Marriage Counselling vs Marital coaching


According to Merriam- Webster, counseling is defined as professional guidance of the individual by utilizing psychological methods especially in collecting case history data, using various techniques of the personal interview, and testing interests and aptitudes career counseling for high schoolers counseling for drug addicts. In other sources, it is also defined as the provision of assistance and guidance in resolving personal, social, or psychological problems and difficulties, especially by a professional. Marriage counseling, therefore, is aimed at solving an existing problem in the marriage relationship.

Is ‘counselling’ and ‘therapy’ the same thing? Apparently not. According to experts, counseling ranges from short-term to long-term problem-solving treatment, while therapy goes beyond the treatment to find the root cause of the problem and how to prevent recurrence. The two programs, however, are clinical and very regulated, just like medicine.

Coaching is defined as a form of development in which a person called a coach supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance. The learner is sometimes called a coachee, (Source: Wikipedia) According to UBC HR, it is also a unique opportunity to focus and move forward on your personal, professional or organizational goals through the exploration of ideas and candid dialogue with a confidential and unbiased thinking partner. From these definitions, we note that Counselling and therapy focus on solving an existing problem while coaching focuses on improving the individual or couple or group. Coaching focuses on goal achievement, the ‘how are we going to do it by when’.

Brief History

Historians state that counseling started in Germany in the 1930s and spread to the west, particularly the USA in the 1950s. It started with the military departments and quickly spread to other departments. With the increase of nuclear families and the explosion of economies, many individual problems became eminent and affected the performance of these individuals. Thus the need to start individual or personal counseling. Marital counseling was among the last to develop, after most other health-related personal problems such as addictions and depression. Coaching has been in existing since the 1830s but was mainly in the sports industry. Competitiveness in the business world demanded the development of coaches to train people how to be more productive in their workplaces. Form these sprouted, the HR coaches, Executive Coaches, Sales Coaches and mental health coaches among others. With individualism becoming the norm, personal coaches, speaking coaches, and motivational coaches are now everywhere. The goal is to help make individual achieve their personal goals in any chosen field. The turning of the millennium has seen exponential growth in the coaching industry and the spread now has reached dating, pre-marital and marriage. The change of culture from community-based to individualistic one has been the main contributor to this growth.

What are the main differences between Counselling and Coaching?

  1. Approach: While Counselling is more clinical and problem-solving oriented, coaching is more flexible and goal oriented.

  2. Relationship: Counselling uses the “doctor-patient” kind of treatment while coaching uses “team player- friendly” style of relationship. While the therapist is impersonal and aloof, the coach digs to help the client achieve what is to be achieved. The coach helps clients to set the goals and the timeline within which they should be achieved.

  3. Emotional Connection: The Counsellor or therapist is not required to be emotionally connected to the clients/patients, while the coach often times becomes the mentor, motivator and guide to the clients.

  4. Duration: The Counsellor will work with the client/patient to solve the problem, however long it takes, while the coach’s work is done once the set goal is achieved (Although most clients seek to set more goals and maintain their coaches for a long time).

  5. Focus Point: Counselling focuses on past events in order to find solutions to the current problems while coaches simply focus on how to make the future better. Counselors and Therapists ask “Why? what were the reasons? what are the symptoms? what happened in the past?” while coaches as “ What are your goals? where do you want to go from here? How do you see yourself ten years from now?”

In the current society, most couples wait till it is too late to benefit from a coach’s or counselor’s wealth of expertise. Prevention is always better than cure. Every couple that is dedicated to making their relationship last longer and be more fruitful should seek marital coaches, as well as marriage Counsellors, help, as needed. As the old saying goes in Swahili, I shall paraphrase, “If you do not seal a crack in the wall, be prepared to build a new wall”.

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