Couples Therapy vs. Marriage Counseling: What Is the Difference?
When trouble is brewing in paradise, help is often required to get past this moment. The most common helpers are couples therapists and marriage counselors. On average, 49% of couples opt for marriage counseling at some point, improving the quality of their marriage.
The problem is that while marriage counselors and couples therapists have a similar purpose, there are some differences between them. Depending on your issues, a couples therapist may not always be a good choice for you. You need to know the differences between the two so that you can make the right choice.
What Is Marriage Counseling?
Marriage counseling, as the name suggests, represents “counsel” for a couple’s present issues. The purpose of the marriage counselor is to offer advice to the patients and to teach them how to find solutions to potential problems. In other words, marriage counseling teaches them how to make the marriage work.
Many people who get married today agree to go through with at least one marriage counseling session before taking their vows. It even shows that couples who had this sort of counseling had a 30% higher marriage success rate. This is because marriage counseling doesn’t necessarily dwell on the past but more on the present and how it can affect the future.
What Is Couples Therapy?
Unlike marriage counseling, couples therapy doesn’t just focus on present events. This type of therapy analyzes the history of the problems, as past events can create an unhealthy pattern. Past traumas can lead to a dysfunctional relationship, which couples therapy can help resolve.
In couples therapy, communication is one of the main issues addressed, along with how to solve a potential problem. It may also cover issues such as infidelity, substance abuse, or other problems that affected you in the past. Unlike marriage counseling which usually involves both partners, couples therapy may also include individual sessions.
Where Couples Therapy & Marriage Counseling Differ
Marriage counseling and couples therapy do share some similarities, but there are some key differences to keep in mind as well. These can include the following:
1. Starting Point
Couples therapy is often chosen when a couple, married or not, is going through relationship problems that they want to fix. It helps couples narrow down the “why” of a problem so that they can find a solution. This can be a big problem, such as infidelity and trust issues, or small problems such as horoscope quarrels.
On the other hand, marriage counseling is not necessarily about fixing problems. The couple may just want to prepare for potential challenges that they may face in the future. Many couples even opt for pre-marital counseling before they exchange vows, as their state requires it.
Marriage counseling is a fairly short treatment, requiring only a few sessions. The number is decided based on the objectives that you want to meet. On the opposite, couples therapy is a much bigger commitment—usually based on the couple’s distress level. Some couples may go through more than 20 sessions of couples therapy and still be unable to find their way back to each other.
The purpose of marriage counseling is to educate the couple and create a strong foundation for their marriage. The counselor will teach general communication skills to their patients and discuss present events so that they may have a successful and empowered marriage in the future.
Couples therapy aims to understand the triggers that cause friction in a marriage. It goes through coping skills and addresses a certain pattern, therefore improving the feeling of happiness. Couples therapy also aims to increase empathy levels, both towards yourself and your partner.
As a form of treatment, marriage counseling is not necessarily very personal. As it mostly involves present events, it doesn’t require digging into the past. It only looks at present, visible issues that may or may not be a problem in the future. It also coaches couples on specific skills necessary for a successful marriage, such as finding compromises or resolving conflicts.
Couples therapy is deeper than that, as it goes straight to the root of the problem. Unlike marriage counseling which takes a more general approach, couples therapy is tailored mostly to the couple. For this reason, the therapist must have more experience in dealing with their patients.
The Bottom Line
As a married or soon-to-be-married couple, you can opt for both marriage counseling and couples therapy. However, the choice will depend on the problems you are facing. If you only need some advice on how to make a marriage work, marriage counseling is enough. If you are going through couple problems influenced by past actions, then a couples therapist may be a better solution.