The difference between individual counselling and couples counselling

Is it not just individual counselling times x2?

The short answer is… NOOOO!!!

Firstly, couples counselling requires specific training. Not all therapists will be trained to work with couples and can only work with individuals. Nightingale couple counsellors will have trained for three years in couple counselling and a further two years in psychosexual counselling, an additional part of what they offer couples.

The couple counsellor will be focused on communication, conflict resolutions, recurring patterns of behaviour, building individual self-awareness, and past relationship influences. The most common issues a couples counsellor will work on are:

  • Bad communication habits
  • Infidelity
  • Online infidelity
  • Sexual issues
  • Drifting apart
  • One or other falling out of love
  • Parenting
  • Baby shock – what happened to us
  • Blended families
  • In-laws
  • Before I say ‘I do’
  • Relationship coaching

…To name but a few!

Will the couples counsellor see who is to blame?

A couples counsellor is not there to take sides or to decide who is right or who is wrong. Their focus will be on all three of you working together to resolve the conflicts facing the relationship. The counsellor will ensure equal amounts of attention and space are given to both of you. All couples counsellors spend a lot of time and attention making sure both parties feel that they have been heard and understood. They will also show empathy and understanding to both people.

On a deeper level, couple counsellors tend to take on a much more active role as they are constantly analysing the interactions couples have with each other and offering feedback on ways to improve. In contrast, individual counselling can be much more self-reflective.

Individual counselling

Many people who have had individual counselling in the past are sometimes shocked at how different couples counselling can feel. All of the time and focus in individual sessions is concentrated on one person. However, it’s pretty common that whilst working with a couple in couples counselling, a counsellor will identify an issue that affects one individual. This will usually require that person to work on the issue on an individual basis. The couples counsellor will then refer the person to one of our individual counsellors who can work with them to address the issue.

The sort of issues they deal with which are: –

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • OCD
  • Stress
  • Bereavement and loss
  • Trauma
  • Abuse
  • Issues with eating
  • Anger
  • Psychosexual issues (individuals)
  • Relationship issues (individuals)
  • Young adults
  • LGBTQ = Support

Think about the difference this way…

If you have toothache you go to a dentist. The dentist will assess the problem and work on a plan to resolve the issue. However, if through the assessment the dentist identifies that you have a medical problem, they may refer you to a doctor for the most appropriate treatment. Conversely, if you attend a doctor’s surgery with toothache, they may give you something for the pain but refer you to a dentist to resolve the issue.

At Nightingale, we have two teams of highly qualified counsellors, one team of couple counsellors, some of whom offer psychosexual counselling, and another team who specifically work with people on an individual basis.

In conclusion

Couples counselling and individual counselling offer two very different experiences. If you are still a bit unsure, the best thing to do is discuss it with our Senior Counselling Consultant, Florence. Her 22 years in counselling will help you to find your way forward. You can call her on 0141 353 9373 or by using the contact form on our contact page.

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