A yellow with shoe prints sticker marks a starting place.

Deciding to pursue individual therapy or relationship therapy is not always straight forward.

All of us are made up of and a part of many different systems, from the macro- to the micro- level. If you are considering starting psychotherapy, it may be because: there is something within the interaction of those systems that no longer serves you. You may find yourself in the same conflict with a partner again and again. There may be a part of you that feels at odds with another part of you. Or, you may find yourself overly stressed by our country’s political sphere – just to name a few possibilities.

Choosing to embark on the journey of understanding yourself within and between these systems is a courageous first step. However, understanding what form of therapy is best for you can be difficult. In this post, we’ll explore some of the considerations to make when deciding whether individual or relationship therapy (or maybe both) is best for you.

What does the Individual Therapy path look like?

Self & Identity Exploration

If your goal is to gain deeper self-understanding, integrate the different parts of you, or to explore the identities you hold, individual therapy may be the right path for you. It can provide a place for you to focus inward and allow you to dedicate time to explore all that makes you who you are.

Growth & Self-Awareness

Perhaps you are noticing that you are falling into the same patterns with a loved one frequently, but you are not yet ready to begin the process of working through this with them. Individual therapy can be a way to gain better self-awareness so you can start to change these patterns from your side.

Internal Struggles & Self-Reflection

If the challenges you are facing are more internal, such as self-esteem issues, personal identity concerns, or coping with individual traumas, individual therapy allows for focused self-reflection.

Specific Mental Health Concerns

Whether you are struggling with anxiety, depression, ADHD, or any other specific mental health diagnosis, individual therapy can be a way to gain further insight into how these are affecting your life and your relationship to yourself. Individual therapy can be a dedicated space for you to learn new coping mechanisms, stress management techniques, and emotional regulation.

How can relationship therapy help me?

At LifeWorks, we use the term Relationship Therapy to describe the identification of issues and patterns leading to the working through of problems and conflicts. Since dynamics exist between all sorts of people, here are some examples of relationships that that can benefit from therapy:

  • family members (for example parent(s) and child(ren), siblings, etc…),
  • partners (including romantic, monogamous, polyamorous, etc…), and even
  • people whose relationship is structured by an employment or other non-familial situation (i.e. manager/supervisee, co-workers, etc…).

Communication & Relationship Dynamics

If your primary goal is to learn better conflict management, strengthen your communication skills, or more deeply understanding the patterns enacting within your relationship, relationship therapy might be the better path for you. In relationship therapy, you can work through your issues together in real time with a therapist there to help guide you through those dynamics more effectively.

Intimacy & Connection

For those seeking to enhance intimacy and connection within a relationship, relationship therapy can support you in strengthening those pieces of your relationships’ foundation. It can also provide a place to safely explore your attachment to one another and an opportunity to heal old wounds together.

Life Transitions

If you are facing a life transition, such as moving in together, having a child, or changing careers, a relationship therapist can assist you in navigating together what can sometimes be emotional and stressful times. Addressing these changes together allows you to explore the impact that they have on yourselves and your relationship as a whole.

Shared Goals & Values

It can be important to feel like you and your partner(s) are aligned in shared goals and values, and navigating this alignment on your own can be difficult. Addressing any differences in these expectations in relationship therapy can help foster a better sense of unity so you and your partner(s) can feel like you are on the same team.

Choosing to embark on a journey of understanding

The choice to engage in individual or relationship therapy depends on what you need and want from therapy. It also involves reflecting on where you and your partner(s) are in your journeys. Individual therapy can be a space to safely explore yourself on deeper levels and work on the systems within you. Relationship therapy can be a space of shared accountability and collaboration. You can work on the dynamics occurring between you and other(s) there.

Some folks may find that they need to first engage in individual therapy before they are ready to begin relationship therapy. Others may find that these modalities best work for them when done in tandem. With whichever path you decide to take – exploring your relationship to your self and the systems within you or exploring the relationships you are a part of – therapy can lead you to greater understanding and transformation.

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Thinking about Psychotherapy?

If you are considering psychotherapy as a resource to your life, an LGBTQIA+ affirming and knowledgeable therapist can support you on your unique path of self-discovery, healing, and personal development. LifeWorks Psychotherapy Center has immediate openings for new clients. 

Contact angel@lifeworkspsychotherapy.com to set up a brief call to get you started with a therapist who can support you or visit Getting Started or use our contact form below: