Relationships take a lot of work. And when things get tough, it’s common for couples to seek the support of a mental health professional. However, it can be extremely overwhelming to search the internet for therapists in your area and if you aren’t familiar with the differences between titles and degrees, you’ll be drowning in endless search results.
Not only that, but terms like “counseling” and “therapy” are often used interchangeably providing even more confusion about who will be the best fit. While both counselors and therapists are committed to helping people stay mentally well and overcome challenges, they focus on different areas of your life. They also have a few key differences when it comes to education, training, and licensure.
We talked to an experienced Scottsdale relationship therapist to learn more about the key differences between counseling and therapy, and how to determine which is best for you.
What is Marriage Counseling?
A marriage counselor acts as a neutral third party to help mediate complicated problems. They facilitate a safe space in which both parties are respectful, and take turns talking and listening. In general, counseling focuses on specific, current issues that couples face. For example, many couples struggle with similar things like communication, money issues, conflict resolution, etc. A session will typically include developing healthy coping mechanisms or learning specific techniques to work through problems. Because counseling tends to focus on resolving specific issues, they tend to be a more short-term solution compared to therapy.
Common counseling treatments
- Struggles with anger or low self-esteem
- Addiction or substance use
- Loss or grief
- Family issues
What is Marriage Therapy?
Marriage therapy, on the other hand, sometimes takes a more psychoanalytical approach to break down behaviors or arguments to get to their roots. The main principle is that a person’s patterns of thinking and behavior affect the way they interact with the world. Because of this approach, it can provide deeper clarity about how both people are showing up in the relationship and why. This also means therapy is seen as more of a long term commitment and usually involves multiple sessions.
Which Do You Need?
In either case, you’ll get professional and experienced help. But depending on what you’re going through, one might be more appropriate than the other. The most important factor to picking a counselor or therapist is how comfortable you feel talking to them. Many couples will interview multiple therapists before they agree on the right one for them. It’s important both people feel heard and safe, and feel like the sessions are productive and solution oriented. Another good idea is to ask your family and friends for referrals.