Often times couples issues / conflicts / unhappiness are the result of individual issues impacting the relationship in negative ways. Consequently effective couples counseling often requires a blend of individual work and couples work.
Sometimes exploring individual issues is uncomfortable to do in front of your partner, after all if it was easy to share and talk about you would have already done so. Hence the need for some help.
Trying to engage two individual therapists and a third for couples therapy is costly, cumbersome and inefficient. Using one therapist for all three roles has its own risks and drawbacks. At times one person may feel the therapist is always siding with their partner, or doesn’t understand them. When this happens trust in the therapeutic process / relationship is eroded. Once trust is gone progress stops and individuals frequently drop out of treatment.
Fortunately, a more manageable and effective solution exists. My wife, Dr Marti Schwartz, is also a psychologist. We share similar teaching styles and ‘speak the same language’. Often she will work individually with one partner while I work individually with the other. When everyone is ready we then meet as a group, all four of us. In this way each member can feel supported in those uncomfortable conversations that need to happen to help promote growth and healing.
There is tremendous flexibility with this approach. Individual work can happen based on each persons needs. One partner may ‘pause’ their individual work while their partner tries to ‘catch up’ or ‘figure out their piece of the puzzle’. During this times the group sessions can continue uninterrupted. Session time can be split between couples (30 minutes) and individual (30 minutes) depending on how the work flows and the emotional needs of each member of the couple.
In the years we have been offering this option we have found that couples seem to progress more quickly and gains last longer. Making it less costly and more efficient in the long run. In fact, most couples with whom we’ve worked with in this manner report their relationships are stronger and more loving than ever before.