Why Couples Are Trying Online Marriage Counseling (And You Should Too!)
Relationships are, at their best, joyful, life-affirming experiences full of pleasure and excitement - and at their worst, pits of despair and resentment, permeating our every moment with frustration and annoyance. Many couples this year have likely run the full gauntlet of relationship experiences, from the ‘I’m so glad I’m quarantined with you’ to ‘If I have to hear you chewing loudly one more time, I’m filing for divorce!’. Whether you and your partner are burned out from a year of pandemic-induced lock-down, whether you want to address problems in your relationship that you have swept under the rug for a good amount of time, or whether you are in a new relationship and want to move forward in an intentional way, relationship therapy is a great tool for couples that are looking to improve their relationship.
The good news is that now, more than any other time in history, there are a wide range of options available for couples therapy that don’t involve great expense or inconvenience. Therapy is becoming less and less stigmatized, which is leading to more options on the market in terms of both individual therapy as well as couples therapy. When you think of therapy, you might immediately think of scenes from movies where a patient is reclined in a chair in some modern office talking about their problems with a therapist. This stereotypical image that often comes to mind is a traditional form of in-person therapy, but it is not the only therapy out there. Our options - other than face to face therapy, which is often expensive and long term - are either online therapy services that offer couples counselling, or relationship apps that offer education and coaching. Both are good options for a few reasons, mainly the fact that you can get help anytime, anywhere.
The introduction of online therapy for couples has revolutionised how people seek help, and democratized relationship counselling - we now have the opportunity to learn the way that suits us, and be creative and authentic in how we approach our relationships. In the past, people only considered relationship counseling when their relationship situation was absolutely dire. Relationship therapy was seen as the final - last ditch - step before divorce, but is now being recognized as something that even happy couples should invest in. Now that relationship therapy is becoming so easy and convenient, more and more couples are considering it as a regular part of relationship maintenance.
So - if you’re curious about what online therapy is like - consider these factors:
In the past, many couples would struggle to make their face to face therapy appointments, and when life got busy with kids and work, these meetings would be rescheduled and de-prioritized - at exactly the time that they were most needed. Afterall, if you and your partner are struggling to connect, or feel like you don’t have enough time in the day to spend with one another, it can be difficult to spend your limited time together in therapy. If you are super busy, it can also be difficult to find a time that works for you, your partner and your therapist. Logistically, in-person therapy can also be a total pain! The idea of commuting to an in-person therapy session, finding parking, spending time in the waiting room and commuting home can be enough of a deterrent to keep people from seeking relationship help all together. All of the inconveniences make in-person therapy inaccessible to many individuals and couples.
Online therapy and online couples counseling has emerged as a new form of therapy that makes counseling more accessible to people. Online therapy began as an option for individuals seeking therapy, but has expanded now to help couples that are in need of counseling as well.
Online therapy works on your schedule - you still need to turn up for your appointment, but you don’t need to commute or worry about running into people you know in the waiting room. In this sense, online therapy also offers more privacy, because it is something that you can do from the comfort of your home. There is no need to schedule time on your calendar for your weekly session and no need to ask your boss for time off to make an appointment during the work day, because you can do online therapy on your schedule and from anywhere in the world!
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Recently, an even more accessible form of therapy has emerged with the advent of relationship apps. Relationship apps take the convenience of online therapy one step further - apps like Relish provide the ability to have private conversations with a Relationship Coach at any time of the day. Members of the app can check in with their coaches at any time they want, knowing they’ll get a response when that coach is back online. There is no need to worry about scheduling, commuting, or even committing to a certain amount of time each week. This added flexibility is a huge bonus for many busy couples, and helps to improve access to relationship help.
When using relationship apps, you can reach out to your therapist whenever you need them, which means that if you have a pressing question, you can write to your coach and get a response almost immediately! No more waiting for the next therapy session, or having to remember your list of questions for the next time that you meet. Busy people with families and jobs find relationship apps to be a good fit for them, since they make it possible to get targeted help and emotional support, without adding to the list of things they have to do.
The huge barrier to face to face therapy has always been cost. Three or four months of weekly relationship therapy can run around $3200 - and often isn’t covered by insurance as relationship issues - strangely - don’t qualify as a mental health need (we would argue otherwise!). If money is a cause of stress in your relationship, then it’s almost impossible to justify this kind of spending on anything, including therapy! When you and your partner go to therapy, it’s hard to know how long it will take to work out your relationship issues. This can mean months and months of therapy (valued at $3200 per month), which is unaffordable for a lot of people, and downright hard to budget for even if you might be able to afford the price tag. To make matters worse, a lot of traditional therapy is viewed as something that should be on-going through the course of your relationship. Traditional therapy is less goal oriented than relationship coaching, which means that investing in traditional therapy could be a relationship-long or life-long thing. Which amounts to an exorbitant cost for most couples!
Online therapy makes some improvements on this - some services have a sliding scale payment structure that allows you to pay based on your income level. This can help make therapy more accessible to couples with tighter budgets, but realistically, talking to someone face to face - even over the computer - is still a major investment that will require some major $$.
If the cost of therapy has deterred you and your partner from seeking relationship therapy, This is where relationship apps really shine as an awesome new solution. If you and your partner are interested in therapy, but can’t afford the price tag, consider turning to a relationship app. Most apps on the market charge a yearly subscription and are more affordable than therapy, since they are delivered differently and with the help of technology (eg. you might receive an interactive lesson about communication rather than talking with your therapist about it).
