Common aspects of individual sessions in couples therapy which people worry about include:
What my partner said about me
Given you are in couple’s therapy, it is highly likely that you will have been the subject of at least part of our individual session. Similarly, your partner most likely featured in your individual session.
The nature of my relationship counselling approach is different from a conversation you might have with close friends or family. My work involves helping you stay focused, constructive and grounded in exploring your issues.
Conversations about the other are less likely to become free-for-all complaints and are more likely to focus on perspective taking and shared responsibility.
My partner won’t share with me
Not sharing is not the same as withholding. Sometimes people need space to process deep feelings and new perspectives. If you are someone who likes to share feelings, and your partner is the opposite, you can feel rejected when they are not keen to tell-all.
Trust in your therapist’s process that all will be revealed in good time, as and when it is relevant to your therapy goals. It is possible, too, that learning to sit with the discomfort of not knowing is part of your therapeutic growth as well.
You told my partner XYZ and I disagree
Relationship therapy is collaborative and constructive. I am not being paid by you to take sides or keep score. Everything I bring to the therapy context is based in science and grounded in theory and practical experience.
My focus is to offer you the best service I can provide for what works best with your particular issues. In couples work, I am “equally partial”, meaning I work in individual sessions for the benefit of the couple.
Be reassured that our individual conversations are focused on supporting the goals you both identified at the outset of the treatment plan.
Sometimes couples in crisis have trouble lowering their weapons. While it can be tempting to use parts of our individual conversations as back-up or ‘expert opinion’ in supporting your position in a later conflict with your partner, it is unlikely to be helpful in achieving your joint goals.
Taking comments out of context, intentionally or inadvertently, can reinforce entrenched positions and increase defensiveness. When we feel attacked, we are unable to listen or respond in ways likely to be constructive.
A more helpful approach is to make a note of your concern, and raise it with your therapist in the next session. Open discussion is always welcomed and the therapy room is a safe space for this type of conversation.
In the meantime, the most beneficial step you both can take, out of session, is to avoid further negative interactions. Put conflict on hold, step away from arguments and lower the heat in your interactions.
Use self-soothing strategies to help you minimise hostile reactivity and consider perhaps delaying big decisions about the relationship while you give couples therapy a chance to create change.