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What Is The Difference Between Marriage Counselling and Relationship Coaching?

Updated: Nov 19, 2022

What Is The Difference Between Marriage Counselling and Relationship Coaching?

Reaching out for help for your marriage takes courage and vulnerability.

It is one of the hardest things we have to do. There are so many fears underneath that decision to get help. What if it doesn't help? What if things get worse? What if it is too painful? What if my partner won't go with me? I don't know what else to do!

The truth is that deciding to go to a professional to improve your relationship could be the deciding factor as to whether your marriage or relationship stays together. It is therefore imperative that you choose a professional that is right for you, your partner and your marriage.

So what should you take into account when you are looking for that suitable person that can truly guide your marriage away from the rocks and back onto a smooth path?

Firstly, you can decide if Marriage counselling or Relationship Coaching is more suitable for you.

Most people in the UK naturally seek out Marriage counselling as marriage counselling is widely known, it has been around for a long time and most people have heard of it. However, not many people share their experiences of Marriage counselling with friends or family as it is a very personal and private experience. Therefore, many couples start the Marriage counselling process having no experience of what it entails or how, or if, it could help them. This can give them a feeling of heightened vulnerability as they don't really know if it is the best step for them to take.

Relationship coaching is much less well known in the UK. In some countries however, it is as well known as counselling or therapy. Most couples do not know that Relationship or Marriage coaching is a pro-active, fast and effective alternative to counselling or if, why or how it could be more suitable for them. Coaching is quickly being recognised as an empowering way to achieve what you want in life. Relationship coaching can address any relationships you have in your life, however, if you are a couple seeking help for your marriage, it is advisable to work with a coach who specialises in working with couples.

To be truthful, I am a coach, and I have an unwavering belief in the accelerated results that can come from coaching. However, counselling can be more suitable for some couples so I thought I would share with you:

The commonalities of Marriage counselling and Relationship coaching

The differences between Marriage counselling and Relationship coaching

In which circumstances Marriage counselling may suit you better

What do Marriage counselling and Relationship coaching have in common?

Marriage counselling and relationship coaching have a shared purpose of helping you to improve your relationship.

Marriage counselling and Relationship coaching both can be offered to couples who are married or living as a couple.

Marriage counselling and relationship coaching are both confidential and have regular, possibly weekly, sessions with you as a couple.

Marriage counselling and relationship coaching will both allow you to express how you feel. They both have your and your partner's best interests at heart.

Marriage counsellors or relationship coaches' will not take sides or judge you.

Marriage counselling and relationship coaching both offer non-judgmental listening.

Marriage counsellors and relationship coaches often offer a complimentary consultation or first session.

How are Marriage counselling and my relationship coaching different?

Marriage counselling sessions are usually 50 minutes to one hour long.

My Relationship coaching sessions are up to 2 hours long. This may seem a long time at first, but I feel is absolutely necessary for couples to really make progress each week. So much understanding is created in longer sessions, they allow each person the time to explore and learn about their relationship and feel truly heard. They also allow time for me to get to know couples and so I can give them bespoke strategies that are most effective for them and their relationship. My couples have experienced twice the change in half the time with these longer sessions.

Marriage counselling is focused mainly on the past and problems in the marriage. It looks at where problems started and aims to address the root cause.

Relationship coaching focuses more on the present and creating a new future. We look at what you would like your relationship to be like and give you the tools and guidance to help you to create that.

In Marriage counselling, the couple relies on the counsellor to fix their marriage.

The Relationship coaching process requires each person to take responsibility for their part in improving their relationship and gives them the tools so they know what to do to make a change. This allows for long term change, puts you in control again, boosts self-esteem and re-introduces connection and authenticity. Your coach brings a fresh perspective to the relationship.

In a Marriage counselling session, you will be able to express your perspective about your partner, their flaws and what they are doing 'wrong'. They will also be able to do this about you. You will be allowed to express your feelings at length. This can take up a whole session at times and can be incredibly uncomfortable.

In Relationship coaching, we aim to look for what is working in the relationship and build upon that. What is the foundation of your relationship? What values do you share? How can we create more understanding and connection? Of course, the first sessions can still be emotional and uncomfortable, but with the style of my sessions we can move you past that stage as quickly as possible.

With Marriage counselling, there is not usually any contact or activity to change the relationship between sessions. The time in between is spent reflecting on what has been said during the session.

In Relationship coaching with me during the session, we will agree on an action plan that you will put in place. This will usually happen from the first or second session. You will also be asked to fill in a questionnaire form ahead of every session to summarise for me how you are feeling, what has improved since the last session, This helps me to learn what is working, what is concerning you, and what you would like to focus on next, without taking up time in the session catching up. The questionnaire also helps you to gain clarity on how you feel and what is working and allows you to focus on positives that you may not have been aware of before. Clients tell me how much they get from these forms when they take the time to fill them out thoroughly.

The coaching process is very pro-active and requires focus. The action plans are usually very simple and involve changes to communication, time management, perspective and behaviour etc.

Marriage counselling addresses mental health issues.

Relationship coaching requires that both people are mentally capable of making the changes required and fully involving themselves in the process.

Marriage counselling can help people with drug and alcohol addictions. I would recommend that if addiction is currently seriously affecting your marriage then counselling would be the preferable option for you. Or, you could consider counselling or other support for your addiction alongside coaching to help you to move your relationship forward simultaneously.

Marriage counselling would also be more appropriate if you are in a domestic violence situation. If this is the case please seek help immediately from a professional near you.

I hope that this has helped you to see the differences between coaching and counselling. I hope that you have identified with certain points that will help you to see which is best for you.

Relationship coaching gets results. You will actively and consistently work to improve your relationship and results can be seen in as little as 2 sessions for some. However, I recommend an initial term of 6 sessions with a view of 12 for some couples.

When choosing a coach or counsellor it is imperative that you find someone that you are both comfortable with. You need to know that you are not being judged, and feel that you would both be heard. Choose someone who you feel understands you and your situation and that you would trust with your most personal thoughts and feelings. Feeling safe is essential for you both.

Think about whether you are comfortable having online sessions or if you would prefer to go to see someone face to face. Sometimes an online session suits clients better. If you have small children and are struggling for child care then an online session may be possible for you when your children are in bed, for instance, or if you strongly feel drawn to a therapist that is a distance away. Or, maybe face to face would help you to be more relaxed or connected to your therapist, or you feel able to fully express yourself to your partner whilst in the room with another person.


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