Couples Therapy Vs Marriage Counseling: Styles, Cost, And If It's Covered By Insurance

Couples Therapy Vs Marriage Counseling: Difference In Cost And Style

September 7, 2020 Updated December 3, 2020

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Priscilla du Preez/Unsplash
It’s not unusual for a relationship to hit a rough patch (or several). In fact, it would be kind of strange if everything was always smooth-sailing between you and your partner, with no bumps in the road or insecurities in the relationship popping up. Don’t let some made-up fairy tale fantasy bullshit convince you that in order for a relationship to be healthy, you must always get along and perfectly complement each other at all times. You’ve probably figured this out on your own, but it bears repeating that real life doesn’t work like that. Along the same lines, there’s also this idea that if a couple has an argument or gets into a serious disagreement, it’s a telltale sign that the relationship is on the rocks. Again, that is not the case at all.
In fact, situations like these could be opportunities to make your relationship even stronger with the help of couples therapy or marriage counseling. Working with an impartial third party can make all the difference, and give you and your partner the tools you need to have productive disagreements that could ultimately improve your relationship. Great! But what’s the difference between couples therapy and marriage counseling? Are they actually the same thing? Is it just a matter of doing couples therapy before you’re married, and then marriage counseling after that? Are there differences in cost and style? Here’s what you need to know about couples therapy vs marriage counseling. 

What is the difference between couples therapy and marriage counseling?

Though the terms “couples therapy” and “marriage counseling” are often used interchangeably (even by some in the therapy/counseling profession), they are actually two different services. While they both involve sitting down with a trained professional at times when your relationship is under stress, the styles and approaches make them two distinct options. In short, couples therapy digs back into your relationship to look at why certain problems have come up, while marriage counseling deals with working through your current relationship problems in the here and now. Let’s get into some more specifics.

Couples therapy

The point of couples therapy is to trace your relationship problems back to their root, according to an article on Marriage.com. And if that sounds hard, that’s because it definitely is. Typically, this can happen through two different approaches, or  a combination of both. First, in order to pinpoint where the troubles started, a therapist may ask you and your partner to walk them through some examples of your previous fights and arguments. Will reliving these challenging moments be painful? Probably. But it’s also a crucial step to being able to figure out where a certain problem began.
Beyond that, couples therapy could also involve both partners reflecting upon their own background and personal issues including ones that started before your current relationship as a way to try to get a better understanding of their behaviors specific to this relationship. In the process of looking back at each partner’s own personality and background, as well as the causes of some of your arguments, the therapist should then be able to help you identify the areas you need to work on as a couple.

Marriage counseling

Marriage counseling, on the other hand, focuses on the present; acknowledging that you and your partner are having problems, and attempting to come up with solutions for effectively dealing with them. In this scenario, counselors provide the couple with advice and/or skills they need in order to develop their own rational techniques for handling conflicts as they arise.
Unsurprisingly, compromising plays a big part in marriage counseling, where each partner lays out what they think are the most important components of a particular issue (while the other one listens), and then figuring out how to handle it in a way that takes both preferences into account. Finally, marriage counseling is all about improving communication with your partner, which can eventually lead to regaining trust in each other.

What’s the difference in cost between couples therapy and marriage counseling?

As with any type of mental wellness office visit with a professional, the costs of couples therapy and marriage counseling depend on a range of factors including the general cost of living in your area and the expertise of your clinician (for example, whether they have a PhD or LMFT). According to Marriage.com, the average cost for each 45 to 50 minute couples therapy session varies from $70 to $200, while the average cost for marriage counseling is $45 to $200 for every 45-60 minute session.
Keep in mind that some therapists and counselors offer online telehealth sessions — an arrangement set to become increasingly common during and following the COVID-19 pandemic. While some clinicians may offer a discount on virtual sessions, that is becoming less common as it is seen as being a viable alternative to in-person appointments. Some counselors and therapists do offer sliding-scale rates (meaning that what you pay is based on what you can afford), so if you’re interested in working with one, but don’t think you can swing it financially, call the office to ask about payment options. 

Does insurance cover couples therapy and/or marriage counseling?

Unfortunately, neither couples therapy nor marriage counseling is covered under most health insurance plans. The reason for this, according to Good Therapy, is that in order for therapy to be covered by health insurance, mental health conditions are treated as a medical diagnosis. But when it comes to couples therapy or marriage counseling, a relationship in distress is not considered a medical diagnosis, so it’s not typically covered by health insurance policies. Having said that, it’s worth taking a look at your policy just in case this is a service that it covers.

Insightful Quotes About Relationships

“Marriage is not a competition. Marriage is completion of two souls.” ― Abhijit Naskar, Wise Mating: A Treatise on Monogamy
“Relationships are a lot like houses: without a good foundation, they’ll crumble. When a light bulb goes out, you don’t buy a new house, you change the bulb. When the faucet drips, you don’t start mopping the floor before you fix the leak. In other words, no matter how much digging it takes, it’s important to get to the root of a problem.” ― Christina Lauren, The Honey-Don’t List
“There are many types of marriage relationships and all of them can work, but none is sadder than the one that doesn’t represent peace in your heart.”
― Shannon L. Alder
“For the two of us, home isn’t a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.” ― Stephanie Perkins, Anna and the French Kiss
“You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.” ― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper
“Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.” ― Paulo Coelho
“A soul mate’s purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love