Singles therapy for couples?
September 28, 2006 1:15 PM   Subscribe

The spouse and I would like to go to counseling together - not because of any problems in our relationship, but because we both have issues with being forthcoming in individual therapy and in initiating a dialogue with the therapist. We figure that if we went together, we could enable each other to open up and at the very least support each other through what is (for us anyway) an unpleasant experience. (And if it makes us a happier couple, that's just a nice side effect.) Does anyone have any experience with this sort of arrangement? Should we pursue someone who specializes in marriage counseling, or someone who specializes in individual therapy? We each have psychiatrists and are on medication for anxiety and depression - this is talk or cognitive therapy we're talking about. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
actually, some kind of group might be what you need now. ask your psychiatrist for a recommendation. you want some kind of group therapy for people with emotional issues.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 2:06 PM on September 28, 2006

Seconding the idea of group therapy. But I'd recommend you attend different groups. Not necessarily because it would change the way you talk to the group, but because it would change the way the group interacts with each of you, and it could be awkward for the other members.

If you really feel that you need individual therapy, I think you should go to individual therapy separately, and just tell the therapist in the first session about your reticence to talk. I don't know specifically what your "issues" are, but I think that learning to trust and talk to a therapist can be a valuable part of the process of dealing with trust issues, anxiety, depression, and a lot of other sorts of personal issues. I think it will be good for you.

I think that most therapists will be hesitant to do individual therapy with both of you at once because there's a potential conflict of interest there if you're both her patients. Also, whether you think so or not, the therapist is likely to think that there are some things that you won't talk about or will talk differently about in front of your spouse than alone, and that could hinder your therapy. You and your spouse can still support one another through this "unpleasant experience" without being in the room during one another's therapy. But I think that individual therapy is something you need to do on your own.
posted by decathecting at 3:22 PM on September 28, 2006

Seconding Lester's sock puppet. If you go into therapy together with a single clinician, you will feel tempted to form an alliance Against the therapist. Go to a Group session where there is a similar resistance to opening up.
posted by mynameismandab at 3:23 PM on September 28, 2006

If you have confidence in your present therapist I would give him/her a copy of your post to or read it to them and see where that goes. I think most therapists would be reluctant to see you as a couple for what you hope to be individual therapy. The suggestions for grp tx is interesting but I wonder if it actually addresses your reluctance and/or difficulty in being forthcoming with your therapist. If you and your wife are working on very specific and similar goals (particularly with cognitive behavioral therapy) it might be useful to be seen together once the issues of being forthcoming are resolved.
posted by rmhsinc at 4:50 PM on September 28, 2006

Hmm. If I were in your shoes, my therapist would say that the fact that I chose to solve the difficulty this way as opposed to another is probably worth talking about.

On another note, one revelatory thing a friend-of-a-therapist told me is that some therapists have been trained to let the patient do all of the conversation initiation for this reason: they don't want to "frame" the conversation. For example, if the therapist says, "Hi, how are you?" in a cheery voice, this may prompt the patient to unconsciously downplay uncheerful feelings, events, etc. Personally, I think many therapists take this idea too far/too seriously. E.g.,since I'm a rather shy guy, this sort of thing gives me the willies and thus inhibits me in a quite counterproductive way.

Also, if this therapist isn't working well for you, either talk to him/her about what you need, or find another one. Don't ever feel bad about shopping for or switching therapists -- this is about you, not about them. (Which is why you pay them for it -- it's a professional service).
posted by treepour at 6:07 PM on September 28, 2006

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