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Individual Counseling vs. Marriage Counseling
What is the difference between individual counseling and marriage counseling? There is a big difference, but it might not be apparent right away. You can read about what individual counseling is and what it isn’t here, but let’s take it a step further. Let’s talk about how it differs from marriage counseling.
Focus of Individual Counseling vs. Marriage Counseling
One of the biggest differences is the focus on treatment. You will get a heavy dose of you-yourself in individual therapy. If not, then your therapist might not be doing a good job. If they let you talk about others and not about yourself, then you might need a new therapist.
So, if the focus on individual counseling is you then the focus of marriage counseling is your relationship. In individual counseling, for example, you will focus on building individual skills such as using positive self-talk when negative self-talk comes up. In marriage counseling you will focus on, for example, how you speak to each other in order to create emotional safety and intimacy. Neither are an easy task, and both are worth it. But there is a place for one and a place for the other.
Let’s talk about how marriage counseling focuses on emotional safety. There are many things you do with your spouse that makes your relationship either safe or unsafe. The way you respond to him when he comes home at night and says he has had a long day, for example, creates or destroys this safety. You could say, “You think you have had a long day? You should see what I had to put up with taking care of the kids.” This would hurt the emotional safety you want with him.
If you want to create emotional safety you might say, “I’m sorry you had a hard day. Tell me about it.” You are creating space for him to talk about what has happened that day. This helps him feel emotionally safe. You create more emotional intimacy when you do this. A good marriage counselor will help you to have these experiences with your spouse.
Interventions of Individual Counseling vs. Marriage Counseling
Marriage counseling uses methods to create emotional safety and intimacy. How you talk to each other is key. A good marriage counselor will see your relationship with your partner as their client. Not you and not him. That might sound strange, but it works. The way you talk to each other is more important than what you are saying to each other. Keep in mind that a marriage counselor isn’t a referee, but rather someone who facilitates your emotional safety and intimacy. They help you have experiences and not just insight.
Models used for marriage counseling include the Gottman Method, Emotionally Focused Therapy.
Individual counseling uses methods to create insight. Models used for this approach include Narrative Therapy, Solution- Focused Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Internal Family Systems, and more. These approaches are geared toward insight. This insight could lead to experiences that help you learn, but it takes a skilled therapist to help you get that far.
Whether you need individual counseling or marriage counseling, you want to find the right therapist and get going.
We have helped thousands of your neighbors here in Utah County and Salt Lake County. We can help you too. There are no guarantees, but you have a better chance of making it when you go to counseling.
Schedule an appointment with a counselor in South Jordan, Orem, Spanish Fork or American Fork. We work many insurances.
Written by Triston Morgan, PhD