Couples therapy and family therapy are similar because they both involve the therapist working with more than one person in the room. Couples therapy is specifically for individuals in a romantic relationship – whether it may be dating, engaged, cohabiting, or married. Family therapy is for the relationships between those within an entire family unit. This can be any number or combination of family members – the entire family unit, parent-child, siblings, blended families, etc.
Both couples therapy and family therapy focus on the relationships between everyone involved. Each individual is a client, but the relationship between them is a client as well. Couples therapy is more centered around strengthening the romantic relationship, while family therapy focuses on strengthening the family unit as a whole. If the main issues that are arising only involve the couple, couples therapy might be more beneficial. If most of the issues surround the cohesivity of the family or a relationship between members who are not in a romantic relationship, family therapy might be the best option. It is also often recommended to utilize both. Marriage and family therapists are trained in both couples and family therapy and can see the same client in both settings. A couple can always attend couples therapy, and then attend family therapy with other members of their family as well.