While We Aren’t Hung Up On Definitions At Tribeca Therapy, There Are Some Distinctions Between Premarital Counseling and Couples Therapy
In our NYC therapy practice, we offer both premarital counseling and couples therapy (including therapy for couples who aren’t yet married). As with most things at Tribeca Therapy, we try not to get hung up on strict definitions, at least not so much that it keeps us from being able to work creatively. However we define the work, we want to help couples grow and that always involves a measure of discovery throughout the process. It’s part of the advantage of working in a non-formulaic way.
That being said, there are some general distinctions that may be helpful for couples looking at what they need:
Premarital Counseling Usually Doesn’t Concern A Specific Dug-In Problem (Or Problems)
Premarital counseling often works with couples when things are going well and the couple is focused on the future, creating good habits and building skills. In couples therapy, couples are either having modest or high conflict, and are navigating a very difficult time in their relationship. In short, there is usually not a specific dug-in problem in premarital counseling. In premarital counseling, our work is intensely growth-focused, which means making room to appreciate and build on strengths.
This Doesn’t Mean Premarital Counseling Doesn’t Talk About What’s Not Working So Well
Of course, all couples have issues they struggle with, and both couples therapy and premarital counseling are places where we give these problems some attention. When couples seek out couples therapy, they’ve agreed there’s a problem or set of problems they want to address. Often this affects the energy couples bring into session. For those seeking couples therapy, there’s already an agreement (at least enough to bring them in the door) that something’s not working. That can be helpful for everyone in terms of making it easy to speak honestly about what’s not working.
Couples looking for premarital counseling, however, may be more reluctant to talk about what’s not working so well. Part of the job of the premarital counselor is to help them see that they don’t need to fear facing these things and that the help can, well, help. In premarital counseling, we aim to send couples off with better skills at talking about these sensitive topics so they’re better equipped when the next issue comes up. How? That’s where our experience as therapists and not just premarital counselors comes in handy. We can recognize what is tough and help couples tolerate being vulnerable or embarrassed.
Unlike Couples Therapy, Premarital Counseling Follows A Loose Agenda Of Issues Meaningful For Couples To Work On
It’s also worth noting that the agenda of premarital counseling, while never a rigid, off-the-shelf or imposed curriculum at Tribeca Therapy, does nonetheless follow a set of topics (finances, communication, decision making, sex, etc.) that can help bring attention to areas that may not stand out right away for couples as needing attention. We create this agenda together with the couple we’re working with early in the counseling and then, reshape it as we go along and discover what the couple really needs.
At Tribeca Therapy, we love working from a strength-based perspective. When a couple comes in in crisis, as is often the case with couples therapy, it’s what’s not working that compels our attention. In premarital counseling, it’s easier to get to know what’s working and that’s incredibly helpful.