Marriage Counseling or Couples Therapy?

The entire spectrum of relationship guidance is huge, with numerous approaches designed to help couples navigate their challenges. Among the most popular methods are couples therapy and marriage counseling. While these terms are often used interchangeably, there are subtle differences between them.  In practice, we use methods from both marriage counseling and couples therapy interchangeably, based on our client’s unique needs and circumstances. Regardless of the terminology or approach, the primary goal remains the same: to help couples navigate their challenges and strengthen their bond.

Couples Therapy

Couples therapy is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of therapeutic approaches aimed at addressing relational issues, regardless of marital status.  The goal is to recognize and resolve conflicts, improve relationship satisfaction, and promote understanding between partners.  Couples therapy can assist couples in various stages of their relationships, whether they’re dating, engaged, married, or even contemplating a breakup or divorce.


  • Flexibility
    Couples therapy can be useful for any committed relationship, whether dating, engaged, married, or in a same-sex relationship. This broad approach ensures that therapy isn’t limited to just married couples.
  • Diverse Issues
    It addresses a wide range of issues, from communication problems to sexual dissatisfaction, making it versatile and applicable for many challenges.
  • Proactive Approach
    Couples don’t have to wait until they’re considering marriage or facing marital discord to seek help. They can be proactive in addressing emerging concerns.
  • Stigma-Free
    As it’s more generalized, couples therapy might carry less stigma because it doesn’t necessarily label the relationship as “in crisis” but rather acknowledges that all relationships have challenges.


  • Less Structure
    Since couples therapy covers a broad spectrum, it might not provide the structured framework some couples seek, especially those specific to marital challenges.
  • Generalization
    A generalized approach may not cater to certain cultural or religious nuances that are important in a relationship.

Marriage Counseling

Marriage counseling, as the name suggests, focuses specifically on marital relationships, addressing problems that arise within the confines of marriage.


  • Specific Focus
    Targeted at married couples, this form of counseling delves into issues specific to marriage, like financial disagreements, parenting clashes, and infidelity.

  • Cultural Sensitivity
    Given its focus on marriage, counselors often integrate cultural considerations into their approaches, catering to couples whose beliefs play a significant role in their relationship.

  • Structured Framework
    By concentrating on marital concerns, counselors can offer structured solutions based on years of study and specialization in marriage dynamics.



  • Limited Scope
    Marriage counseling might not address challenges that predate the marriage, potentially neglecting foundational relationship issues.

  • Stigmatization
    Some couples may feel that admitting to needing marriage counseling signifies failure in their marital bond.

  • Not for Unmarried Couples
    While this might seem obvious, unmarried couples might feel left out or believe they can’t seek the same depth of guidance.

What’s the Difference?

The differences are subtle but here they are:

Focus of Therapy

  • Marriage Counseling: As the name suggests, marriage counseling is specifically tailored to married couples. The focus is primarily on resolving issues that arise within the context of a marital relationship, such as conflicts related to finances, parenting, intimacy, and other marital concerns.
  • Couples Therapy: This is a broader term that encompasses therapy for any couple, regardless of their marital status. Whether dating, engaged, living together, or married, couples therapy can address a wide range of relational issues.


  • Marriage Counseling: This can be either short-term or long-term, depending on the issues at hand. It often involves both partners, but there may be times when sessions happen individually.
  • Couples Therapy: The duration varies, but couples therapy is often shorter-term, focusing on resolving specific issues, or it might be longer-term, addressing deeper relational patterns.


  • Marriage Counseling: It primarily deals with issues that are present within the confines of marriage. While it can address past issues that affect the marriage, its primary concern is the present marital relationship.
  • Couples Therapy: This has a broader scope and can delve into individual issues and past traumas that affect the relationship, not strictly limited to the issues within the relationship itself.


  • Marriage Counseling: The main goal is often to resolve conflicts and improve marital satisfaction. It might include assignments for the couple to complete outside of therapy and tools for improving communication.
  • Couples Therapy: While it also aims to resolve conflicts, couples therapy might spend more time addressing the underlying patterns and dynamics of the relationship. The therapist might employ a variety of techniques tailored to the specific needs and dynamics of the relationship.

Relationship Help in the Denver Area

Both couples therapy and marriage counseling offer valuable tools for addressing relational issues.  At Self Care Impact we offer both Marriage Counseling and Couples Therapy and we will customize our approach to meet your needs whether you are married or not.  Whatever path a couple chooses, seeking help is a courageous step towards cultivating a stronger, healthier relationship.

Take a look at our  Couples/Marriage Counseling Specialty Page for more information. Then we invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation with a marriage specialist. You can schedule your appointment via phone, or the contact page on our website.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Self Care Impact Counseling envisions a new age of counseling for adolescents, adults, couples & groups that makes a REAL difference with core values of GROWTH | BALANCE | COMPASSION | INNER HARMONY..