Couples coaching versus couples therapy

As with all coaching vs. therapy discussions, the biggest difference between couples coaching and couples therapy is around goals.  

Coaches ask questions to help one or both partners in a relationship to improve something – for example, improving communication, personal growth or helping them respond to needs better. Improvement will be judged on parameters decided on by the stakeholders. Therapy is more about providing a safe space for people to communicate so they can resolve emotional issues or so that they can come to terms with something that is hard to talk about (e.g. a previous divorce, infidelity, illness or a death, etc.) or pathologies that are preventing someone from being happy.   Essentially, therapy clients are looking to heal; coaching clients are looking to get results (however those may be); therapy clients want to understand why they feel what they feel; coaching clients want to take action to change their relationship.  

Another way to think about this is to say that couples therapy is about dealing with unresolved issues from the past that are impacting current ability to be happy together, now. e.g. “You mentioned that you had difficulty trusting your partner because of how your parents treated you when you were younger. Tell me about that.”  

Couples coaching is more about assessing and adapting your habits in the ‘now’ so you can get results you want in the future – whether that’s fixing something in the near future (e.g. “We want to organize our time better so we can spend more quality time together) or working towards something big over the long term (e.g. “How do I keep my ongoing conflicts with my in-laws from really hurting our relationship?”).  

It’s probably easiest to illustrate the difference with the kinds of questions a couples coaching professional might ask:  

  • What do you want to get out of this?

  • Where do you want to be?

  • What’s your goal?

 

Follow-Up Couples Coaching Questions and Answers  

  • So you want to spend more time together? If you were to look at your respective schedules today, how do you think you could make that happen?

  • You said you want Mike to listen more. And Mike, you say you are listening. In that case, how might Mike work to show he’s listening?

  • You want to stop stressing about money? What might be the first step(s) to making a plan to get your finances back on track?

  • It’s very common after having children that you’re seeing each other as ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’, rather than the people you fell in love with. You want to feel that way again. There are things you might be able to do to re-ignite that spark. What might be some steps you can start, say, this Friday night?

  • You feel that you have lost your trust in your partner, how can you help one another to rebuild the trust?

Typical Clients

Couples Coaching clients can take the form of individuals or a couple. They are likely to be having some kind of difficulty with their relationship and are looking for guidance on improving communication and enhancing their intimate relationship.

What Is Involved

You will learn techniques on how to better communicate, resolve conflicts, listen to the other’s needs, and how to increase your intimate bond.   As a Couples Coach, I will help identify a better path for your relationship. This could include ascertaining:

  • What are the current difficulties?

  • What common values do you hold?

  • What can you learn from each partner’s values and needs?

  • How do you communicate with each other?

  • Are you styles compatible?

  • How can you improve your communication skills?

  • What is your ultimate goal in couples coaching?

  • Identifying spaces for mutual growth.

  • Aligning personal values and needs with your partner.

  • What things can you do to show caring, respect, and love to your partner?

 

In couples coaching, the end goal typically goes beyond open-ended aims like ‘feeling happy’, ‘coming to terms with the past’ or ‘getting closure’. It’s about helping clients to get measurable results, sometimes a little bit at a time, to help with the problems that he/she already knows are hurting his/her relationship – to achieve a brighter future.  

learn more about couples coaching

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