Do I Need a Relationship Coach or Therapist?
According to one survey, a lack of communication and understanding is a leading cause of divorce among couples. While it seems odd for people to have communication problems despite spending such a long time together, it’s true. One of the best ways to bridge a communication gap and be happier in your relationship is to seek professional help. You’re probably wondering if you need a relationship coach or therapist. Let’s discuss the differences between the two and how to determine what’s right for you.
Who is a Life Coach for Couples?
A relationship coach, also known as a life coach for couples, guides you and your partner in developing important skills. These skills, such as communication and empathy, are essential for a healthy relationship with your significant other.
How They Help You
By teaming up with a professional coach, you’ll learn what helps a relationship thrive. Sure, disagreements and differences of opinion are bound to occur between two individuals, but that doesn’t mean you don’t love each other.
A relationship coach can prove that you don’t have to agree on everything for a successful marriage. You can work through any obstacle as long as you have a better understanding of how the other person operates and sees the world. When you’re more aware of how we work as humans, you start to see how the source of conflict comes from inside of us. Everything we experience takes place inside of us, but we have a tendency to point fingers. The other person is like a mirror that reflects our own shortcomings. Consequently, it’s never the other person’s fault, they just highlight something in us that we don’t like or see.
When you work with a relationship coach, you’ll realise the truth of your own experience. This involves building awareness of how you experience love with another person. When you start to see the love that’s inside of you is reflected, realised, and felt by your partner and vice versa. Unfortunately, the starting point of most relationship problems is that people seek happiness through another person.
Is a Couples Counsellor Different?
While there are some differences between relationship coaching and couples counselling, I prefer to use a holistic approach as a certified therapist and relationship coach. This way, I incorporate the aspects of both based on what you need at any specific moment. While talk therapy is often associated with counselling, It sometimes plays a part of my coaching. Ultimately, both therapy and relationship coaching address the same problem: seeking happiness through someone else in different ways.
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Coaching vs Mentor vs Counsellor
Besides coaching and counselling, another term you may have heard is ‘mentoring.’ Based on my experience, it’s completely different from both counselling and coaching.
Mentoring is as simple as someone senior (who is seen as having more experience), offering informal advice to a person with less experience. By this definition, even your parents or elderly neighbours could mentor you on how to have a happier relationship. Of course, their advice would be based on personal experience and have little relevance to your own experience, but it may help.
In contrast, a relationship coach never provides advice or tells you how you should behave in a relationship. As a certified coach, my job isn’t to have all the answers. Rather, it’s to guide you towards a deeper level of understanding of yourselves – one that helps you make better decisions.
How Do I Know if I Need Coaching or Therapy?
After looking at the differences between relationship coaching and therapy, you may wonder which one is the right option for you and your partner. As a certified therapist and relationship coach, I know that the answer is never clear-cut. Rather, you may need aspects of both to build a better understanding between you and your partner. Based on my relationship coaching experience, the aspects I apply (whether they’re based on coaching or therapy) depend on the following.
Is There a Mental Health Disorder or Addiction Problem Involved?
Are you or your partner struggling with a mental health disorder or addiction problem? The best marriage coaches and counsellors can help with both, but it also depends on the severity of the issue.
In my experience, cases involving severe addiction require me to implement aspects of therapy into the relationship coaching process first. Once you start gaining insight about your problems, marriage coaching can help you realise that the potential to have a happy relationship lies within you.
Is There a Lack of Communication?
If the problem between you and your partner stems from a lack of communication, it’s often the result of poor understanding. It can manifest in different ways like feeling misunderstood in the relationship or a lack of emotional connection with your partner.
As a certified relationship coach, my aim is to open your eyes to the truth of your experience. What you experience is personal and created within, so unless you realise this, you will continue to look to the other to make you happy, and, building a stronger understanding of each other is close to impossible.
Are You Facing Conflict?
Does it feel like every discussion you have with your partner breaks into a fight? Or is it difficult to have constructive discussions without making hurtful comments about each other? In this case, it helps to stay accountable to someone who is tracking your progress in the relationship.
Because I implement a holistic approach, I incorporate aspects of therapy or coaching according to what comes up as we move forward. In my experience, whether someone wants to make a million-pound decision or is struggling in their relationship, it’s the same issue: they need to look inwards. Whatever will help them achieve that insight, whether it’s a part of therapy or coaching, I am guided by the moment and by you.
