You’ve been in therapy before. You loved it. It helped you find yourself and make significant changes in your life. Now you’ve hit a rough patch in your relationship, and you think THERAPY! If I just take my partner to therapy, this problem can get fixed. (And a secret part of you thinks—this is great—the therapist will fix said partner so we can live our happy life!)
But here’s the thing. Individual Therapy is actually a bit DIFFERENT than Couples Therapy.
Here are five key differences:
In individual therapy, it is all about you. You are the client, and your story and life lead the way and the session. In Couples Therapy, neither you, your partner, and YOUR RELATIONSHIP are the clients. Actually, your relationship is the main client, and the couple’s therapist often speaks for and draws attention to how each of you attends to and affects the relationship. Noticing aloud in front of the therapist and one another how little time or effort either of you spend on the relationship can be humbling—(BUT is a VITAL step in change.)
In individual therapy, the relationship between you and the therapist is key to the process. The therapist’s use of self, their validation, empathy, and compassionate confrontation help awaken you to deeper understanding. In couple’s therapy, the therapist engages this with YOU and YOUR PARTNER and YOUR RELATIONSHIP. They slow down your communication dance and collaborate with you to choreograph new steps. Ultimately, you and your partner provide one another the validation, empathy, and compassionate confrontation with one another.
In individual therapy, the story of your life and session is yours. In couple’s therapy, both of your perspectives come into play. The emphasis is not about WHAT you say so much as HOW you say it. In live time this means you spend less time rehashing the week and more time with what’s called an enactment. What’s happening right now in this minute. What is happening IN you…and how does that help or hinder you in building intimacy and trust. This means the therapist often invites you to pause, coaches you through actions, and slows the interaction done. If you’re accustomed to individual therapy, this can be a BIG shift.
In individual therapy, the therapist helps you find YOU and your VOICE. The therapist engages in reflective listening to allow the conversation to comfort and challenge you. In couple’s therapy, the therapist helps you find and hold YOURSELF and learn how to share YOURSELF with your partner in a way that can be heard. You also learn how to LISTEN to your partner and HONOR their reality. This difference can also be quite an adjustment if you’re well-versed in individual therapy.
In individual therapy, the therapist supports you in becoming an expert in yourself—your strengths, your growing edges, your hopes, and your hang-ups. In couple’s therapy, the therapist assists you in becoming an expert in your partner. You recognize the paradox that neither of you can grow if all you focus on is what you want and need—BUT— you cannot move forward without courageously and vulnerably describing your longings and risking reaching for one another.
Couples Therapy, like intimate partnership, provides adventure, challenge, and reward. If you are ready to explore your role in your relationship, to engage courageously in becoming an expert of your partner and to attend to your relationship, then couple’s therapy can benefit you. If you’d like to know more about how we work with couples or to schedule a free couples consultation, let us know.