What is the difference between marital mediation and marital counseling?

Marital counseling is performed by a range of professionals, mostly with training and background in mental health areas, such as social work and psychology. Marital counseling generally incorporates diagnosis, therapy and treatment of personality and relationship problems. The types of information gathered and used by a martial counselor might include family history, and personal and sexual history. Marital counselors are able to identify neurotic behavior and symptoms of mental disorder and illness, and can use that data in the counseling. A marital counselor will aim to use analytic skills to provide context for parties and help them understand their behaviors, thereby alleviating marital conflict.

The approach of marital mediation is different. Mediation is dispute resolution. Marriages (just like life) are filled with disputes, big and small. When a couple has a unproductive manner of disputing, the marriage suffers.  Marital mediation does not work with pathologies, but works with identification of conflict behavior.  Having a neutral third party observe a couple’s interactions is extremely helpful.

The marital mediator works with a couple to help them resolve ongoing specific disputes and negative recurring interactions. The emphasis is on analyzing the communication of the couple and training them to have more productive styles of negotiation. A marital mediator uses standard mediation techniques to break through communication impasses.

The marital mediation is goal and task oriented, time limited and practical. It can significantly address the financial issues that often trouble marriages, as well as the style of communication of the couple.

Financial disputes are often at the heart of problems, especially in “mature” marriages. Due to their experience in divorce mediation, marital mediators are experienced in handling these types of problems. As specialists in dispute resolution, the marital mediator can help a couple learn how to identify faulty dispute resolution behaviors and stop these behaviors in their tracks. A couple who does this finds that their marriage can rapidly improve.
Many couples in marital mediation are also in couples counseling or individual counseling or therapy. These approaches can work very well together. Marital mediation is also helpful if one or the other of a couple is resistant to seeing a therapist.