What Is Couples Counseling?

What is couples counseling

Couples therapy, not to be confused with marriage counseling, is the process of meeting with a licensed therapist that specializes in relationships and talking over the issues that you’re facing as a couple. The purpose is to dig deep into your own issues individually as well as the obstacles within the relationship. Creating better ways to communicate and understanding each other’s actions is at the crux of the therapy – but there are many different methodologies and approaches.

For example, the therapist will help identify unhealthy patterns in the relationship and then find the reasons for the emotions that drive these behavioral patterns. Ultimately, a key part of couples therapy is to learn the skills of healthy communication so that you do not descend into either counterproductive arguing or perhaps worse, suffering in silence.

Many people start couples counseling because they’re faced with a serious single issue, such as no longer being intimate or one of you has had an affair. Importantly though, you do not have to wait until this point to get couples therapy – you could simply just want to address very small issues early on, or even attend to see if there are any issues.

Couples therapy pros and cons

Below are the pros and cons of couples counseling. 


Every relationship has its challenges, and couples therapy is designed to help you work through these. It’s easy to quit anything that is difficult, but you will find that all relationships take work and so learning the techniques that a therapist can teach you will serve you well – even if it’s in future relationships should this one not work out. If you’re wondering “is couples counseling effective?”, the answer is unquestionably demonstrated in many studies proving that it is.

It’s not just about keeping a relationship alive for the sake of it. Couples therapy can teach us a lot about our own flaws and teach us how to see things from other people’s perspectives. Learning how your partner communicates, why they react in certain ways, and how to better go about tackling challenges has rippling effects on our career, friendships, and day-to-day happiness. 

Couples therapy can ultimately be a way to create a solid foundation upon which to build your relationship. So, it’s not about waiting until it’s falling apart and salvaging it – it can be a useful tool early on to help build a happy and secure future with your partner.


Therapy takes time. One session isn’t going to save your relationship or resolve all of your personal flaws. The time it takes isn’t the only issue though, as the elephant in the room is that the more sessions you have, the more money it costs. And if money problems already underpin issues within the relationship, this may be a tricky situation.

It’s easy to say that therapy is always worth the money, but in reality, it depends on the person – or couple. This is why so many people turn to online couples therapy, because it’s much more affordable than traditional couples therapy at a counselor’s office. The best couples therapy websites tend to be under $100 per session.

Of course, not every relationship can be saved. This reality highlights a key difference between couples therapy and marriage counseling. If a husband and wife decide to get a divorce after talking to a  marriage counselor, they may reason that marriage counseling was ineffective. However, couples therapy can help you to become a better person and this improvement can greatly benefit your current or future relationships.

How much is it and can you use insurance for it?

Couples therapy can range quite widely when it comes to prices. Going to couples therapy online is much cheaper than the traditional version (face to face). Whilst traditional sessions can cost a couple of hundred dollars per session, online couples therapy tends to range between $45 and $150 per session/week. With couples therapy online, there’s a lot more opportunity for sign-up promotions, such as Talkspace’s $80 discount on the first month.

Some therapy sites accept insurance, like Amwell, whilst many do not, like ReGain. Of course, whether or not your insurance covers it is another matter altogether. Generally, health insurance companies do not have full coverage for online couples therapy, but Amwell claims that many clients are able to get some form of copay. So, it’s worth checking your own insurance provider’s policy.

Couples therapy vs marriage counseling – the differences

As touched on throughout this article, there are differences between couples therapy and marriage counseling. Of course, they overlap heavily so it’s understandable that people use them interchangeably, but knowing the differences is very important.

Many people think that the main difference is that some couples are married and some are not, but the key differences run deeper than that. Marriage counseling is very much about saving a marriage. It’s often used by couples who have entered a crisis mode and are looking to fix the immediate issues within a relationship. For example, perhaps one of the two has been unfaithful, or there are divorce conversations but they want to stay together for the children’s sake.

Couples therapy can also operate in the same way if that is your situation, but it goes beyond the immediate problems and digs deeper into the underlying issues. For example, if you have trust issues from childhood that have caused ongoing arguments in the relationship, this is more likely to be explored in couples therapy. Marriage counseling is more focused on the final symptom – perhaps the constant arguments and issues have led to one spouse being completely disconnected from the another.

In other words, couples therapy could be used to help save a failing marriage, but marriage counseling is not suitable for a fairly new couple who are experiencing small issues caused by confusing personal flaws and histories. Ultimately, couples therapy takes a more holistic approach, which could mean taking more sessions over time to get the most out of it.

What is couples therapy online and is it effective?

There is a lot of talk about online therapy as it is often portrayed as a new industry offering a new service. Online counseling is quickly becoming the dominant way to seek therapy in general. In reality, though, studies show that the benefits of online therapy are no different from traditional therapy. It is almost identical to in-person therapy when it comes to effectiveness, as the crux of the communication remains the same – it’s just the vehicle or platform that changes.

Of course, this isn’t to say that there are no people that prefer in-person meetings – it’s up to the individual or couple. Some older couples may prefer face-to-face sessions as they may not be comfortable using an electronic device. However, an increasing number of people prefer the convenience and time saved by just using a phone, tablet, or computer. Using a personal device at home also helps couples to maintain their privacy as neighbors and workmates will not see them visiting the counselor’s office. 

If you’re concerned about the effectiveness of couples therapy or therapy in general, it’s worth reading up on some meta-studies. There is unequivocal evidence that therapy is useful and effective in achieving its aim. Many individuals and couples are better able to identify their issues after going to therapy. They are also taught the skills needed to address these issues in a healthy and positive manner.