5 Reasons To Consider Individual Therapy For Relationship Issues

Individual therapy for relationship issues

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Most people think you have to sign up for couples therapy to enable you to achieve a healthy relationship with your partner.

However, individual therapy can also offer some benefits in cases where you’re struggling in your relationship or your partner has refused to go for counseling.


If you’re finding it difficult to cope in your relationship, working with a licensed therapist may prove helpful in the long run.

It may sound odd at first, but individual therapy can address interpersonal and relationship problems.

This is especially true if your significant other doesn’t want to attend therapy with you.

Or if you feel “stuck” in your relationship, enrolling in individual therapy can help to improve your love life immensely.

Types of therapy for relationship problems


There is a wide range of individual therapy modalities that can be used to fix relationship problems.

However, it’s recommended that you choose a therapist who is trained in a therapy model proven effective to help fix your relationship issues.

A research-based therapy model has been proven to help others transform their lives. Therefore, it’s more likely that it will help you too.

Common therapy models which are highly supportive and proven effective you may want your individual therapist to be trained in are:

#1 Cognitive Behavioral Training (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most famous empirically validated treatments. Dr. Aaron T. Beck, a psychoanalyst, created CBT in the early 1960s.

The guiding principle of CBT is that events in life trigger thoughts that impact your emotions.

These thoughts, and emotions, then influence your actions. Your thoughts and feeling about a life event – or “trigger” – greatly impact your mood and relationship satisfaction.

Any event can be interpreted in countless ways. Thinking your partner is “lazy” because he left the kitchen messy may make you more critical.

The thought your partner was just distracted while performing the action will perhaps positively impact how you speak to them.

These interpretations can be helpful or add to your distress. CBT thusly addresses the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that contribute to your problems.

CBT can treat a wide range of issues including depression, anxiety, and codependency.

If you’re struggling in your relationship and have symptoms like people-pleasing, poor boundaries, and resentment, you may be experiencing codependency, which can be treated with CBT.

#2 Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

In the late 1970s, Marsha Linehan developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to help women experiencing suicidal ideation and self-harming behaviors. 

Over time, however, this model has been proven effective for a wide range of concerns including Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, eating disorders, and substance use disorders.

DBT has 4 essential components which teach you how to be mindful, manage your emotions more effectively, and improve your relationship skills.

Working with a DBT therapist is especially helpful if you need to find better ways to cope with your emotions.

For example, if you always say things you regret during a fight, a DBT therapist can teach you ways to calm down effectively.

Also, a DBT therapist can teach you various skills to communicate more kindly and effectively.

#3 Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR was discovered by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987. This revolutionary therapy allows patients to take away the intensity of traumatic memories.

Basically, desensitizing works by allowing you to think about a traumatic memory without distress.

You don’t forget your memories, instead, they just don’t hurt to think about after EMDR. Then, you reprocess memories which helps you see the big picture beyond the trauma.

For example, you may be having trust issues in your relationship because you saw your dad cheat on your mom.

You may believe that all men cheat now due to this trauma. EMDR though works to change this perspective. You will be able to see that yes, your dad did cheat.

However, there are faithful men out there. You will be able to consider examples of faithful men you know such as your partner or your best friend’s husband as well.

EMDR is especially helpful in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (cPTSD). A trauma history can impact your relationship in many ways.

Trauma may impact your attachment style, your love life with your partner, and your ability to feel safe with your partner overall.

Note: If you are in an actively abusive relationship, trauma treatment is not recommended yet.

You may want to work with a DBT therapist first to address your needs for safety in the relationship first.

Individual therapy for relationship issues


1. You are half of the relationship. No matter how much it feels like your partner is at fault you can also change dynamics you don’t like.

This happens not by focusing on what your partner needs to change but rather your own healing.

2. Learning how to cope more effectively with your emotions, and communicate more assertively, can help your partner feel safer.

This may improve intimacy and even their willingness to go to couples therapy with you later.

3. Your own childhood trauma may be impacting your perception of your relationship. At times, you may have a pattern of minimizing important issues due to people pleasing.

Or other times, you may imagine the relationship is much worse than it is because of a painful history.

4. Your thoughts greatly influence how you feel about your partner and your relationship. There are numerous ways to interpret any situation.

Some are hurtful to you and your partner. Other interpretations are more helpful. Learning how to think more helpful thoughts may heal your relationship.

