Your relationship is in the crapper, and you’re scrambling, trying to figure out what you can do to save it. You think, “Couples counseling, yes! That’s what I’ll do!”
Yes, certainly, that is an option, one option, but not the only option. As an anxiety and relationship therapist, I help folks work through problematic relationship patterns that keep them stuck in unhealthy relationships.
And, for the most part, I do this through individual counseling, rather than the couple’s counseling. Individual therapy is especially beneficial when there tends to be a great deal of conflict in the relationship.
There are several reasons why I recommend high conflict couples start healing their relationship problems in individual counseling, which I will explain shortly. But first, it is important to share a few things to consider before taking this approach.
You will want to find an individual therapist that will support you in uncovering your unhealed patterns that are showing up in the relationship. This therapist will need to do a bit more than validate and normalize your feelings and experiences.
Your individual counselor will need to help you illuminate how you’re relating externally to your partner and internally to your feelings. The right therapist will be able to validate your pain while also empowering you to see and do things differently.
When it comes to working on a turbulent relationship. There are several reasons why I recommend starting this process in individual counseling rather than in couples counseling.
- Individual therapy gives you the opportunity to do a deep dive into yourself, your patterns. And how you’re experiencing the relationship without the pressure of doing what is best for the relationship. In couples therapy, the therapist is looking out for what is in the couple’s best interest. There are times when what is best for you conflicts with what is best for the relationship. Individual therapy gives you the space to explore all of that.
- In individual therapy, you can explore your personal values and confirm that your partner and relationship align with what is important to you. Discover that something is out of alignment. You can get the support needed to have difficult conversations and/or establish your “deal-breaker” list.
- Solo therapy allows you to see your healthy and unhealthy patterns in your current relationship, as well as historically for you. You can explore how you establish (or don’t establish) boundaries and what happens internally to prevent you from relinquishing your unhealthy pattern and adopting a new healthy way of relating.
- Individual therapy can help you see your relationship triggers and explore whether these are residual feelings from wounds originating in your family of origin. In individual therapy, you can do the work needed to heal the old wounds and desensitize some of the things that trigger you in your relationship.
- With your individual therapist, you can explore healthy relationship templates. Often, people struggle in relationships because they haven’t experienced good examples that model healthy relationship dynamics. You can safely and explicitly explore healthy ways of engaging with your partner in areas where you would have previously gotten triggered.
Suppose you’re feeling stuck in a tumultuous relationship. In that case, you may benefit from working through some of the discord with an individual therapist that specializes in helping people find their way out of unhealthy relationship patterns.