My husband and I attended pre-marital counseling before we got married. Finding the right counselor was a process. We attended a few sessions with one counselor and after a comment that I found offensive, we decided that he wasn’t the best fit (actually, I decided for us). After lots of research and phone calls, we finally found another counselor. I liked him a lot. My husband did, too.

After several weeks of counseling, we walked away feeling a lot more prepared for our walk down the aisle. We talked about issues we knew we needed to resolve and issues came up that we weren’t even aware of. There is no question that the decision to attend pre-marital counseling is one of the best decisions we ever made for our relationship.

Have we been back to counseling since? We haven’t. But it’s not because we don’t want to. It’s because we haven’t felt the need to. We’ve had our share of ups and downs, but the downs have never lasted long enough for either of us to bring up counseling. Trust me, we both agree that we would gladly go back if either of us sees the need.

The decision to go to counseling is an easy decision for some couples, but for many couples, it’s tough. Sometimes both parties are against counseling, while in some instances only one person refuses to go. Sometimes people won’t go because they are not convinced it will help. Sometimes people are stuck on the stigma associated with receiving counseling and they avoid it for that reason alone. And sometimes people just don’t know where to start, so not going seems a lot easier.

If you are dealing with challenges in your marriage and you aren’t sure where to start, check out these 4 things you need to know before you head to counseling.

Not all counselors are created equal.

It’s okay to ditch a counselor if they aren’t the right fit. All counselors are not created equal. Based on where they received their education, some counselors are much more equipped to handle diverse families than others. Some counselors are not very good at what they do (as is the case with every profession), and some counselors may rub you the wrong way. You really don’t need to provide an explanation for why you don’t want to return to someone. You just need to be wiling to keep looking until you find a marriage counselor that makes you and your spouse comfortable.

You can probably afford it.

Many people say they don’t go to marriage counseling because it’s too expensive, but that’s not a great reason. Many people have mental health coverage through their medical insurance policies and that coverage will often pay for marriage counseling. That’s how I paid for mine years ago. I think I paid our counselor a $15 co-pay for each session. Also, many counseling centers offer counseling based on a sliding fee scale, so the less you make, the less you pay. Finally, many churches offer marriage counseling at no cost.

Therapists aren’t magicians.

Please don’t expect a therapist to “fix” what’s wrong with your marriage. Even if you see a counselor, both people in the relationship have to be wiling to put in the work for change to occur in your relationship. Furthermore, counselors are trained to help you work through your issues, their job isn’t to “fix” whatever is wrong. If you are in a really unhealthy relationship, counseling may not be enough to repair the damage. Walk into any counseling experience with reasonable expectations and be ready to do some work.

It can change your life.

Counseling really can be life changing. You will never know unless you try it. Forget about what you think you know and just walk into it with an open mind. With the right counselor and two open minds, I think marriage counseling can help most couples significantly improve the quality of their relationships.