Relish, for example, is $100 for a yearly subscription, which is a staggering 3.2% of what you’d pay for relationship counselling - and you’re receiving much of the same content, such as lessons on education about conflict resolution and communication, help with intimacy and sex, emotional support from a Coach, and a space to reflect and share your thoughts with your partner. Another great thing about relationship coaching is the goal oriented aspect. Relationship coaching helps you diagnose the problems in your relationship, identify goals and learn skills in order to achieve those goals, which means that there is an end goal to coaching. Unlike traditional coaching which is long-term, relationship coaching can end once you and your partner have picked up the necessary skills to maintain and improve your relationship. This means that investing in a relationship app doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment, which can also make it much more affordable for couples.
One of the reasons that mental health apps have taken off so much in recent years is exactly this reason - it is now possible to deliver high quality, effective interventions to users - and this can be done in a way that is really affordable for them.
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One common reason for couples to drop out of therapy is that it isn’t really fitting with their way of doing things - perhaps one partner wants to dissect each argument and conversation, whereas the other wants to learn about practical strategies and to move forward with a plan. One partner might be really avoidant and hate those emotional conversations, whereas the other might need a lot of emotional support from the therapist. While differences between you and your partner are often what make your relationship work, it can be difficult to make traditional therapy work if you are coming from two very different places. A benefit of relationship apps - which have a few different features - is that users can navigate their own way around how they use it. A person who is very practical and results driven might power through lesson content each week, ticking off the things they are learning and setting aside time to do the exercises. Someone else might do lessons here and there, but really spend time talking to their Coach and getting feedback and advice about how to resolve an issue in the relationship and deal with insecurity.
Another person might spend a lot of time on the peer forum, reading through others’ questions and comments, and benefit from giving advice and support to others as well as using the sharing function to send their thoughts with their partner. We really benefit from being able to tailor our own experiences, and learn in a way that works for us. Just like people have different learning styles in the classroom, people have different learning styles when it comes to relationships. Most relationship apps are designed with this in mind - considering what is going to be most engaging for each person, and making sure that there is something for everyone.
Traditional, in person therapy is often really about the therapist-couple relationship. Couples will work on establishing trust with their therapist so that they feel comfortable opening up about difficult and intimate parts of their relationship, which can take a significant amount of time to establish. When you are finding a traditional therapist, you often have to try out a couple of different options so that you can find the therapist that is the best fit for your relationship and your needs. While this can be a very rewarding process, it’s not something that every couple has the time and the money to do. The process of ‘shopping around’ for the right therapist is very common, but adds to the time and cost barriers that make traditional therapy inaccessible to a lot of couples.
For people that are paralyzed by decision making, or feel overwhelmed by the possibility that their therapist just is not a good fit, this added step of shopping around for the ‘perfect therapist’ can be enough to dissuade them from seeking therapy at all. Narrowing down therapists can also require you to understand a bit about psychology and therapy in general which is an added barrier. Therapists often advertise the types of therapy that they specialize in, whether it’s Cognitive-behavior theory (CBT), the Gottman Method, Emotion-focused therapy, Narrative therapy, Solution-focused therapy, etc. etc. And while this information is helpful to people that understand these different theories and methodologies, it can be totally overwhelming to others who are just looking for some help.
Focusing too much on the relationship with your couple’s therapist is also limiting for people that live in an area with only a few trained relationship therapists, what if you try out all the options in your area and still aren’t able to find a good fit? While the traditional therapy model might work for some people, it really doesn’t work for a lot of others. Online therapy has worked to remove some of these barriers, providing couples with access to a practically unlimited number of potential therapists so that no matter where you live, you have access to options when choosing your therapist. But this model still focuses on the couple-therapist relationship and finding the perfect match, which can be a long and expensive process regardless if it’s in person or virtually.
This is another benefit to using a relationship app. Relationship apps like Relish focus more about your wants and needs as a couple, and less about your relationship with your therapist or coach. When you use apps like Relish or other online couples counseling platforms, you don’t have to shop around trying out different therapists, you can get started on day one with helpful tips, goals setting and messaging with a trained coach. This model expedites the process of improving your relationship, and centers the process on you and your partner, rather than focusing on your relationship with your therapist or coach. This model saves couples time and allows them to start making progress towards their relationship goals more quickly.
If you’re thinking that online couple counseling or a relationship app is looking pretty good right now, we’d recommend doing some research in the app store and finding one that suits your needs. Some of these apps offer free trials where you can explore the features and speak to a Coach, before making the decision to pay. Relish - the leading relationship self-care app - offers a 7-day free trial that gives you the opportunity to try out the app to see whether it is a good fit for you and your needs. When you sign up for Relish, you get access to Coaching and a lesson plan, as well a personalised assessment about key issues in your relationship. Other online services also offer free or discounted trials, and it can be helpful to take advantage of these.
As noted, each of us has a different way of learning and understanding things, and you may be someone who benefits from a lot of one-on-one time with a Coach, or more independent learning. Whatever your preference, it is certainly worth taking the time to explore all the options available - and take your first steps towards a happier relationship!
Couples everywhere are using apps to connect, communicate and make life more convenient. With Relish, you’ll learn key insights into your relationship, understand your partner better, and learn more ways to live better together. Try the #1 relationship coaching app free for one week!