Starting therapy is often a difficult and bewildering process. There are so many therapists out there and so many types of therapy. Where does one even begin? When I think about therapy from the perspective of working on your relationship I think of whether you will be starting with individual, couples, or group therapy. But how do you decide?
This is the type of therapy that many people think of for a relationship. It makes sense that if the couple is having problems then the couple should go to therapy together. Couples therapy is a good way for two people to sit down and hash things out with a therapist. Couples therapy can help you say the difficult things to your partner and help you figure out what is happening in the relationship and how to move forward in the best way possible. Perhaps one or both of you is thinking about ending the relationship but you are not sure. Couples therapy can be a good way to sort this out together.
Some couples have tried to have these conversations already but have failed. Perhaps emotions get triggered and the conversation escalates into yelling, fighting, or tears. Perhaps one or both people are resistant to even talking about these issues but sooner or later they cannot be avoided and you may need my help in talking out these difficult and emotional issues.
But often couples therapy is not the best way to start, especially if one person doesn’t want to go to therapy. Or perhaps scheduling makes it difficult for both people to be there at the same time. Or maybe you are just not ready to start talking about these difficult subject with your partner, but you want to start talking them out with a therapist. In these cases, individual therapy may be the best place to start.
This is always a good place to start with therapy. It is just you one-on-one with your therapist and you get to focus all the time on your concerns and your perspective on the relationship problems. It can be helpful to have your own space to vent and explore all your thoughts and feelings about your relationship and your life in general. When people are thinking about therapy, usually things have gotten difficult and often communication in a relationship has broken down. You can gain a lot of perspective and get a new mindset just by talking about your life to your therapist individually.
You may not be sure even if you want to stay in your relationship and you may not by ready to have these painful conversations with your partner, especially if you are not sure. Individual therapy can be a good way to get some of these questions sorted out on your own before you start talking to your partner. You may be worried about your partner getting mad, hurt, or defensive when you bring up these issues. Individual therapy can help you gain clarity and take the charge out before you open the discussion with your partner.
Group therapy is oriented primarily around having better relationships in your life. You are working with your fellow group members on having better relationships. There are couples groups out there where you work with other couples in the room. The groups that I run do not have both members of the couple in the same group. Sometimes one member of the couple will join a group and other times both members will join different groups.
It can be very constructive to talk about your relationship problems with other group members who are also working on similar issues. Getting a different perspective from your fellow group members in addition to the group therapist can be very supportive. Group is also helpful as you get to see relationship dynamics play out in the room with your fellow group members. Over time you will develop relationships in the room and you will have thoughts and feelings about other group members. These relationships will be similar in ways to the relationships outside the room and we will get to study them and understand how they impact your life. Eventually you will get to experiment with new behaviors and see how they affect other people.
What Kind of Therapy is Right for You?
You can think of these different types of therapy as overlapping circles. There are some similarities and some differences. It is often a matter of what gets emphasized in each form of therapy. But this is just a starting point. Often people will start with one form and then add another or switch later on. For instance, many couples will come in together and then add individual therapy for one or both members. Or someone will start with individual therapy and then join a group after a while. I often adapt the forms of therapy to a client’s changing needs as they change and grow.
Hopefully this article has helped you sort out what kind of therapy might be best for you at this time. Feel free to call me to discuss options for your therapy.