When is individual therapy the best choice? When you are experiencing relationship concerns, it is usually best to attend therapy with your partner. However, there may be exceptions. When a partner is violent and you are fearful of talking in the other’s presence, it is best to attend alone and develop a safety plan with a therapist. When your partner has a long standing addiction and is unwilling to address or attempt to resolve the addiction, it may be necessary for you to attend alone, also. When your partner has been involved in long-standing multiple affairs and denies any responsibility for the affairs or attempt to change, individual therapy may be best for you. However, couples who are in relationships with an addicted partner or a partner who has been unfaithful very often benefit from couple therapy. Couple therapy may be helpful to address these problems and resolve them.
Individual therapy may be best to help address issues and problems which the person has identified as centering inside themselves and not directly related to the relationship. Some examples of these types of problems are as follows.
- Feelings of chronic depression, negative self messages, poor self image and self neglect.
- Feeling isolated and alone. Having few meaningful or supportive relationships in your life.
- Chronic problems interacting with coworkers, friends, spouse, or family members.
- Losing a sense of purpose and direction; feeling a lack of meaning in your life.
- Struggling with patterns that you seem unable to change. Addictions, unhealthy lifestyle choices.
- Frequently giving in when you want to “hold your ground”.
- Issues which often suggest that individual therapy may be most beneficial
Individual issues of self esteem, insecurity, low self worth, excessive self criticism, chronic anger and irritability, and poor self image are generally more effectively resolved in individual therapy. Problems with depression, lack of motivation, disinterest in life and suicidal thoughts most often require individual attention to these issues.
Excessive anxiety which interferes with one’s ability to feel comfortable in situations, such as social anxiety, obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, anxiety related to traumatic events and panic attacks are also individual issues. Eating disorders such as inability to maintain a healthy body weight, excessive thoughts of body image and desire for perfection, use of means such as vomiting, laxatives, and excess exercise in excess to maintain a body weight need to be handled in individual therapy, as well as using food to address emotional issues,or engaging in secretive or shameful eating patterns. Grief and loss are often painful and require individual therapy.
Many individuals are often uncomfortable regarding talking over painful childhood issues with someone else in the room. Unaddressed or unresolved childhood pain, sexual abuse, physical abuse, abandonment, neglect and emotional abuse are areas many feel more comfortable addressing in a private session.However, many of the above symptoms may also be related to and aggravated by problems in relationships with a partner and/or family members. Therefore, couple and family therapy should not be ruled entirely as a treatment option for some of the above circumstances. When you are not sure, it is best to discuss this with your therapist to determine the most effective treatment options.