I hope this article series has so far helped to illustrate what a couple’s work can look like, answer a few questions, and perhaps turn your anxiety into curiosity. Today I’d like to address a very common question from those seeking professional relationship services:
What is the difference between couples therapy and marriage counselling?
Ready for the easiest answer ever?
There is no difference. These tend to be terms used interchangeably, often related to geographical regions. For instance, Vancouver tends to talk about couples therapy, whereas the term marriage counselling may be used more commonly in certain parts of the United States.
You won’t find a counselling centre somewhere drawing a line with its clients like, “So, do you want to do ‘marriage’ or ‘couples’ work? And would you like it to be ‘therapy’ or ‘counselling?’” They do not have some distinction in terms of how much they focus on the past or present or in the techniques and styles they utilise.
The sort of relationship counselling you receive will be distinguished much more so by the therapist you work with. Are they very skills and techniques focused? Do they place value on attachment and earlier life experiences? Have they trained in Emotional Focused Couples Therapy or the Gottman approach? At this point, it is just a matter of words and marketing whether they describe themselves as focused on ‘marriage’ or on ‘couples.’
In summary, couples therapy and marriage counselling are two different wordings that both describe basically the same service. The real distinctions will have to do with the therapist themselves, including what they consider important in the change process and how they’ve trained.
If you missed it, be sure to check out Couples Series Part V: How to prepare for couples therapy?
Carson Kivari is the Founder and Clinic Director of Thrive Downtown, with 17 years of experience helping individuals and couples overcome anxiety, depression, and burnout. He guides clients on a journey of self-exploration and trauma release to find purpose, connection, and safety. Take the first step towards healing and contact Carson today to schedule a session.