Couples therapists have different preferences for how to see a couple: individually to start and then conjointly; only together; sometimes they prefer a mixing of conjoint and individual sessions. My preference is for the couple to do the work together, for us to see what they have to say, to see how they both respond to the therapy. I will go a different route if that is what they feel they need, but it is usually best for both partners to go together to couples therapy. There are times when one of the partners does not want to go to couples therapy or therapy at all, so what is one to do?
There is a great deal of work that can be accomplished when an individual goes on their own to therapy, particularly if it is relationship work that the person and couples therapist engage in. One of the keys to couples work when both partners attend is when each party figures out that they themselves have to change. Waiting for the partner to change or even trying to make the partner change in couples counseling usually is not successful and usually stalls the relationship, in or out of therapy. So when the couple figures out that the individuals have to do their own work, they begin to change.
Similarly, when the individual in relationship counseling with a couples therapist figures out they they are the one that needs to change for change to happen, the relationship may begin to change, even though the partner is not attending the sessions. You can affect others, you can affect your partner—the most productive way is to change what you are doing and how your are thinking about the relationship. By all means, therefore, go to relationship therapy by yourself if you can’t get your partner to go. Some of the work is exactly the same. Begin to change yourself and you may also see the relationship change.
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