When it comes to addressing our relationship issues, we may be quick to assume that couples therapy, family therapy or other forms of group therapy are the best approach. However there is much value to be gained from going to individual therapy to address our relationship issues as well. When we make changes in our own life, it is inevitable that our relationship dynamics change as a result. Furthermore, when we show up in our relationships as our best, healthiest and most authentic selves it allows us to truly assess compatibility and effectively resolve issues with others.
Below are 5 ways individual therapy can help us address and heal our relationship issues without direct involvement from our partner, friend or family member.
Individual Therapy Helps Us Identify Our Relationship Needs and Values
A big reason our relationships may struggle is due to a misalignment in each person’s needs and values. When we are unclear about or lacking confidence in our own, we might have a tendency to bend to align with someone else’s needs and values, which subconsciously creates tension and resentment. Because of this, we must get clear & confident about who we are, what we need and what is most important to us. Individual therapy can help us get to the root of our needs and desires and inspect how they are or aren’t aligning with our relationships.
Your therapist may do a needs & values assessment to gain a deeper understanding of your biggest relationship priorities, which are often shaped in some way by our upbringing or relationship history. Our needs and values are unique to us – and there are no right or wrong need or value to have. It is important that we identify them and non-judgmentally embrace them so we can confidently express them to the people in our lives. We can’t expect people to meet our needs if 1) we don’t know what they are or 2) we aren’t sharing them.
Individual Therapy for Relationship Issues Helps Us Work on Communication Skills
Communication is the foundation of any relationship. And while we can’t control how other people are communicating with us, we can look at and address our own communication patterns. Not only will the communication style with your therapist provide insight into your communication style with others, but you can also get feedback in real-time about language or thoughts that might be holding you back or keeping you stuck in your relationships.
In individual therapy, we can learn skills and techniques to practice more assertive communication if we struggle to be direct and honest. We can also learn how to approach conflict in a healthier way that minimizes defenses on all sides. Furthermore, individual therapy is a safe space to practice expressing yourself in your relationships and to get feedback before you put it into action.
Individual Therapy Helps Us Work Through Emotions Before Bringing Them Up in Our Relationships
Most of us can probably think of a time where we started an argument about something that wasn’t entirely important to us or that wasn’t necessarily fair or warranted. Perhaps we reacted in the moment and it took off from there. Maybe we didn’t really understand what upset us in the first place. Individual therapy provides a safe, non-judgmental space for us to work through frustrations and problems in our relationships prior to addressing them with the other person.
Your therapist might help you get to the root cause of your anger or sadness, which may have nothing to do with the other person. Perhaps, for example, you reacted based on something from your past. Recognizing and resolving this on your own, in therapy, will prevent you from bringing unnecessary stressors to your relationship. Alternatively, if you do find that your emotions were in response to the other person’s direct behavior, your therapist can help you decide how to intentionally and thoughtfully talk about it. Finally, your therapist can help you to learn emotional regulation skills so that you can take a beat to respond instead of impulsively react in future relationship interactions.
Individual Therapy Helps Us Gain Perspective & Insight on Our Relationship
Sometimes seeking perspective & insight from another person about our relationships can disconnect us further from ourselves and make us more confused. In therapy, however, your therapist will act as a mirror and bounce back to you what they sense you are thinking and feeling about the relationship. They’ll ask questions to help you further explore your feelings and dive deeper into the root cause of the issues you’re facing.
Your therapist may help you to identify ways that you are acting out of fear vs. desire. They might connect themes or patterns that you may not be consciously aware of. At other times they may ask a question or present a hypothetical scenario that can give you more insight about your own thoughts and feelings. This is important because they are an objective resources with no attachment to your relationship, like other people in your life may have. They will create a space and teach you skills to help you connect more deeply to your own intuition.
Individual Therapy Helps Us Become Better Connected to Ourselves & Therefore Better Connected to Others
There is no doubt that we cannot have a healthy relationship with others unless we have one with ourselves first. Individual therapy can help us heal our past wounds, identify healthier coping skills, learn to communicate better and take better care of ourselves. Doing all of these things will inevitably help our relationships in at least some capacity.
Many of us have a tendency to look to our relationships with others to fix or heal us or to make us happy, which usually ends up backfiring. Individual therapy helps us to do that for ourselves so we can enjoy our relationships as they are – without conditions. When we are fully connected to ourselves and our needs, we can show up authentically in our relationships. And when we can do this, we can connect with others (and learn who is/isn’t compatible with us) much more successfully.