Often when Leslie and I share what we do, we’re met with the response…”oh, so you’re marriage counselors?!...” to which we reply, “no, we’re marriage coaches…”
To many, the two are often thought to be one and the same but they are actually quite different
The first thing that usually pops into people’s minds when they think about marriage counseling or coaching is a small room with a sofa, a chair, soft lighting, and a therapist sitting across from you and your spouse, asking a series of questions that will solve all of your marital problems and lead you to marital bliss until suddenly, your “hour is up” and you’re politely excused from the office. This may be what people experience in a marriage counseling session, but it is perhaps the farthest reality from what you’d experience in a great marriage coaching experience.
In our own personal walk to restoration, we saw a host of marriage counselors and the result was typically the same. We’d go for a session or two, the counselor would quickly determine that I was the one causing most of the problems, the sessions would become two against one, and after I had enough of being the bad guy, I’d stop going. In at least one instance, the healing advice given to Leslie was to leave me…WHAT?! Now, truth be told, everything the counselors said about me was right on, but it’s important to understand that when someone is in that denial mindset, pointing out all their problems to them typically results in the accused being defensive and ultimately is counterproductive to the restoration process.
It wasn’t until we met with someone that took the time to understand us both and look upon us with compassion that our healing was able to begin. This person realized that assigning blame was less important than getting us healthy, and to genuinely help us resolve our emotional and spiritual brokenness in a way that would enabl us to take responsibility for the pain and damage we caused without being made to feel “less than.” It was this coach, our cheerleader and encourager, that helped us to understand how to heal. They helped us to reaffirm our identities in Christ, rather than in a diagnosis. They helped us understand that God was the one who would ultimately provide the healing, if we let Him, and led us to shed the past pain and confusion by fostering a more intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, by allowing themselves to be used by God, they were able to come alongside of us and be instrumental in our restoration.
It's by way of our victory that we’re able to experience and understand the vast differences between counseling and coaching…
One of the first things you need to understand is that, in our experience, counselors and coaches approach their client’s challenges from two different directions…the counselor from a clinical perspective, the coach from a life experience perspective.
Typically, a counselor will spend many years studying to understand the clinical perspective of mental illness and behavioral disorders so that they can meet with, recognize, identify, and diagnose those areas of mental/cognitive disorders to help treat an individual by therapy and/or medication (note this is something that a credible and ethical coach will explain they are not able to do). This is typically done in periodic, one-hour, sessions and/or via prescription.
On the other hand, since many marital issues aren’t caused by a severe mental or emotional disorder, the coach’s approach is different in that they aren’t looking to diagnose anything. They are looking to walk the couple into a better marriage with a foundation on the personal life lessons they learned through their own experience. It’s a book-smarts versus street-smarts comparison…a sharing of wisdom via a “been there, done that” process. The coaches will be living proof to the couple that there is a way to overcome the damaging effects of pornography, adultery, drugs, emotional abuse, etc. They will show them they can come out the other side of the trauma better and stronger than they ever were before. They walk beside a couple, giving them reassurance that they aren’t in this alone, it is worth the work, while giving them honest feedback, sometimes things you’d rather not hear. Ultimately, through it all, the hurting spouses can begin to rebuild their relationship with each other and, more importantly, the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Counselor Jesus asked to be sent by God to teach us all we need to know (John 14:26). It is in that rebirthed relationship with the Spirit where the couple is given the revelation and knowledge necessary for healing and restoration to occur.
Another significant difference between counseling and coaching is in its timing.
As was mentioned earlier, we’ve been through our share of counseling prior to getting a coach and, if you’ve ever seen a counselor before, one of the aspects that has become the punch line to several jokes is based in truth. Just as you may be headed to breakthrough or, finally feeling enough confidence to open up, you’re suddenly made aware that your time is up.
Now understand, this isn’t a slam on counselors, it just happens to be the nature of the business. Like any healthcare professional, they need to hold to a schedule, or their practice will soon get away from them. The challenge with that is the healing you were intended to get during that session may have been just on the other side of an hour…
Coaching, on the other hand, is intended to be personal and specific to the couple allowing for greater flexibility and opportunity for breakthrough. For example, although coaches are not necessarily available at every instant of every day, and do have set schedules, there is a greater opportunity for connection, dialog, and mentorship within their programs. Coaching doesn’t stop after an hour and typically includes other touch points between meetings. Zoom trainings, group sessions, increased availability through texting, email and phone calls, and retreats may be a few of those opportunities.
It's worthy to note here, especially since we are talking about people working with people whose marriages and emotions may not be in the best of places, that any credible coaching team like Three Cord Marriage will have zero tolerance rules, processes, and a personal code of ethics that prevent any direct or indirect individual male/female, coach and client contact through any of its connection points. Healthy boundaries are necessary for healing.
And finally, one of the greatest contributors to a couple’s victory in marriage is found within their support community.
Although both counselors and coaches are held to the highest standards of confidentiality, a counselor is typically not able to interact with their clients outside the confines of their office. I’ve personally heard of stories where a counselor all but had to ignore one of their clients when they ran into them out in public to prevent an inadvertent breach of confidentiality.
Knowing the value that fellowship and community contributed to the resurrection of our marriage, it is part of our programs we encourage, and even facilitate. Having relationship with those that can encourage you, celebrate you, and share the love of Christ with you, is paramount!
The strengthening and restoration of your marriage is vital to your family, your community, and ultimately, your nation…and this is why Three Cord Marriage exists!
We were called to became marriage coaches so that we could be used to lead other hurting couples to the same victory that God gave to us and, we know firsthand the benefit coaching provided us over traditionally counseling.
So if you believe that marital coaching is something that would benefit your marriage, your family, and your legacy, reach out, take action, and either click the link or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get started.
Raymond (& Leslie)
Image by wayhomestudio on Freepik
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