Should I Get a Relationship Coach?
While some couples want to address specific issues with relationship coaching or counselling, others simply want to grow together. If you’re wondering whether you should seek the services of a professional coach, it’s important to understand what they can help you accomplish. Here are some of the benefits:
Achieving Targeted Relationship Goals
Even when you and your partner are happy in the relationship, there’s always room for improvement. Maybe you’d like your spouse to help around the house a little bit more, or they’d like if you could meet with their family more often. Unfortunately, sometimes it can feel like your partner is hardwired to do the opposite of what you’d prefer. With help from a relationship coach, you can come up with objective and reasonable ways to achieve specific goals, these may materialise differently to what you imagine.
As much as pictures on social media make them seem, relationships aren’t easy. As humans, we can be irrational and immature at times, and it hurts the people we love most. Instead of talking about the issue or expressing their feelings, we may pretend like nothing’s wrong. This goes on until one or both partners decide to go their separate ways.
An experienced coach can guide you towards a deeper understanding of yourself. This can involve understanding how your past affects your present, how your earlier experiences play out in your relationship, and how you choose people to associate with.
Increasing Financial Clarity
Often one of the biggest issues in relationships is money. As an individual, you probably managed your finances in a way that suited you. But when you’re living with a significant other, not being on the same page about finances can be a major precursor to conflicts.
A relationship coach can help you build a foundation towards greater understanding with your partner. This, in turn, leads to financial transparency. In the long run, you’ll be able to communicate about expenses and tackle disagreements without resorting to hurtful comments.
Enhanced Work/Life Balance
I’ve seen that couples with opposite work shifts or demanding work schedules can feel less satisfied with the relationship. Naturally, spending less meaningful time together may feel like you’re missing the spark and connection you saw when you first started dating. In these situations, you may understand the importance of your significant other’s career, but feelings of dissatisfaction will persist.
Working with a relationship coach is an effective way to start understanding your own experience of the relationship instead of pointing the finger at the other person. As you do that, you can design workable solutions around clashing schedules. If you and your partner work opposite shifts, or one of you has to work late hours, breaking up isn’t the answer. Instead, working with a coach will help you and your partner come to terms with gradual and practical changes in your weekly routine so you can spend more time together. Then, they’ll make sure you stick to it every week.
Being Present and Participating
No one’s perfect, but as we start taking the ‘good’ in our partners for granted, the ‘bad’ stick out like a sore thumb. These things can include a lack of participation in the relationship and not being present during conversations. On a fundamental level, the issue stems from seeking happiness through another person. And before you can address the problem, you need to work with a coach to look inside yourself first.
As you and your partner build a deeper understanding, you’ll automatically think of ways to overcome this obstacle in your relationship. In the long run, you’ll also reflect on your progress with each session, so you and your partner can determine whether the strategy has eased tensions.
How Do You Know if Your Relationship Needs Therapy?
Couples’ therapy is preferable when facing complex issues that you can’t address with a few coaching sessions on communication. Perhaps one of the partners requires help for a mental health issue. Since I’m a therapist, I implement aspects of couples’ therapy in relationship coaching whenever there’s a need for it. Some examples of situations are:
Overcoming Past Trauma
If you or your partner has been through a traumatic experience, it can lead to problems in the relationship. The effects of trauma, whether it’s abuse, neglect, or tragedy, can manifest in the form of paranoia, emotional detachment, or even obsessive attachment. It’s also likely that this trauma led to depressive moods or anxious feelings that get in the way of building a healthy relationship. In these situations, seeing a relationship therapist is important to process the event and move forward healthily.
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Unpacking Effects of Poor Mental Health on Relationships
Struggling with mental health can make it difficult to maintain a steady relationship. At the same time, having a partner with mental health issues can also take a toll on your emotional well-being. At times, you may feel emotionally drained while trying to keep up with your partner’s symptoms. That’s when it’s recommended to see a relationship therapist to help you unpack the impacts of poor mental health on a marriage.
