Marriage Counseling Vs. Couples Therapy: What’s the Difference

Bride and groom happily married

Marriage and couples counseling overlap so much that it can be hard to notice the difference. Many in the industry use the words interchangeably, which can add to the confusion.

Marriage counseling tends to deal with present day events rather than the past. It focuses on the ‘now’ and the challenges of married life so that you can get your relationship back on track.

Couples therapy deals with the present day but also any history that causes unhealthy patterns of relating. You will look back on previous fights and arguments and get to the root of your problems and how it all started.

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What Is Marriage Counseling? 

According to Marriage Guardian, “Marriage counseling tends to deal with present events more than past events. Counselors provide advice and/or show you how to develop your own rational solutions. 

Many couples seek marriage counseling before the wedding. These types of marriage counseling techniques can ensure that partners are entering a relationship as strong and healthy as can be.

Communicating and learning conflict resolution skills, can make the biggest difference in whether or not your marriage will be a success.

Whether you seek counseling before or during your marriage is completely up to the individual. If you have any concerns, any time is a good time to seek professional help.

Marriage rates are on the decline. While it’s an oft-repeated statistic that 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, that number has remained unchanged for the past 30 years. 

What Is Couples Therapy?

Couple holding hands

Couples therapy techniques are similar to marriage counseling, but the problems dealt with have a history, creating unhealthy patterns of relating. Therapists look for the reasons behind the emotions that drive these patterns.

Couples therapy also deals with communication and how to resolve conflict. It can also cover issues such as substance abuse, infidelity and child-rearing conflicts. 

Couples therapy appointments can be done with both partners present or can be done individually.

Find Out If Marriage Counseling Or Couples Therapy Is Right For You.

How Do You Know If Your Relationship Needs Help?

Relationships can be a roller coaster, and no matter how long you have been in them, they are a work in progress. Maintaining a good marriage takes time and patience, and many times the help of a professional. 

Here are a few good reasons you may need marriage or couples counseling

  • You no longer have the ability to communicate easily.
  • One or both of you has had an affair.
  • You can no longer resolve differences.
  • You are only staying together for the sake of the children.
  • The only resolution you can see is separation.

The Goals of Marriage Counseling And Couples Therapy 

Like any type of therapy or counseling, the goal is usually the same: to help the person manage or overcome some type of emotional or psychological hindrance. 

Marriage Guardian is adamant that “…the goals in both can be the same, such as reduce conflict, change behavior, change your responses to your spouse’s behavior, find realistic and practical solutions, and empower you as a couple to make a terrific marriage.”

Therapists can help you alter how you and your partner relate to one another, and create healthier patterns for dealing with conflict and communication.

Expect to be prompted to talk openly and honestly about your relationship. You might be asked to speak about topics that could make you a bit uncomfortable, but it allows your therapist to get to the root of certain marital problems.  

The Timeline of Marriage Counseling and Couples Therapy Sessions

There is no real set timeline or deadline for completing marriage and couples counseling. The frequency of sessions depends on the couple themselves. 

“Around 30 percent of the couples coming into marriage counseling are mixed agenda couples,” says Bill Doherty, a professor in the family social science department at the University of Minnesota

Some couples may need more time with a professional than others. This in no way means a couple that stays in counseling longer has more issues. 

It simply means these couples may need more time to unpack roadblocks such as communication, intimacy, etc.

Marriage and Family Therapy New York

Relationships can bring us joy, but when there are communication or conflict resolution problems, that joy has the potential to turn into frustration and disappointment. 

We specialize in working with couples to help them find that joy again. 

Through the use of both short-term solution-focused therapy and deeper relational techniques, we guide clients to find the relationships they long for.

If you’re looking for a place that can provide you with the marriage counseling or couples therapy techniques to get your relationship back on track, look no further. 

North Brooklyn Marriage and Family Therapy have a plethora of professionals who are ready to tackle all of your marital and relationship issues.

Speak To A Professional Today.


How to find a good couples therapist?

Find a professional in your area and do some research on what they specialize in. It’s important to speak to them directly while ensuring that you ask all the right questions. It will be a matter of instinct as to whether or not this professional is right for you. Take your time.

Are counseling and therapy the same thing?

While they are often interchangeable terms, the two may vary for several reasons. Things like how they approach sessions to licenses and training. Sometimes the word counseling can mean short-term. It’s important to ask the right questions when contacting a professional in your area so that you can work with the right person.

What does marriage counseling consist of?

While every therapist’s process is different, sessions typically begin by covering informed consent rules, and then discussing the “why” of your attendance. This first session will include goals and desires, and deciding if individual sessions may also be important. There is no time-line for how long the sessions may continue. It could be weeks or months. You will want to be open, honest and of course patient.

What to look for in a marriage therapist?

It is important to find a marriage therapist who has specific training and is experienced in marriage and couples counseling. Asking the right questions is critical. Be sure your therapist can address the issues you need to sort out and that when you speak with them you feel comfortable, instinctively.