Marriage coaching or marriage counseling? That is a critical question that married couples should ask when they want to improve the quality of their marriage. Up until recently, the only choices were counselor/therapist or pastor. Due to a massive increase in knowledge in the field of psychology and the understanding of human nature, a new positive alternative is available. Marriage coaches now offer fast, results-oriented solutions couples should consider. For simplicity, this article will focus on the key differences between coaches and counselors/therapists, and not address the unique alternative religious pastors offer. Counselors and therapists are grouped since their practices are similar.
The State of the Marriage Help Industry
No one knows the exact divorce rate. For decades, we’ve heard that the divorce rate is 50%. We also hear that the number of marriages and divorces are lowering. Most States report their marriage and divorce figures to the CDC, Center for Disease Control. One problem is that 5 to 8 States do not report their data, including California and Illinois. The 50% figure was largely determined because there are usually around two million marriages and one million divorces reported in any given year. Fifty percent.
What we can figure out, with the information we have, is that first-time divorces are probably around 40% to 50%. Second-time divorces are around 60%, and third-time divorces are around 70%. We also know from studies that 40% of married couples report as being unhappily married.
That is many people unhappy and getting divorced.
When the divorce boom hit in the 1970s when no-fault divorce became law in most States, family counselors did not have the proper education to handle marital troubles. It wasn’t until after the divorce boom did some counselors focus on just marriage issues. There are several reasons for the high divorce rate besides the lack of knowledge of the typical counselor. I’ll cover those in another article.
The status quo of married couples automatically choosing marriage counselors has not been successful. No one can claim a 40% to 50% divorce and a 40% unhappy rate as a success.
New and Serious Research in Human Behavior
When problems arise, answers are sought. With the high divorce rate hitting its peak in the early 1980s, much research began. Discoveries about the human mind, human behaviors, success, and achievement were plentiful and gave rise to new industries. Life and business coaches became popular buzz terms.
Serious research started on human relationships and marriage. Folks like Dr. John Gottman, Dr. John Gray, and Dr. Willard Harley Jr. started making serious progress in what makes a marriage work and what makes a marriage fail.
Popular books at the time that are still popular today include:
Marriage Coaches vs Counselors
Today, married couples have a real choice. A couple desiring more love, passion, and affection in their marriage doesn’t have to settle for what has been the only alternative. Couples today need to understand their choices.
When I refer to a coach or a counselor, I refer to the traditional model they have followed. In no way am I trying to say that one side is right and the other is wrong. It is not a good versus bad scenario. Today, marriage professionals are forming unique blends of services where counselors offer coaching services and vice versa. Couples need to decide for themselves which model is best for their situation.
8 Key Differences Between Coaches and Counselors
Low-cost service offering
YES, most offer online courses ($200-$500) in addition to personal one-on-one coaching
NO, only offer costly one-on-one services ($1,000 to $5,000)
Phone or video service available
YES, most offer phone/video services in addition to in-office services
NO, only in-office services
Focus on past events or desired future
DESIRED FUTURE - Focus is on where you are now and how to get where you want to be
PAST EVENTS - Focus is on what happened in the past to bring you where you are now
Focus on problems or solutions
SOLUTIONS - how to get what you want
PROBLEMS - what is wrong and how to feel about the problems
Time to resolve issues
SHORT time frame - 1 to 3 months
LONG time frame - 6 to 18 months
YES, coaches provide educational materials to coach you
NO, counselors just tell you what to do and expect you to do it
NO, not recommended
YES, perfect choice
Mental health issues
NO, not recommended
YES, perfect choice
Marriage coaching offers real help to couples. Because of the rise of marriage coaches, you don’t have to sit in a leather-clad office, for 6-18 months, and talk about your feelings or sit there while your partner bashes you about every little thing you’ve done.
That can be considered the old way of doing things. Today, marriage coaching offers a new and improved approach that is comprehensive, holistic, and sustainable.