How To Know The Difference Between Mediation and Couples Therapy

How to Know the Difference Between Mediation and Couples Therapy 

Jenny Ernest & Joelle Rabow Maletis

While most people are aware of what couples therapy is, fewer people know about mediation, how it works, and how it can improve relationships similarly to couples therapy. 

Mediation can help improve communication, problem solving approaches, and even result in keeping disagreements such as co-parenting plans, divorce, and workplace disputes out of court.

When faced with a disagreement, it is important for each individual involved to prioritize fairness, respect, and healthy communication which is exactly what a mediator is there to do- ensure fair, respectful, and healthy communication that results in everyone involved feeling heard and that their needs have been met. 


What is Mediation? 

Mediation is a process in which one or more unbiased people known as a mediator assist in the communication between disagreeing individuals and help them reach an agreement that they are both happy with. The main role of a mediator is to be unbiased when helping two opposing  parties reach a compromise. The process of mediation normally comes into play when parties can’t work out their differences and are facing the real possibility of litigation (Skov, 2022). Once two individuals decide to end a relationship is when a mediator joins the process to negotiate how the relationship can civilly come to an end.


Mediation Benefits

According to Martin Skov, founder of Martin Skov Mediation, the process of mediation is highly beneficial for those who will share responsibility or continue relationships after their dispute has been resolved (Skov, 2022). For example, divorcing couples, co-parents, neighbors, business partners, or landlords and tenants all need to continue relationships after their dispute has been resolved. Having a mediator present helps resolve the disagreement in a civilized way so that the relationship may continue in a healthy and respectful manner. Mediation is beneficial because it is confidential, voluntary, fair and impartial while also improving communication and creating a cooperative problem-solving approach (Skov, 2022).


How Does Meditation Work?

When a dispute arises that both parties would prefer to keep out of the courts, a mediator will sit down with them and help guide them towards a resolution in a civil and non-confrontational way (Skov, 2022). By removing obstacles to healthy communication, mediators help disputing parties express their needs and concerns in a respectful manner to come up with solutions that both individuals agree with on their own terms. In mediation, disputes are resolved confidentially outside the court system through voluntary negotiations supervised by a mediator. (Webster, 2022).


What Is The Difference Between Couples Therapy and Meditation?

While both share similar goals of conflict resolution in a civil matter, couples therapy and mediation occur in different stages of a relationship. Normally, couples therapy occurs when both individuals are motivated to maintain or save their relationship, whereas mediation occurs once both individuals have decided to separate and begin the legal process. According to, in therapy, conflict is explored in depth for its meaning, but in mediation, too much conflict can complicate the goal of an agreement between two parties (Kelly, 1983). Additionally, a therapist will try to evaluate the meanings and causes of emotional reactions, whereas a mediator instead will try to manage and contain emotions in a dispute so that an agreement can be reached by both individuals. 


What Is The Goal Of Mediation?

In mediation, the primary goal is of course to resolve disputes by finding areas of agreement. This can be accomplished by sharing feelings, eliminating hostility, and clearing up misunderstandings (, 2019). According to Martin Skov, the basic goal of mediation is to find solutions to a disagreement that will meet the needs of both parties while keeping control over the process with the disputants and out of the hands of the courts. This goal especially has value when the parties need to have an ongoing relationship after the difference of opinions has been resolved and the mediation process has allowed them to leave feeling good about their resolution (Skov, 2022).


What Is The Goal Of Couples Therapy? 

One goal of couples therapy is to help a couple improve how they relate, love and respond to each other. All couples can benefit from couples therapy; not just couples struggling in their relationship. In addition to this, meeting each other’s needs through communication, action, and trust is also important. For the couple, one goal is learning how to resolve conflicts together, known as “fair fighting”. Improving one’s relationship and trust is very hard and time consuming work. But it’s possible; and many couples find it useful and relationship-saving. By giving a couple the tools they need to better communicate and listen, this allows them to potentially resolve their issues on their own without a therapist present. 













Even though couples therapy and mediation take place in different stages of a dispute between two individuals, both can produce very beneficial results. Couples therapy gives two people the opportunity to keep working at a relationship to maintain it while mediation gives people the opportunity to continue being a part of each other’s lives in a healthy, respectful way. 

It is important to know both of these options exist for settling disputes between two disagreeing parties that want to or need to remain a part of each other’s lives. There is the potential for a great deal of good to come from giving either of these services a chance to help you and those you may be having issues with learn, grow, and hear each other in a different way than you have before to understand them better.


If you believe that you or someone you know could benefit from couples therapy, you can reach us at (650) 386-6753 or info@joellerabowmaletis to learn more, ask questions, or schedule an appointment.


To learn more information about mediation, you can contact Martin Skov, founder of Martin Skov mediation at (408) 828-9836 or


Kelly, J. B. (1983). Mediation and Psychotherapy – Distinguishing the Differences. Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved September 20, 2022. therapist,reaching%20a%20 settlement%20can%20proceed 

Marble Wellness (2022). Couples and Marriage Therapy in St. Louis, MO. Marble Wellness. Retrieved September 26, 2022. 

Mediation (2022). Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary. Merriam Webster. Retrieved September 20, 2022.

Skov, M. (2022). Mediation- The Most Effective Means of Dispute Resolution. Retrieved September 20, 2022. 

U.S. Department of Commerce (2019). What are the goals of mediation? Retrieved September 30th, 2022.,fostering%20an%20improved%20working%20relationship.


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