Couple’s Therapy vs. Marriage Counseling

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When partners encounter problems in their relationship, they might find themselves searching the web for “couple’s therapy vs. marriage counseling” or trying to figure out which one they need. What’s the difference? Are they not the same thing? 

There are some differences between couples therapy and marriage counseling. But both are options for partners experiencing difficulties. Continue reading to learn about definitions and examples of both, and how All Counseling can help make your search easier. 

Relationships Come with Challenges

Modern-day relationships come with their struggles. Each partner brings their challenges, and those become a part of their partner’s life. Trouble communicating, jealousy, disagreements about children or finances, and an endless array of other potential difficulties may arise in a relationship or marriage.

Some challenges can bring partners closer together. Others might cause conflict within the union. The goal of couple’s therapy and marriage counseling is to assist partners in developing tactics that facilitate growth within their relationship. 

Sometimes, partners come to therapy and decide that it’s best if the relationship ends. Couple’s therapists and marriage counselors don’t aim to keep the relationship going or break the relationship up. Instead, they aim to help the partners reach their goals, whatever those may be. 

What is Couple’s Therapy?

Couple’s therapy tends to be a longer-term form of help for partners experiencing challenges. In couple’s therapy, each partner examines their relationship patterns. Some therapists think that childhood relationships are critical to the way we develop future ties. 

For example, if parents or caregivers were neglectful, abusive, or unhealthy, that child may experience relationship difficulties in adulthood. A couple’s therapist might assist each partner in examining how their early relationships affect them.  

Couple’s therapy can help individuals confront and process wounds from previous relationships. 

Approaches a couple’s therapist might use include:

  • Emotionally Focused Therapy – Emotionally Focused Therapy focuses on helping you and a partner understand and repair any attachment bonds, so you can feel closer. Your EFT therapist will help you explore communication patterns that make you feel disconnected. They will help you develop empathic ways of communicating with each other, so you feel more connected.
  • Gottman Method of Couple’s Therapy – The Gottman Method Couples Therapy focuses on building “love maps.” These maps are details about your partner that can include their likes, dislikes, hopes, and dreams. Your Gottman therapist will help you establish fondness and admiration for one another. The focus is on taking a positive perspective and turning toward each other during the conflict, not away. Ultimately, you create a shared meaning of life with your partner. 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involves identifying negative patterns of thinking and understanding how these thoughts can affect behavior. For example, if you think, “My partner is always so cold and distant when I try to bring up something serious,” you might not bring up serious things. Avoiding these topics can lead to feelings of isolation and resentment. Your CBT therapist will help you identify these patterns and change them.

These are not the only approaches to couple’s therapy. All Counseling has a comprehensive list of counseling approaches to explore. Take some time reading about therapeutic approaches and discussing them with your therapist to find what’s best for you and a partner.

Ultimately, the focus of couple’s therapy is understanding the “why.” Why are we experiencing relationship conflict? Why don’t we feel as close as we used to? Couple’s therapy also includes concrete techniques and goals to help you and your partner feel closer. But the bulk of the work in couple’s therapy is discovering how each partner’s past impacts the way they relate within the partnership today.

What is Marriage Counseling?

Marriage counseling focuses more on the present moment than couple’s therapy does. Marriage counseling is for married partners. Whereas couple’s therapy can be for partners in any relationship. It focuses on providing tools and skills to address current issues and conflicts. 

Marriage counseling is typically shorter-term than couple’s therapy. But the length depends on the nature of the issues. Your marriage counselor might help you and your partner work on empathetic communication and listening skills.  

Could Your Relationship Benefit from Therapy?

There are many reasons partners seek therapy. Any reason you or your partner want to reach out to a mental health professional is valid. There are some common reasons why some partners seek therapy.

Reasons couples seek therapy include:

  • Looking for ways to improve relational health
  • Struggling to communicate
  • Broken trust
  • Ongoing conflict
  • Considering ending the relationship

Partners do not need to wait until their relationship is about to end before seeking therapy. You can seek help at any point in your relationship. 

Finding the Right Therapist for You

It can be nerve-wracking to find the right mental health professional for you. The process also can be confusing. You can find detailed information about mental health professionals in your area in our therapist directory. You can narrow your search by city, accreditation, approach to counseling, modality of therapy, and more. 

All Counseling wants to help you find the couple’s therapy or marriage counselor you need. Use our directory to locate a therapist who specializes in relationship issues.

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