Couples counseling, also known as marriage counseling, is a type of counseling for intimate partners. It involves the exploration of any conflict between partners, is often short-term, and focuses on specific issues. Other goals of couples counseling are to improve communication and interactions, and to strengthen relationships.
Couples counseling is sometimes referred to as couples therapy or marriage therapy, but the terms “therapy” and “counseling” are actually different.
What is couples therapy?
Couples therapy is treatment by the same therapist for two people in a relationship who are dealing with issues that affect the relationship.
Couples counseling vs couples therapy
“Counseling” and “therapy” are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are some differences in meaning between the two.
Therapy (also known as psychotherapy or talk therapy) is used to treat mental health issues or patterns of dysfunctional behavior, thoughts, or emotions. In couples therapy, the process can address a condition such as anxiety or depression in one or both partners and how that condition affects the relationship. Couples counseling, on the other hand, tends to focus more on relationship challenges such as balancing responsibilities and future expectations.
Couples therapy and couples counseling can help improve communication and interactions between partners and strengthen the relationship.
Couples counseling tends to be short term, while therapy can be longer term. Counseling is usually more focused on the present and making adjustments to overcome current issues while looking to the future, and therapy may explore the past more to make adjustments for the benefit of the present and the future.
Despite the differences, there is a lot of overlap between the two and professionals all work differently. For example, some mental health professionals offer both counseling and therapy.
What is couples counseling for?
Couples counseling can address a wide variety of issues related to intimate partner relationships. These could be specific relationship challenges, such as arguing or having different plans for the future, or a partner’s issues that affect the relationship as a whole, such as unemployment. Additionally, couples counseling is an option for couples who do not have specific issues to address but want to strengthen their relationship.
What is couples counseling for?
Couples counseling can focus on one or more of the following:
- Dependence or drug addiction
- Adoption or blended family challenges
- Anger management
- Anxiety and stress
- Arguments, disagreements or fights
- Communication problems
- Different expectations or desires for the future
- Future planning
- Problems of infidelity or loyalty
- Infertility or the decision to have children
- Life transitions
- Mental health challenges
- Parental conflicts
- Relationship building and bonging
- liability disagreements
- Sexual difficulties
- Unemployment or financial hardship
Couples counseling involves conversations between romantic partners and a professional providing counseling. They will usually discuss a specific problem or question that is the reason for seeking advice, as well as goals for working together. The process then involves learning strategies and skills to improve the relationship, such as communication skills, problem-solving skills, and strategies for discussing differences and overcoming problems together.
Is couple counseling always done together?
Each partner can speak individually with the professional counselor before meeting. Depending on the situation, counseling and talk therapy can be undertaken together.
Professionals who practice it
Couples counseling can be provided by licensed professional counselors and other mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and clinical social workers. It is also provided by religious and spiritual leaders, including pastors, ministers, priests, rabbis and chaplains.
Requirements for counselors and other mental health professionals vary by state. This means that the services provided by mental health professionals, including counseling and therapy, may be different depending on state education and licensing requirements.
There are different approaches to couples counseling. The approach used may depend on the couple, their challenges and goals, and the training of the provider. In addition, several approaches can be used with the same couple or in the same session.
Types of couples counseling
- A behavioral approach counseling takes into account the environment and how it reinforces or influences thoughts and behaviors to guide changes that benefit the couple.
- A humanist approach For couples, counseling focuses on realizing the uniqueness of individuals to achieve their goals.
- a integrative approach Couples counseling uses several methods to meet the needs of the couple and the situation.
- A psychodynamic approach for couples, counseling takes into account the influences of the past to raise awareness of the dynamics that have an impact on the couple in the present in order to facilitate change.
How to prepare
The first step in preparing for couples counseling is finding a mental health professional. Primary care physicians, family physicians, insurance providers, friends and family may be able to provide referrals or recommendations. It’s a good idea to ask questions when you make your first date.
Questions to ask before the first meeting
- What can I expect on the first date?
- Is the first session reserved for both partners or for one person?
- What should I / us bring?
- Are there any forms to fill out before the first appointment?
If you plan to use your insurance to pay for some or all of your advice, check with your insurer to find out what types of services are covered and who your network providers are.
While couples counseling is not a guarantee that the relationship will last, many couples find benefits that help them resolve their issues and strengthen their relationships. Intimate partners can establish or develop better communication, honesty and trust, which are the foundations of healthy relationships.
In addition, couple counseling can help improve feelings of security in the relationship, increase the positive feelings partners have for each other, allow couples to cooperate with each other, reduce stress. and to provide the couple with the tools to overcome future challenges together.
A word from Verywell
Relationships can be difficult even when both partners are fully engaged and have the best of intentions. If you and your partner are going through a phase with heightened problems or struggles, or even just want to strengthen your relationship with each other, you may benefit from couples therapy.
Contact a mental health professional who specializes in couples counseling to find out if they offer support for the specific challenges you and your partner are facing. If your partner is unwilling to ask for help, you can get relationship support on your own.