A couples’ therapist can provide psychoeducation on how symptoms of mental health can disrupt a relationship. By building insight, you and your partner can interpret and respond to each other’s behaviour accordingly. Once you understand what the other person is going through, it’ll be easier to work on targeted issues with help from a relationship coach.
Improving Functioning at Home
After spending so much time with our significant others, it’s natural to have moments when we take them for granted. We stop putting ourselves in their shoes to think about what they’re going through. In times like these, empathy can help prevent conflicts and keep them from getting worse. Seeing a relationship therapist is an effective way for you and your partner to talk about your experiences within the relationship.
You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll learn about what goes on in your partner’s head while they interact with you. It offers an excellent opportunity to understand them and be more empathetic. This can have a positive impact on your life at home, allowing you to navigate small disagreements with empathy and communication.
Exploring Effects of Childhood Experiences
A core fundamental of psychology is that our childhood experiences shape how we perceive things as adults. More importantly, the relationships we’re exposed to as children alter our perception of healthy relationships when we’re older. You or your partner may have certain habits that seem unusual or comfortable to the other person. However, these could have developed after years of conditioning.
Seeing a relationship therapist can guide you on whether certain behaviours within a relationship are rooted in childhood experiences. By building insight, you and your partner become more aware of the reasons behind your actions. Once you understand your thought process better, a relationship coach can help you work on specific issues that can increase satisfaction.
What is The Difference Between Marriage Coaching and Counselling?
It’s common for couples to get into the coaching vs counselling debate when they’re not sure of the differences between them. While both focus on building a happier relationship, there are a few differences between them:
Counselling Requires Certification.
The first major difference between coaching and counselling is that the latter requires an appropriate certification. To be a relationship therapist or marriage counsellor, you need credentials in psychology or a related discipline, followed by specialisation.
On the other hand, relationship coaching doesn’t require a license from a regulatory body. People with a diverse range of backgrounds can offer coaching services, but in my experience, the best coaches usually have a background in psychology and related coaching. They do the work on themselves.
As a certified therapist and relationship coach, I have credentials in both fields, which allows me to offer a more holistic approach towards addressing people’s relationship problems.
Focus on Present Vs Past
In relationship coaching, sessions will focus on what you and your partner can do now to improve your relationship. Meanwhile, a relationship counsellor will discuss aspects of the past to help both parties move on and build a better future. While talking about the past can be helpful, keep in mind that we can only live in the present. Therefore, it’s important to talk about the past from this perspective.
Targeted Vs Open-Ended
If you’ve ever gone to therapy, you may have noticed that sessions are rather unstructured. As the client, you dictate the direction of a session rather than your counsellor. Therefore, couples counselling takes a broad approach that discusses issues as they come up.
In comparison, a life coach helps build structured goals you want to achieve throughout your relationship. Most couples who approach a relationship coach have specific issues they want to address. This could be anything from one partner leaving socks on the floor to the other being distracted during conversations. I know that it’s never easy to draw a clear line around a relationship issue. It’s why I opt to use targeted and open-ended approaches, depending on the situation.
Short-Term Vs Long Term
Since marriage counselling involves talk therapy and processing any past trauma, it doesn’t have a definitive timeline. If anything, it can take months before you and your partner start seeing positive results in your relationship. Therefore, it’s a long-term approach towards strengthening the relationship and fostering communication.
Meanwhile, a relationship coach will try to address the issues in your relationship by designing small, achievable goals. This makes it an action-oriented approach with visible results. Consequently, it’s a short-term approach that addresses specific issues to make both parties happier in the relationship.
Because I’m both a therapist and relationship coach, each case is different depending on a couple’s concerns. There have been times when all it took was a few weeks and both partners were working towards a healthier understanding. In contrast, I’ve also had couples who consulted me for numerous sessions because there was a lot to unpack and discuss.
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Relationships can be a source of support and happiness in a world full of uncertainty and cutthroat competition. Unfortunately, societal pressures and the images of the ‘perfect couple’ can make conflicts seem like you and your partner aren’t cut out for it. Seeing a professional relationship coach can help you work your way through common conflicts, whether it’s related to finances, communication, or expectations you have from each other. Regardless of the issue, it will start with developing a firm understanding of yourself and how you experience the relationship. Once you achieve this, you’ll start to have a different perspective that gives way to a happier relationship.