5. You learned how to cope with your feelings, and communicate, based on what you observed in your family growing up.

You may not have had the opportunity to learn healthy coping or communication skills.

Therefore, you may be unwittingly recreating relationship problems you swore you never would simply because you don’t have any other tools to resolve conflict.

Individual therapy can teach you new skills to improve your relationships.

Individual therapy for relationship issues


Starting therapy can be an intimidating process. It takes a lot of courage to begin such vulnerable work.

It can be helpful to not what to expect in therapy to manage any anxiety.

At the beginning of individual therapy, you can expect to complete intake paperwork.

Your therapist will use this information to ensure you are informed about the therapy process’s confidentiality and its limits.

Also, this paperwork provides your therapist with more insight as to what your specific needs are entering therapy.

In the first one to three sessions you may expect to share a lot about your current relationship as well as your past.

During this time, your therapist is gathering information to understand you and your needs better.

Next, you will create a treatment plan with your therapist. This plan will identify goals that you track over time to ensure you are progressing.

Goals can include being able to be more assertive or learning how to not say hurtful things when you are angry.

After your treatment plan is created, you can expect to learn more specific skills to support your goals.

At the same time, you will not receive advice typically for your problems.

Therapists are trained to not provide advice but rather to help you dig deep to understand your needs.

This process may be frustrating but is meant to be empowering.

When you really understand yourself, and your needs, you can show up more fully, and honestly, in your relationship.

Sometimes, your first therapist is not the right therapist for you. It’s important that you feel supported, yet challenged, by a therapist.

An effective therapist doesn’t feel like you’re just speaking to a friend. If you don’t feel supported or understood by your therapist, it’s okay to keep looking.

The best recommendation though is to give any new therapist at least a few sessions before moving on. It can be awkward, and painful, to start therapy.

Sometimes, it’s these emotions make therapy feel “off” rather than the therapist fit.

But once you know it’s time to move on, it’s best to keep looking for the right therapist for you.

Individual therapy for relationship issues


1. What techniques are used in individual therapy?

The techniques employed in individual therapy vary depending on the modality.

However, you’ll commonly learn how to interrupt unhelpful thoughts and consider more helpful ways of acting or thinking about problems to improve your life and/or relationships.

In therapy, you will often learn new coping skills to enhance your mood when you feel bad. You will also learn conflict resolution skills.

2. What type of therapy is best for relationship problems?

No one therapy model is “best” for fixing relationship issues. Rather, it is about finding the right therapist, and model, for your specific needs.

If you struggle with a lot of anxious thoughts, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may be most useful.

Whereas if you find you don’t cope with your emotions as well as you would like, DBT is an amazing resource.

Finally, if issues related to the past including your own childhood trauma are impacting your relationship negatively, EMDR is wise to pursue.

3. What does a relationship therapist do?

A licensed marriage and family therapist can treat people both individually and in their relationships with romantic partners or family members.

A relationship therapist holds the view that relationship problems exist because of the ways partners are interacting with one another rather than believing any person is the problem.

Therefore, a certified therapist works to identify the cycle in one’s relationship which is exacerbating issues.

Once this is done, various approaches including different coping skills can be used to interrupt this unhelpful cycle.

Any partner in a relationship is therefore capable of interrupting the cycles in the relationship which aren’t working.

4. How do you know when to see a relationship therapist?

A key sign that it would be wise to see a relationship therapist is if you feel “stuck” in your relationship.

A licensed therapist can help identify the cycle in which you feel stuck and explore options that you may not yet see.

It’s also helpful to see a relationship therapist when you have relationship problems, yet your partner refuses to go to counseling. 

You can greatly improve your relationship, and your life, by seeking individual therapy.

As one half of the relationship, the positive changes in your thoughts and/or actions may positively impact your partner and the relationship.

5. Can individual therapy harm a marriage?

When individual therapy doesn’t provide a treatment plan that includes your romantic partner, it could have adverse side effects on your relationship.

The best way to avoid making things worse is to work with a therapist who won’t take sides but instead find healthy solutions to improve your marriage.


Recommended Reading:

7 Psychological Effects Of False Accusations In A Relationship

How To Forgive Emotional Cheating In A Relationship

How To Love Someone With Avoidant Personality Disorder

About The Author

Krystal Mazzola Wood
Krystal Mazzola Wood

Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience.

She sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation and has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes.

Every week, Krystal contributes to her blog, Confidently Authentic, to provide empowering dating, relationship, and mental health advice.

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