Differentiating Couples Therapy vs Individual Therapy

Jun 2024 | lifestyle, mental wellness, resources

In Singapore, research has shown that divorces and annulments occur most frequently between year 5 and 10 after marriage

Regardless if you are newly wed, in a long-term marriage or haven’t tied the knot, couple therapy can be a transformative journey towards healthy mental wellbeing. Whether you’re navigating personal challenges on your own or seeking to strengthen your bond with your partner, understanding the differences between individual therapy and couple therapy can help. Let’s delve into differences between couples therapy vs individual therapy, and how to determine which of the two is best suited for you. 

What is Individual Therapy?

Individual therapy, also known as psychotherapy or counselling, is a collaborative process between a therapist and an individual. Individual therapy sessions provide a safe and confidential space for resolving personal trauma and issues. The focus is on the individual’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings with the goal of enhancing self-awareness, coping strategies, and one’s overall mental well-being.

During individual therapy sessions, the therapist adopts an individual-centred approach, tailoring the focus to the unique needs and goals of the individual. Techniques such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), gestalt therapy, and solution-focused therapy may be employed to address various issues, including anxiety, depression, trauma, amongst other problems in the relationship.

What is Couple Therapy?

Couple therapy, also referred to as marriage counselling or relationship therapy, involves working with both partners simultaneously to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and strengthen the relationship. 

Couple Therapy Goals

Couple therapy seeks to help couples improve their relationship dynamics, communication and mental wellbeing. It emphasises fostering empathy, understanding, and mutual respect while addressing issues such as communication breakdowns, intimacy, and trust.

Under the guidance of a trained therapist, results such as improving the quality of the relationship, enhancing mutual understanding, fostering greater harmony and connection between partners can be achieved. 

But that’s not all. Healing trauma, resolving communication issues also creates a safe enclave for both individuals, a key step towards healing that might be hard to achieve without help from a trained therapist.

How Does Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy Differ?

Every individual’s situation is unique. This is why understanding the distinctions between individual therapy and couples therapy is essential for determining the optimal approach that best suits your needs. 

At Safe Expanse, our therapists are trained to identify specific issues individuals or couples struggle with, and tailor our therapy sessions to accommodate each individual’s needs. If you need help with your relationship, schedule a free 10 minute discovery call with our therapist to better understand how we can help

Couples Therapy vs Individual Therapy: Key Differences

Since individual therapy centres on the experiences, thoughts, and emotions of a single individual, the support you receive can be better personalised during therapy or coaching sessions. If you are facing marriage issues or are struggling with their relationship, your significant other will have less involvement if you opt for therapy without your partner. 

Conversely, couple therapy primarily focuses on relationship issues and its dynamics. The therapist can work with you and your significant other directly on issues such as communication, conflicts, intimacy, trust, infidelity, and divergent goals or values, involving both you and your partner in the same session. However, there are times where the therapist may recommend for you and your partner to seek individual therapy if certain personal issues may need to be addressed to aid in the overall progress of couple therapy.

Should I opt for Individual Therapy or Couple Therapy? 

This depends on the situation that you are in. If you and your partner are on amicable terms and are both committed to revitalising your relationship, couple therapy can work wonders in resolving issues and healing, since both partners are directly involved.

But individual therapy isn’t less optimal, per se, since a safe space is essential for couple therapy to work. Hence, in some cases where a partner is unwilling, or if the parties are on bad terms, individual therapy could be a better immediate option to first reduce the tension or difficulties at the surface level sufficiently, so that both parties can be involved in further change process together.

Regardless of the type of therapy that suits your situation better, the therapist’s goal would be to help you and your partner identify and address underlying issues, improve communication, and work towards a win-win solution. This is done through structured exercises, communication techniques, conflict resolution strategies and more. 

The Journey to Healing a Relationship through Therapy

It can feel intimidating to seek help, and not knowing where to begin can be daunting. This is why our therapists are here to help. 

Determining which type of therapy is best suited for you and your significant other involves a thoughtful evaluation of your relationship dynamics, circumstances, challenges, lifestyle choices, life goals and other factors. 

Reflect on the specific issues or challenges you’re facing. Are they primarily internal, such as anxiety, frustration, loss of intimacy, or self-esteem issues? Or do they involve your significant other with issues such arguments and conflicts occuring on a regular basis? Clarifying the nature of your concerns can guide you towards the optimal type of therapy.

If your primary issues stem from internal reasons, consider the following:

Are there deep seated trust issues, or disconnects in communicating and/or understanding?

Couples therapy may be beneficial in addressing relationship dynamics and fostering harmony between you and your partner.

With that being said, it’s also important to reflect on how your individual challenges may impact your relationship dynamics. For example, unresolved personal issues such as stress, anxiety, or past traumas may contribute to conflicts or communication difficulties within the relationship. In such cases, addressing individual concerns through one-on-one therapy may better benefit the relationship. 

The Seven-year Itch Isn’t a Myth

Married couples tend to feel dissatisfied with their marriage around 7 years after tying the knot. If you’re in a situation where you and your partner need help, don’t lose hope just yet. Consider working with a professional therapist to resolve your relationship issues.

Whether you’re looking for one-to-one counselling or for a couple therapy session, you’ve come to the right place. At Safe Expanse, we make it our mission to provide a safe space for our clients to heal, discover themselves, improve their ability to connect with others and grow to experience the joy of freedom and aliveness in their being. 

Our therapists have helped hundreds of individuals and couples (married and unmarried) over the years. Need a listening ear? Contact us today.