The Problem with Individual Counselling

Are you thinking about talking to a professional? If you are, I encourage you to find the courage to make the call.  If you connect well with the counsellor you will come away feeling heard, supported and lighter.  You will gain deeper insights into yourself and why you operate/react the way you do. You will find new ways to cope with past pain and start the healing journey.  You will find new ways to think, new ways to process your core feelings, and attach new meaning to the narrative of your life, i.e. how you perceive your life to be.  Individual counselling can be life changing, it truly can be. 

Over my 15 years of clinical practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist, and as a Registered Psychotherapist, I have seen relationships being negatively impacted by well intentioned individual counsellors.  One of the main factors-and likely the main factor-in counselling success is how connected you feel to your counsellor; in other words, how much you trust that person, and believe they truly understand your needs and concerns. It is very important to counsellors that their clients feel heard and understood.  In creating space for this to occur, the counsellor inevitably builds rapport with their client.  There are times that this endeavour to create rapport causes the counsellor to over-support the client’s story about their relationship with a loved one.  In other words, in an effort to support the client the counsellor unintentionally amplifies the client’s negative narrative of their loved one, thereby unintentionally creating more distance in their client’s relationship with their loved one.  

There are unique benefits to seeing a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist.  We are systemically trained, which means we look at each individual through the lens of their relationships rather than as an isolated entity.  We live each day within relationships, and we form patterns of interaction within our most intimate relationships.  A systemically trained therapist will help you understand your emotional triggers which cause you to react to your partner.  They will help you process past trauma or attachment wounds within the context of your current and past relationships.  Even if we are seeing an individual for counselling, we view the person through the lens of their relationships.  This prevents us from unintentionally amplifying a client’s negative experience of a partner; we help clients see how they are emotionally triggered, and how they respond to their partners which contributes to the negative pattern of interaction. 

I can’t tell you how many times I have created a story of an individual’s partner which has proven wrong when I finally meet the partner and hear their experience of the relationship. I believe we are doing individuals and their relationships a disservice when we do not prioritize their interpersonal relationships.  Research has shown a dramatic decrease in chronic disease and mental health issues when we are in a bonded, safe, and secure relationship.  

When you are considering individual counselling I believe it is imperative that you find a counsellor who views you through the lens of your most important relationships.