While in graduate school, Meredith Hansen, PsyD,
watched as many of her peers fell
in love and exchanged vows. But
not long into their marriages,
she noticed many of the couples
didn’t seem happy. “They weren’t
fully depressed, but they weren’t as
happy as you’d expect,” she recalls.
That observation led her to
write her dissertation on women’s expectations in the first year
of marriage, and then to obtain
additional training in relationship
counseling. In 2009, she launched
a couples-focused practice,
including premarital counseling
as one focus. “It seemed really
important to me to help couples
get set up and start off right in
their marriages,” says Hansen.
“Talking about things in advance,
getting on the same page, hear-
ing what each other’s needs and
expectations are—just having
those conversations, which a lot
of couples don’t necessarily have,
is really important.”
Research supports that belief.
A classic 2003 study in the jour-
nal Family Relations, for example,
found that couples who had
completed some form of premar-
ital counseling had a 30 percent
increase in marital satisfaction
compared with those who hadn’t
undergone such counseling.
Hansen offers her premarital counseling services in five
50-minute sessions at a reduced
rate from her standard counseling sessions. She works with
engaged couples on such topics
as their reasons for wanting to
marry, finances, in-laws, intimacy
and conflict resolution.
Her practice has been successful, in part because she does
work to bring clients in, promoting her services on Google
Ad Words as well as through
public speaking and bridal fairs.
She says engaged couples may
feel a stigma about such counseling—fearing that premarital
counseling implies that their
relationship is in trouble.
But even though premarital couples can be a difficult clientele to
reach, says Hansen, the work is
an attractive career niche because
the population tends to be excited
about the next step in their lives.
Also, such counseling employs
a lighter touch than traditional
couples counseling: Instead of
focusing on deeper psychological
issues that might be driving relationship problems, for instance,
premarital counseling is more
“tool-focused, skill-focused and
No Insurance Required
A VITAL, UNTAPPED NICHE
These practitioners help couples create happy, lasting unions
by offering guidance on conflict resolution and more
BY TORI DEANGELIS
strength-focused,” she says.
Because couples are so motivated, the work also produces
rapid, tangible results, she says.
“It’s fun to be in on that
ground level and teach them tools
to help them stay excited and see
the strength in their relationship,
even when they are a little uncertain or scared,” she says.
A LIFELONG JOURNEY
Susan Gamble, PsyD, also finds
premarital counseling gratifying
and even fun. “It can break up a
day filled with clients who have
anxiety, depression and conflicted
relationships, with people who
express love, joy and excitement,”
says Gamble, who devotes about
a quarter of her practices in Pasadena and Murieta, California,
to such counseling.
Like Hansen, Gamble offers
blocks of six or 12 sessions for a
fixed fee. In addition to addressing issues that couples raise,
Gamble focuses on such topics
as setting up a household and
budget, planning a family, sex
She also encourages couples
to discuss how their families
of origin handled holidays and
vacations, helping them consider
ways to intertwine their experiences to create their own new
Those most likely to seek
out and pay for such services
are young professionals, so she
tailors her marketing strategies
accordingly, offering weekend
and evening hours, for example.
Facebook is another good vehicle for reaching this group, she
says. Engaged couples also call
for a different office “look” than
traditional clients, Gamble notes.
This is the second
article in the
niches that don’t