It's always recommended to have individual therapy while having couples therapy. Before that, let's talk about couples therapy first.
If you are struggling in your relationship, couples therapy can be an incredible tool to build communication skills, closeness, and intimacy. Couples therapy gives both you and your partner a space where the focus is on your relationship. This approach to therapy can help both you and your partner join forces to improve your relationship and work towards a common goal: each other. If you are uncertain if couples therapy would benefit you, I recommend reading our previous article about Couples Therapy.
However, just because couples therapy is effective does not mean it is easy. It does require work both on the relationship and on yourself. Indeed, frequently at the onset of couples therapy partners report feeling worse before they feel better (Johnson, 2019). This is not a bad sign, and actually makes a lot of sense when we think about it. You will be learning a lot of new skills and trying them out, but it takes time to get it right, which can lead to increased frustration. Additionally, you will potentially be bringing up topics and long-standing issues that have been pushed down or minimized to this point. This is not a bad thing. In fact, it means both you and your partner are putting in the effort to work on your relationship, even when it is difficult.
Throughout this time, your couples therapist will be there to support you both and work on the relationship. However, most couples therapy is only 60 minutes a week. That does not give you all a lot of time, and the therapist’s primary focus will be on the relationship and the interaction between you two, not on any individual person. Neither of you are the client: the relationship is. However, both you and your partner still have individual needs that may come up during session. This is where individual therapy can be extremely beneficial as an add-on to couples therapy.
Adding on individual therapy will provide you a space that is wholly your own. There will be times in couples therapy where you will leave with more to process, and you may have skills that are introduced in couples therapy that you want to further improve individually. Indeed, individual therapy in conjunction with couples therapy has been shown to speed up results in both (Johnson, 2019).
There will also be times when there are external concerns that still impact your relationship. For example, if you are unhappy with your work, or are feeling burned out in other areas of your life, your partner may not be able to help. However, that source of distress will still impact your relationship. It may make you more irritable, or have less energy to give to the relationship. Giving yourself a space to process and focus on other problems outside your relationship may in fact be exactly the boost your couples therapy needs, but does not have the space for. (Marco Renzi 2023)
Individual Counseling For Adults is An Excellent Resource in Couples Counseling
Yes, that means seeing your therapist twice a week. That might feel excessive, but it’s recommended for a reason. Our lives are incredibly complicated, and we all have extremely unique experiences. For most people, many landmark experiences that happen in childhood stay with us until adulthood. Sometimes this is good; maybe we were raised to value patience and kindness that we practice as we grow. Other times, it’s not so positive. We may have seen dysfunctional habits in the relationships in our house growing up. Outside of childhood, there are many complicated experiences that we have that often aren’t looked at or evaluated in the way they should be to promote our mental well-being.
Couples counseling is a great place to start in terms of improving your relationship. A couple’s counselor can help you to improve your communication and prioritize the goals you have for each other. Marriage counseling can help to identify habits and patterns that don’t work for you and your partner as a couple. However, couples counseling is focused on your relationship, not necessarily your growth outside of the relationship. To fully to take advantage of couples therapy benefits, you as an individual need to your own development and journey. Again, many complicated things happen in our lives that we don’t always take care of the way we need to. With this in mind, we often take these impacts with us.
So, to truly propel your relationship forward and get to the place you want to be, you both need to pick up your messes from your past. As much as we think we leave the past in the past, it’s not always the case. Individual therapy in addition to couples therapy can help you to acknowledge your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Therapy can help you to develop new skill sets and frameworks to feel more equipped to handle what life throws at you, both in and out of your relationship. Because regardless of how your relationship is going, you’re still a person outside of it that has their own experiences. Yes, marriage counseling sessions will help you move forward as a couple; and individual therapy can help you improve as an individual. (Open Arms Wellness 2022) When you combine these two sessions, you can grow as a couple and as an individual which will build a better relationship in general. That is why therapists always recommend having both sessions.
Individual Relationship Therapy have these Key benefits
Individual relationship therapy helps you develop self-awareness, leading to healthier and more fulfilling relationships.
Enhancing communication and listening skills promotes harmony and mutual understanding with your partner.
Understanding your emotions and setting healthy boundaries creates a supportive and respectful environment in your relationship.
Despite benefits, individual relationship therapy is not always beneficial; couples counseling can be a more useful approach.
7 Ways Individual Relationship Therapy Can Benefit You
If you want to give your relationship a better chance of lasting and help it become a source of joy and pleasure in your life, here are some ways individual relationship therapy can help.
1. You get to know yourself better
One of the best ways you can strengthen your relationships is by knowing who you are. What is important to you? What are your values? What are your boundaries?
These are things that we go our entire lives without thinking about very much. We are socialized to put others first, so thinking about ourselves is considered selfish.
When you know yourself though and spend time truly understanding who you are and what is most important to you, it is easier to care for others. You learn how to take care of your own needs, instead of expecting others to take care of them for you.
2. You learn to communicate better
Communication is one of the biggest problems in relationships. You may know how to talk – but most clients don’t know how to communicate effectively. Misunderstandings and hurt feelings are common when one person tries to tell the other how they feel in a relationship.
Individual relationship therapy can help you communicate better. A therapist can help you find the best ways to get your feelings and thoughts across in a way that isn’t misunderstood or hurtful to the other person.
You can learn to communicate in a way that gets your point across without worrying the other party will take it the wrong way.
3. You can see your own behavioral patterns
Often, you may not realize you are doing the same thing over and over again in your relationships. It’s hard to see our own actions because we are too close to the feelings and emotions that lead up to them.
Individual relationship therapy can help you see patterns in your past and current behavior that may cause problems between you and your partner. When you see these patterns, you can learn why they repeat and find alternatives to the behaviors so you don’t repeat them in the future.
4. You become a better listener
As important as communication is in a relationship, listening is just as important. When you learn to communicate better, you will inspire your partner to communicate their needs and desires with you, and it is critical that you learn to listen to them.
When you talk and you feel like your partner isn’t listening, what happens? You feel devalued. By learning better listening skills through individual relationship counselling, you can show your partner that you think they are important.
They will feel you put a value on their feelings and they will want to do the same for you.
5. You learn how to have arguments with respect
No matter how good you think your relationship is right now, there are going to be times when the two of you disagree. Sometimes, those disagreements will turn into arguments.
Individual relationship therapy can help you have an argument while still being respectful towards your partner. An argument can cause huge rifts in a relationship if one partner or the other feel disrespected. If those feelings continue from one argument to another, it may cause the end of the relationship.
It’s completely possible to have an argument that doesn’t end the relationship, though. Learning how to disagree while still respecting your partner is a beneficial skill in any relationship.
6. You learn to understand your emotions
Anger, passion, fear, jealousy, resentment, love – all of these are emotions everyone feels in a relationship at some point. But most of us have a hard time dealing with them. Even the “good” emotions, like love and passion, can become hard to manage when we aren’t sure how to manage them.
When you start individual relationship therapy, you are encouraged to confront your emotions and examine why you feel them and what that means. When you start to really think about your emotions, it can be tempting to run away from them because you don’t understand why you feel them. Any emotion can be attached to memories and experiences.
Through individual relationship counselling, you can safely look at your emotions and become more comfortable with them as you learn to understand them in a safe environment.
7. You learn to set boundaries
Some clients think boundaries are restrictive, but they can be beneficial as an individual and in a relationship. When you go into a relationship with no boundaries at all, it tells the other person they can do anything they want, without repercussions.
A lack of boundaries means a lack of respect for yourself. (Practical Counseling 2023)