Marriage counseling and couples therapy are two popular suggestions for couples going through a rough time. Although a lot of people take them as two very similar processes, they actually are quite different.
Many of us tend to use marriage counseling and couples therapy interchangeably and there is a reason for this confusion.
Both marriage counseling and couples therapy are services offered to those who are dealing with stress in their relationship.
During the process, you will be required to sit down as a couple and talk to an expert or a licensed professional who has formal academic training about marriage or relationships in general. It may sound a little bit the same, but they are not.
When you look up the words “couples counseling” and “marriage therapy” in the dictionary, you will see that they fall under different definitions.
But let’s focus on this question: What really is the difference between marriage counseling and couple therapy? Get your answers to the question couples therapy vs marriage counseling – what is the difference?
Marriage counseling or couples counseling?
What does marriage counseling consist of?
Marriage Counseling helps couples handle the challenges of married life. The goal is to get the relationship back on track. It focuses on the ‘now’ and the issues faced by couples recurrently. Marriage counseling provides an opportunity for you to talk about your differences and compromises.
More than anything else, what counseling does is help both of you address your problems for a stronger and happier relationship.
Marriage counseling is also about helping the couple master the art of communication. Counseling can help mend the trust or rekindle the flame.
Does marriage counseling work? Yes, it is very effective as it’s about helping the couple cope up with the different kinds of stress experienced in the relationship.
Marriage counseling is usually a short-term focused treatment whereas therapies are a therapeutic process that can last several sessions.
One could even say that therapy for married couples encompasses counseling and this overlap is the reason why they are confused as one for the other.
What does couples therapy involve?
Marriage therapy, on the other hand, will require you to tackle your issues from the root. That means going back to your previous fights and arguments to find out where it all started.
What makes it unique from couples counseling is that it could go as far as addressing your individual and personal issues to understand the behavior you are showing in the relationship.
It is more about finding out the why’s rather than the how’s.
So, what is couples therapy? Therapy will answer the question “Why do we have these kinds of problems?” and make you realize what specific area of your relationship you should work on.
For example, a couple going through some hard times because one of them is ridden with illness might need to seek therapy to know how to properly deal with the situation.
This does not mean that only couples with problems of this level are accepted to go through therapy. You can also meet with a couples therapist to sort out compatibility issues and seek advice from someone who knows the best.
The problem is, there is a stigma attached to couples therapy. This stigma does not do any good.
Instead of seeking a solution, many couples tend to shy away from the treatment that they need. Instead of giving the relationship a chance to get better, many couples would decide not to go into therapy in fear of judgment from other people.
For them, it is the last resort when it should be one of the primary options.
Role of marriage counselor vs. couples therapist
What do marriage counselors do in a couples counseling session?
In marriage and relationship counseling, the counselor’s task is to hear out the problems and facilitate the discussion between the couples. As a mediator, the counselor allows the couple to conduct an organized method of communication.
As a matter of fact, a leader of your church can serve as your marriage counselor.
The role of the counselor involves being kind of the referee – avoiding the couple from speaking in unison, yelling at each other, and manifesting any kind of aggressive behavior towards the other.
With willingness and consent from both the parties, marriage and couples counseling can help the couple make new relationship rules to lessen arguments.
For example, if one of you has workaholic tendencies, the counselor could suggest not to bring work at home to focus on some family time.
The counselor could also help you set some boundaries. For instance, if one of you tends to go over your partner’s phone without asking permission, the counselor is most likely to suggest that you respect each other’s privacy by putting on phone locks if each party agrees to it.
Marriage counselors can be part of these decisions but it depends on certain factors.
For example, marriage counselors are experts but they must hold a state issued license in order to diagnose mental illness if it’s a big part of the problem in your relationship and some counselors do not always hold licences but can counsel.
Marriage or couples therapists, on the other hand, are trained and licensed to provide a full range of mental health services for any issue that’s affecting the relationship.
In therapy, couples psychologists can talk about your experience with depression and how it affects your behavior towards your partner.
However, they would still have to refer you to psychiatrists in case of a more serious finding.
Therapists have a very organized process when dealing with their clients. The treatment basically consists of four steps:
First step – Therapist will try to establish a focus on a particular problem. It could be issues relating to sex, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, infidelity, or jealousy.
Second step – Therapist will intervene actively to find a way to treat the relationship.
Third step – Therapist will lay down the objectives of the treatment.
Fourth step – Finally, together you will find a solution with an expectation that a behavior must be changed for the good during the process.
How much does couples therapy and couples counseling cost?
On an average, marriage counseling costs between $45 to $200 for every 45 minutes to an hour of the session.
With a marriage therapist, for every session of 45-50 minutes, the cost varies from $70 to $200.
If you are wondering, “how to find a marriage counselor?”, it would be a good idea to seek a referral from friends who have already attended couples counseling sessions with a marriage counselor. It would also be a good idea to look at therapist directories.
People also ask, “Does Tricare cover marriage counseling?” The answer to this is that it covers marriage counseling if the spouse is the one seeking treatment and the spouse gets a referral but the soldier does that when a mental health condition is required.
Both couples counseling for married couples and couples therapy deal with recognizing underlying relationship issues and resolving conflicts. They may not be exactly the same but both work for relationship improvement.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.