The MLRA Therapy Blog

Insights and ideas from the therapist team at Meghan L. Reitz and Associates.

Individual vs. Couples Counseling: Consistency in Treatment

At Meghan L. Reitz & Associates, MLRA, we often are asked by clients if individual vs. couples counseling is more beneficial. The other frequently asked question is if one should see the same therapist for both individual and couples counseling or see different therapists for those needs. After doing some research, MLRA has found that there are conflicting suggestions on how to go about providing these different types of therapies and when it's appropriate to see the same therapist for both services. Speaking from our experience, it really depends on the presenting issues.

Consider that you are coming in for individual counseling. You are dealing with some anxiety and depression. You see your therapist for some time and realize that it might be helpful to bring your partner in for therapy as well. There are some questions you must answer before you decide whether or not to keep the same therapist for individual counseling and couples counseling:

1) Have you established a lengthy rapport with this therapist?

2) If yes (to #1), if you brought your partner in, would he/she be uncomfortable with the alliance you have already made with your therapist?

3) If no (to #1), are you comfortable with bringing your partner into the counseling relationship?

4) What types of issues are at the root of your seeking counseling? Is it your own personal issues or is it truly a relational issue? Or both?

5) Do you want the consistency of having the same therapist work with you individually and with your partner since that person knows your story?

6) Is there a conflict of interest if you are obtaining individual and couples counseling from the same therapist?

As you can see, there is a lot of gray area as to what the best approach is. At MLRA, we suggest discussing your specific needs with your therapist to determine if individual and couples counseling can successfully be provided by the same therapist. We typically encourage people to seek separate therapists in order to avoid conflicts of interest. However, there are always exceptions to this rule depending on the situation being presented. If you are seeing separate therapists for individual and couples counseling, it's important to provide your therapists permission to coordinate your case. This helps bridge the gap of communication regarding your therapy treatment and goals overall. Keep in mind that it is up to the discretion of your therapist and his/her comfort level to provide individual vs. couples therapy. Your therapist should be able to explain what his/her take is on the situation and what is best therapeutically recommended. 

On a side note, at MLRA we often find that couples that start off with couples counseling end up needing some individual counseling sprinkled in to the mix. In those cases, we typically encourage seeing the same therapist. Please keep in mind, though, that every situation and presenting issue is different and there is not a finite answer to this age old question of seeing the same therapist for individual and couples counseling.

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