Therapy has become less stigmatized in recent years. People seem to have a greater willingness to talk about it and ask questions as they consider how therapy may be beneficial for them. One of the common questions I am asked about couples therapy is what’s the difference between pre-marital counseling and couples counseling? Read on for key ways these two types of therapy differ.
Pre-Marital Therapy Helps You Build the Foundation of Your Relationship
In pre-marital counseling, a couple is typically in a new-ish stage of their relationship. While the name pre-marital can imply eventual marriage, it is not required or expected for a couple to marry for them to benefit from this type of counseling. Rather, the relationship itself is in more beginning phases of developing, and so pre-marital therapy focuses on supporting the development of the relationship in healthy ways.
How does Pre-marital therapy work?
Pre-marital therapy starts by identifying key areas in your relationship for strengthening, for maintaining, and for growing. In other words, there are intentional questions we explore to have a better understanding of what’s already in place, and what we can further build upon. Questions such as: What do you and your partner already do well? What do you and your partner want to improve or strengthen?
Your pre-marital therapist will also bring in common topics in intimate relationships for exploration. The purpose is to engage in discussions to better understand each other. As your understanding of one another deepens, the focus may shift to how to continue to build a fulfilling life together with this shared knowledge. Some of these key topics may include finances, commitment, parenting, lifestyle, families of origin, sex, communication, religion/spirituality/belief systems, and life goals.
Pre-marital Therapy Teaches You Relationship Skills
In pre-marital therapy, you’ll learn foundational skills to support your relationship as it grows and changes over time. Some of these skills include:
- how to engage in productive communication with one another
- learn the importance of nurturing your relationship and the best ways to do so
- how to manage conflict in healthy ways
- how you each feel about emotionally charged topics so you can find the ways that work best for your relationship
- what your relationship strengths are, as well as growth areas
Couples Therapy Helps You Resolve a Specific Concern
In contrast to pre-marital therapy, couples counseling is for couples with an established relationship that run into a concern they want to address. Often the couple feels stuck, and seeks therapy in order to resolve their concern and learn skills to address the concern if it were to happen again in the future.
How Does Couples Therapy Work?
In couples therapy, couples identify their concern, and begin to explore when it began and the underlying reasons why this problem developed. Oftentimes, the issues couples commonly come to therapy for have been happening for some time, and the couple has tried other ways of addressing the issue before seeking therapy. However, this isn’t always true. Some couples seek therapy proactively before an issue becomes too unmanageable.
Couples Therapy Teaches You New Skills
There are many reasons why a couple may choose to seek couples counseling. Here are a few of the most common:
- communication issues
- a desire to reconnect
- the couple decides to separate and wants to learn how to co-parent their children
- grief and loss
- an illness
- family relationships
- new parents
- a life transition or significant change
Why a couple seeks couples therapy determines what skills they may seek to learn in their work together. Commonly, couples learn about healthy boundaries, identifying ways to improve intimacy and connection, healthy communication, resolving conflict, how to shift out of unhelpful patterns of behavior in the relationship, and how to strengthen relationships.
Which type of Relationship Therapy is Best for Your Relationship?
In both pre-marital counseling and couples therapy, your relationship with your partner is the focus. At Vitality Therapeutic Services we serve both pre-marital couples as well as couples in longer-term relationships in Boulder County. You can find out more info about our Online Therapy for Couples in Colorado here. Relationships can be challenging, and we want you to have a relationship that feels meaningful and healthy. If you’re ready to get started, contact us today.
Photo credit: Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels