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What Is The Right Type of Therapy to Address Relationship Issues?

Amanda Ann Gregory, LCPC, EMDR Certified 

You’re ready to participate in therapy, but you’re not sure which type of therapy would meet your needs. If your primary therapeutic need is related to your relationships, should you seek individual, couples or family therapy?

Should I Choose Individual, Couples, or Family Therapy to Address Relationship Issues?

Consider these questions to help you decide:

What’s your primary issue?

  •       How my personal issues (thoughts, actions, emotions, traumas, attachment issues, substance use, and stressors) impact my relationships.

o   Individual Therapy. If your personal needs are front and center, then consider participating in individual therapy. This personalized setting can help you address your needs in order to improve your relationships. You will be your therapist’s main focus. You can address any and all relationship issues in individual therapy, but the goals of individual therapy are focused on your needs—not the needs of your partner or family members.

  •       All or most of my relationships are struggling.

o   Individual Therapy. If you notice a pattern of difficulty in most or all of your relationships (with your partner, colleagues, family, friends, etc.), you might need to address your needs before and/or while you’re participating in couples or family therapy.  A pattern of issues in relationships could be an indication of unmet individual needs.

  •       My current romantic relationship is struggling.
  •       Couples therapy. If you experience couple related issues such as a lack of trust, a lack of intimacy, strained or deficient communication, difficulties dealing with either infertility or pregnancy, infidelity, newlywed adjustment,  parenting, adoption, divorce, and family financial stress, then you should participate in couples therapy.  Your relationship with your partner will be your therapist’s main focus. Individual needs are addressed in couples therapy, but the goals of couples therapy are focused on the couple’s relationship.
  •       My relationships with one or more family members are struggling.

o   Family therapy. Family members of any age can participate in family therapy in order to address past and present family dynamics. The therapist’s focus will be on the relationships within the family, as opposed to the needs of one individual and/or one partnership.

Who is willing to participate in therapy?

  •       Just me.

o   Individual therapy. You can address your relationship issues in individual therapy if you are the only one who is willing to participate in therapy.

  •       Myself and my romantic partner.
  •       Couples therapy. You and your partner should understand that you’ll both be required to make changes, as the relationship involves you both. If only one person wants to attend and engage in therapy, then individual counseling should be considered.
  •       Myself and one or multiple family members (biologically or non-biologically related).

o   Family therapy. These sessions can include a few or many family members – whatever is beneficial to improving the family dynamics.

  •       I’m not sure.

o   Individual therapy. You can start in individual therapy and then receive a referral from your therapist to begin couples or family therapy once you have clarity regarding who’s willing to participate. You can work with your therapist regarding the best ways to ask others to engage in therapy with you.

Are you willing to try more than one service?

  •       No, I wish to focus only on one. 

o   You can focus on either individual, couples, or family therapy, and you can work with your therapist if you ever need to transition to another type of therapy.

  •       Yes, I would consider it.

o   Many people participate in a combination of therapeutic services in order to best meet their needs. For example, you might participate in individual therapy with your therapist and couples therapy with your partner and another therapist. The therapists can communicate with each other upon your request.

o   There are situations in which it may be appropriate for your partner or family member to attend a session with you and your individual therapist. For example, you may request that your partner attend a session to discuss treatment planning with your therapist. A parent may spend a lot of time with a child’s individual therapist to gain vital information and methods to support their child’s mental health. Discuss these options with your individual therapist.

Which would best meet your needs—individual, couples, or family therapy? Or a combination? Symmetry Counseling provides individual, couples, and family therapy and supports clients who wish to benefit from a combination of services. Contact Symmetry Counseling to discuss your treatment needs.

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