Relationship counseling is a form of counseling which focuses on addressing various types of relationships. It can be used to strengthen an existing relationship, to explore areas of tension in a relationship, and to deal with a variety of issues that come up in interpersonal interactions. There are a number of approaches to relationship counseling, and many communities offer several resources for people who seek this type of counseling.
The relationship in relationship counseling does not necessarily have to be romantic, although couples and marriage counseling is often a big part of a relationship counseling practice. It may take the form of a business relationship, as in the case of a professional and a client or an employer and employee. It may also be a family relationship, like a parent and child or a collection of siblings. Relationship counselors are trained to deal with a wide variety of people, situations, and relationships.
One of the key aspects of relationship counseling is that it is confidential. Historically, the role of relationship counselor was often filled by a friend, neighbor, or family member, with varying degrees of confidentiality. In the late 20th century, some people began to seek professional help with relationships to get a more informed perspective, and to ensure confidentiality, so that they could feel comfortable discussing a range of issues. Relationship counseling is also non-judgmental, conducted in a safe space where people will be supported and assisted with whatever they need.
Depending on the therapist, relationship counseling may be approached in a number of ways. Typically, the therapist makes appointments to meet with everyone involved both separately and together, to get a range of perspectives and to get a chance to observe interpersonal dynamics. A big part of the therapy is exploring the relationship and the contributions of the people in it, and seeing how the various parties perceive their roles and the activities of others.
When issues which appear to strain or test the relationship are identified, they can be explored with a relationship counselor. The counselor acts as a facilitator to gently guide people through the discussion, and to focus on keeping conversations productive.
Relationship counselors may be licensed psychological professionals, but they may also be members of the clergy, doctors, and other people who provide care to people when they are vulnerable, confused, or in need of advice. When seeking relationship counseling, people should be aware that confidentiality is only guaranteed from people in certain professions. Doctors, workers in the mental health field, and clergymembers, for example, will not discuss the content of relationship counseling sessions with anyone.