Relationship counseling, also called relationship therapy, includes all forms of counseling or therapy that address the relationship between two or more people with the support of a mental health professional.
Relationship counseling can be for romantic partners, children and their parents, friends, or anyone looking to address relationship issues or strengthen their relationship. Learn more about relationship counseling, types, who needs it, and what to expect.
What Is Relationship Counseling?
Relationship counseling is any type of counseling or therapy conducted by a mental health professional and at least two or more people seeking support for their relationship.1 “Relationship counseling” (or “relationship therapy”) is a term for a variety of specific types of counseling.
While there are differences between counseling and therapy, they overlap, and the terms are often used interchangeably.
Counseling vs. Therapy
The differences between counseling and therapy include:
- Counseling tends to be shorter term and has a set end date.
- Therapy tends to be longer term and may be ongoing, without a set end date.
- Counseling is more likely to involve guidance and education for relationship matters.
- Therapy is more likely to involve treatment of a mental health condition of one or more members of the relationship.
Types of relationship counseling include family counseling, couples counseling, premarital counseling, and marriage counseling.
Family counseling is a type of relationship counseling that involves support for relationship challenges and topics provided to two or more family members by a mental health professional.2 Family members may include the whole family, the parents only, the parents and a child, siblings, or any combination of family members.
The type of support provided in family counseling may include:
- Emotional support
- Skills training, such as healthy communication, boundary setting, and coping skills
- Practical guidance and education
- A safe environment to communicate and work through challenges
Couples counseling is a type of counseling that provides guidance, advice, and support for intimate partners.3
Marriage counseling and premarital counseling are specific types of couples counseling. However, couples do not have to be married or considering marriage to go to couples counseling.
Couples counseling can help intimate partners with:
- Communication skills
- Conflict prevention and resolution
- Future planning and relationship goals
- Challenges that impact the relationship
Premarital counseling is support provided by a mental health professional to a couple considering or planning to get married.4 It may include guidance and education.
This type of relationship counseling has many benefits, including:
- Improved communication, conflict management, and coping skills
- Preparation for life as a married couple
- Prevention of future conflicts
Marriage counseling is guidance, advice, and support for married couples provided by a mental health professional.5 It is focused on issues that impact the relationship, ranging from differences in personalities to family planning to money management. Counseling providers may meet with both partners together and each partner separately.
Marriage counseling may be helpful for challenges such as:
- Communication struggles, conflicts, or disagreements
- Life challenges that impact the relationship
- Loyalty or trust issues
- Physical or mental health conditions that impact the relationship
- Sexual or intimacy problems
A Final Thought
Relationships come with challenges, and no matter how strong and healthy the relationship, conflicts can arise. If you or someone you know is facing relationship challenges or wants to strengthen a relationship, counseling may help. Reach out to a mental health professional such as a counselor, therapist, or psychologist for support.