Relationship Coaching vs. Couples Therapy: What's the Difference?

Seeking support for your mental and emotional well being is becoming less and less stigmatized, which means that more and more people are turning to therapy and counseling as a way to manage emotional and mental health. Conversations about mental health are becoming more commonplace, and tons of apps are cropping up to offer creative solutions to people that can’t afford or don’t have time for traditional therapy. The increased access to therapy services are also helping to reduce the stigma as more people are engaging with professional help.

Just like individuals are learning to embrace therapy, couples are learning to as well and are turning to relationship therapy more than they have in the past. Couples therapy is a form of therapy that focuses on improving romantic relationships by addressing problems with communication and conflict resolution amongst other things. Like individual therapy, there are many different ideologies and schools of thought regarding how to address relationship struggles, but the end goal of couples therapy is always the same, to improve the romantic relationship and foster more emotional closeness in the partnership.

For whatever reason, relationship therapy often has more stigma associated with it than individual therapy. In the past, (and even to this day) couples worry that going to a counselor is admitting defeat or even failure in a relationship. But this could not be further from the truth. Going to therapy is an investment in your relationship that shows that you are not going to call things off even when the going gets tough. If therapy does result in the end of your relationship, then at least you know that you and your partner gave it your all. Just like individual therapy is innovating to include online app options, relationship therapy is as well. The field of relationship therapy is also innovating in other ways, looking at how relationship coaching and other approaches can improve relationships more than traditional therapy models. Relationship coaching is a goal-oriented approach to solving relationship problems that focuses on setting and achieving goals in a concrete way. Relationship coaching is becoming more and more popular for couples looking to improve their relationships, but it is not an appropriate solution for all couples.

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Understanding the different options for addressing issues in your relationship is the first step to overcoming these problems. Here is a breakdown of the options you and your partner have when considering how to address problems in your relationship.

Couples Therapy

As we mentioned before, couples therapy is normally what comes to mind when we think of relationship therapy. Couples therapy is often based in psychotherapy, a method where you explore your feelings, moods, thoughts and behaviors. Couples therapy is normally managed by a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) that helps you and your partner navigate your feelings and problems within the relationship. While this is the most common type of couples therapy, there are many different forms of therapy out there. For example, the Gottman Method is a type of relationship therapy that is commonly used to help couples work through their relationship problems. The Gottman Method considers the foundations of a relationship as a hierarchy of needs (borrowing from Maslow’s psychology theory) and helps couples work to achieve the foundations and improve their emotional closeness. Other couples therapy approaches include psychoanalytic relationship theory that works to address how childhood issues are affecting your interpersonal and romantic relationships, strategic-structural therapy that works to change the power dynamic and structure of the relationship and the social-cognitive method (which is one of the more popular methods) that examines how behaviors taught in society are negatively affecting your relationship. These couples therapy options approach relationship problems differently, but tend to look the same from an outside perspective.

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Traditional therapy will require you and your partner to find a licensed therapist near you (whether they are an LMFT is up to you), and meet with them on a regular basis. There is not a general prescription for how long it will take for you and your partner to work through your problems as a couple, so therapy could last a few weeks, months or even years. While traditional therapy is an excellent option for a lot of couples, there are a couple barriers that prevent it from being the best solution for every couple. First of all, it can be difficult to find a therapist that both you and your partner like. Depending on where you live in the world, there may or may not be a lot of couples therapists in your area. Finding the right fit is crucial to getting therapy to work, so this can be an obstacle for couples that do not have a ton of mental health and wellness resources in their area. Additionally, couples therapy is expensive, there’s just no getting around that. It is often not covered by insurance and can amount to a significant out-of-pocket cost. Finally, couples therapy can take a lot of time. Like we mentioned before, therapy can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. Not everyone (in fact most people) do not have a couple hours each week to spend at a therapist's office. Having kids further complicates this issue when you add the cost/inconvenience of hiring a babysitter to the mix. While couples therapy is an excellent option for many couples, there are often many barriers that prevent people from pursuing traditional therapy.

Relationship Coaching

Relationship coaching is emerging as a new alternative to traditional couples therapy. Relationship coaching is a goal-oriented approach to solving relationship problems that helps couples identify the weaknesses in their relationship, make goals to improve their relationship, and work to achieve these goals. This technique tends to be more straightforward than traditional therapy, and offers couples and an action plan for how to achieve their #relationshipgoals. While relationship therapy is rooted in psychology, relationship coaching is based on personal growth models and success coaching. The coaching helps align you and your partner as a team that is working towards a goal together with the help of a trusted coach.

Relationship coaching focuses on solutions rather than looking at the psychological root of problems, noting that sometimes couples just need solutions to their problems, not a full understanding of why these problems arose. Relationship coaching can happen with a traditional therapist, but it is often guided by someone that has gone through a relationship coach training rather than psychology training. Relationship therapy often relies less on the couple-therapist relationship, and instead offers a more detached, goal-oriented approach. Relationship coaching removes some of the barriers to traditional therapy as it is normally cheaper, and takes less time. But it is not the solution for couples that have deep seeded problems in their relationship that need to be teased out and analyzed in order for the relationship to improve.

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If you and your partner are interested in improving your relationship with relationship coaching, you should consider Relish, the number one relationship coaching app. Relish is a great tool for couples that are looking to dip their toe into finding relationship help. The app is very low commitment and brings all the benefits of relationship coaching right to your fingertips through in-app messaging, articles, quizzes and goal setting. Relish is much cheaper than traditional therapy, and also much more convenient, offering coaching tips to you from your living room.

Turning to an app for relationship help also helps avoid any stress with scheduling/commuting/all the other logistical barriers that make it hard to get help improving your relationship. Relationship coaching is an excellent option for couples that just need a little help with their relationship. It is also a great gateway into therapy for couples that are worried about the stigma of therapy, or need to gradually work up to embracing therapy. Relationship coaching can also work in tandem with traditional therapy.

If you and your partner are in therapy, but still feel like you need some help making concrete improvements to your relationship, you can also use Relish as a supplement to traditional therapy methods. Like we mentioned above, some couples do need traditional therapy in some form to deal with psychological issues that could be contributing to the relationship problems. In these cases, it’s important to turn to traditional couples therapy (or even individual therapy) to address these issues. But couples therapy and couples coaching do not need to be mutually exclusive! Relish is a great supplement to traditional therapy, especially if you and your partner are goal oriented.

At the end of the day, it is important that you and your partner are supported and happy in your relationship. Sometimes in order to achieve this, you will need to enlist some outside help. Whether this help comes in the form of couples therapy, relationship coaching or a mixture of the two, it is important to reach out for professional help so that your relationship can be the best version of itself. Admitting that your relationship needs help and looking for possible solutions is the first step to achieving your #relationshipgoals, so kudos to you for doing your research!

Couples everywhere are using Relish to connect, communicate and prioritize their relationship. Download Relish today and get a free week of relationship coaching!

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