseling. This is a first for both of us and really would love any recommendations folks might have for therapists in San Francisco. I saw all the amazing recommendations for therapists in the East Bay and am hoping someone has some great recommendations for SF too!! Thank you so much.

We have a really fantastic couples counselor whom I've already recommended to several friends (after several friends recommended him to *us*!) and now we're all seeing him and everyone seems to think he's just terrific. Michael Baugh, LCSW LC 9324, Clinical Director, New Perspectives Center for Counseling, 650-756-1758. He has two offices where he sees patients, one out on Geary Blvd. and another down south (past Krispy Kreme). He's given us a safe place to sort out hot issues, and tools to argue and talk better, plus he has some background in child development and has interesting input about child-rearing issues. I can't say enough good stuff about the guy, we think he's just great (and so far, so does everyone else we've sent his way!). Saved By Counseling
my husband and i went to jeff meeker. he's sensitive, intuitive, and balanced. we saw him through some stressful times for about 12 sessions. he practices at networks counseling center on clement street near 19th ave. we learned communication skills that enhanced our relationship considerably. good luck
Several members of our family have worked with Nancy Novack, Ph.D., who is at 3669 Sacramento Street, San Francisco 94118. Phone is 415/383-3058. Tell her Ilene and Bob sent you! Ilene
I would recommend Naomi O'Keefe, her office is near Union Street. Her number is 415-441-2429. cassi
I can't say enough about Catherine Regan, PhD, the couples' counselor we saw a couple years ago. She really helped us get through some rough patches and we're now happily married with a baby. We've referred other friends to her, as well, who have also had excellent experiences. Her office is in the inner Sunset. Her number is 753-2661. Best of luck. It's hard work but so very worth it. Debbie
I highly recommend Rodney Shapiro, Ph.D. in SF (and Marin). He specializes in couples counseling. My husband and I have seen him on and off for about 5+ years, beginning when we lived in SF. He has helped us build a really strong and happy marriage. He is very down-to-earth and personable in his manner, (humor is a regular part of our sessions), and offers concrete suggestions that can help.

We are seeing him now again, and travel to Marin to do so, which is easier from Berkeley than going into the City. He practices at Networks Counseling Center on Clement at about 11th street (an unrelated bonus: you can have a good asian dinner before/after at one of the restaurants in the neighborhood). He can be reached at 415-386-4545. Glad to Have Found a Good Shrink!

My husband and I found a wonderful San Francisco therapist when we were engaged eleven years ago--Dr. Norman Sohn, 415-563-8276, located on Sacramento Street. Dr. Sohn is remarkable, and I HIGHLY recommend him. He worked wonders for us, opening the lines of communication more fully and getting us to really understand why we were experiencing various issues in our relationship. We still see him occasionally now for what we call ''fine tuning''. Best of luck to you! Been There, Happily Married
Denise Capra Young helped me during various difficult periods up to my marriage. She is not a touchy feely counselor. She is a very careful and skilled listener. She's also very smart: She immediately clued into my sneaky ways of avoiding intimacy and styled her approach in an appropriate manner. I do recommend selecting a counselor with a lot of experience if you can afford it. Good luck with whomever you choose- Chris