What Is Marriage and Relationship Counseling?

Amanda R. Bell

Marriage and relationship counseling is a type of therapy meant to maintain or improve a committed couple’s communication skills and overall satisfaction with the relationship. A licensed counselor, therapist, or religious leader primarily conducts the therapy sessions. Most couples enter into this type of counseling to either improve an overall good relationship, a troubled relationship, or to work through a crisis. It may also be used to help prepare couples for the next stage in their lives together. The type of counseling provided varies on the individuals involved, although joint sessions spanning over a few weeks or months are the most common.

A marriage and relationship counselor tries to help strengthen a couple's relationship.
A marriage and relationship counselor tries to help strengthen a couple's relationship.

Clinical social workers or licensed therapists are the most likely individuals to conduct marriage and relationship counseling. These professionals typically have at least a master’s degree in social work, counseling, or family therapy, and may work in their own practice or with a group of other mental health or counseling professionals. Unlike psychologists or psychiatrists, therapists and counselors can work in many parts of the world without an official medical degree. Religious leaders also often offer counseling for both members of their faith or those outside of it; in some religions, counseling is required before the religious leader will officiate a marriage.

Counseling can help couples be affectionate again.
Counseling can help couples be affectionate again.

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Otherwise happy couples often engage in marriage and relationship counseling to help prevent problems in the future. It can be used to perform a type of check-up on the union or to improve communication skills. Many couples will often utilize counseling to help determine future goals and plans for the couple or their family.

Happy couples may engage in marriage counseling to help prevent future problems.
Happy couples may engage in marriage counseling to help prevent future problems.

More often than not, couple’s counseling is used to fix issues in a relationship. For committed partners, this can happen at any time during their lives together. Counseling can often help couples to express their individual thoughts and feelings, and to better understand those of their significant other. In some cases, marriage and relationship counseling can help both parties recognize that they are better off ending the union; while this is not necessarily a desirable outcome, counseling can help to make the split more amicable.

Relationship counseling might have suggestions for couples who need to spend more time together.
Relationship counseling might have suggestions for couples who need to spend more time together.

A crisis can occur in even the best of relationships. Infidelity, whether emotional or physical, health issues, or family problems can often threaten the bond between two people. Marriage and relationship counseling can be used to help each individual overcome and work through these problems with the hope of building a stronger union in the future. In this type of counseling, sessions often take place once or twice a week for several months, and the counselor may work with each individual both separately and together.

Couples who have cheated or had work troubles may seek a marriage counselor for help.
Couples who have cheated or had work troubles may seek a marriage counselor for help.

Couples planning on marriage often enter into premarital counseling. This type of therapy can help each party understand the expectations of the other for their life together. Often, conflict resolution and communication are discussed. Financial issues, expectations for children, and living arrangements are also typical parts of this kind of marriage counseling.

Many couples utilize counseling to help fix problems in their relationship.
Many couples utilize counseling to help fix problems in their relationship.

As each couple and its unique situation varies drastically, marriage and relationship counseling is often very different for each couple. Some may only see a therapist or advisor once or twice a year. Others may engage in sessions a few times a week. Depending on the issues in the relationship, a counselor may choose to see each person separately and together; in some cases, only one person out of a couple may engage in counseling.

A licensed counselor may provide marriage and relationship counseling to individuals who are experiencing communication problems.
A licensed counselor may provide marriage and relationship counseling to individuals who are experiencing communication problems.
Marriage counselors are typically willing to see either spouse on a one-to-one basis.
Marriage counselors are typically willing to see either spouse on a one-to-one basis.

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