I want to address this question because it’s one I am often asked.
It depends on your particular circumstances, but there are some situations where single/individual sessions can actually prove to be a good idea.
A really common situation is where one partner identifies the need for couples counselling, and the other is ‘dragging their heels’ a bit. Often, the reluctant partner is anxious or tired of conflict. Regardless of who’s responsible for the conflict, this adds significant inertia to your efforts to constructively resolve things.
They might resist the idea in number of ways, implying that the problem is ‘all yours anyway’ and that therapy won’t help. Or, that it’s their issue, but they can sort it out themselves without the help of an interfering stranger.
This can leave you feeling confused or even guilty about ever suggesting seeking professional assistance.
It may or may not be obvious, but your partner is scared and offering a very frustrating form of defence against even thinking about change.
In these circumstances, it can be a really good idea to come for an initial session alone.
We can use this initial work to:
- Resolve any feelings of guilt or resentment you may be carrying about your partner’s reluctance that may be stopping you from moving forward.
- Help you step into a more assertive, less hostile position where you can make yourself heard by your partner and communicate more effectively.
- Make a confident start in becoming assertive and learning how to work collaboratively. This can help your partner’s fears to be calmed which can promote a bit more movement.
- Help you see that if you initiate therapy it demonstrates confidence in your own position. This alone can shock your partner into action, and is an assertive action on your part.
If this has got you thinking, I suggest you do a little self check to help clarify your own emotional state.
Am I so angry with my partner’s stance that I can’t move/think constructively?
Am I so depressed that I’m finding it hard to focus, and feel that talking is a bit pointless?
Try rating your responses on a scale of 1-10, where 10 or near represents fairly extreme depression or anger or a combination of both.
Remember that out of control feelings like these can actually block understanding and change, no matter how understandable or justified they may be, and realise that you may also be unconsciously stopping your partner from coming to understanding.
Understand you may well have good reason to be angry or sad, and that what I’m recommending is a process that will get you nearer to actual goals, whatever they may be.
This kind of thinking simply removes the clutter from doing what you instinctively need to do, which is find the right solution for your own individual circumstances.
Reflect quietly for a moment and ask yourself – “What do I really want to happen?” in the situation, and remember, that answer might surprise you.
You may find that you actually want to leave, you may want more personal space, you may need more real attention.
Now, realise that whatever outcome you want, you’ll find it much, much easier to get there if you do some initial counselling to resolve the worst elements of those angry or depressed feelings with support.