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4 min read

Can a Therapist See a Husband and Wife Separately?

It depends. When it comes to the question of whether a husband and wife can see the same therapist separately, there are a couple of ways you can answer. In terms of couples counseling, it can work under the right circumstances and for short periods of time. However, running individual sessions for couples without objectivity can be ineffective as well as unethical. We'll take a look at both approaches, and offer the pros and cons of working with the same therapist.

Benefits of the Same Therapist for Marriage Counseling

Couples counseling, also known as marriage counseling, is a type of therapy that helps couples improve communication and resolve conflicts. During sessions, each partner will be given the opportunity to express individual concerns and struggles in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

The counselor works with both partners to help them understand each other’s feelings and find constructive ways to communicate. Couples counseling generally takes place over a period of several weeks or months, depending on the couple's needs.

Convenience and Consistency in Marriage or Couples Counseling

Seeing the same therapist for marriage or couples counseling can provide convenience and consistency in the therapeutic process, and some couples decide to let their couples therapist double as their personal therapist before fully committing to couples therapy sessions.

This can offer an opportunity for one partner to fully express their feelings without worrying about hurting the other partner's feelings.

Building Trust with a Familiar Therapist

Building trust with a familiar therapist can be beneficial for both partners in a relationship. A therapist can help couples understand the root causes of relationship issues and help develop a treatment plan to address them. When you are working with the same therapist, it allows for a consistent approach to therapy, even when you meet with that therapist for separate sessions.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Shared Therapy

Working together in couples sessions with one therapist is typical and is in fact how this approach was developed. But what about seeing a couple's therapist on your own, or for your own issues?

Is it ever okay for husband and wife to see the same therapist individually?

Technically, yes, a therapist can see a couple individually for one-on-one therapy, but it’s typically an ethical conflict. Having a couples therapist that also serves as an individual therapist to both partners may be beneficial in some cases, but there are reasons why therapists may not agree to the idea.

Experts say that it's a bad idea when a therapist is only seeing one person in the relationship, as it can be hard to ensure objectivity. In cases where a couples therapist meets separately with each partner on occasion, with the full consent and knowledge of the other partner to help move forward on agreed-upon goals, then it may work.

Exceptions for Individual Therapy with the Same Therapist

It can be helpful for individuals to separately get therapy from their couples counselor if they’re having a hard time communicating in their couples session. This type of therapeutic double-dipping can also be beneficial in ensuring that the goals of the couple and the respective individuals are aligned. Seeing a couples therapist individually can help you share difficult feelings without your partner present.

How to Know You Need Individual vs. Couples Counseling for a Relationship

When deciding whether to see a couples counselor or an individual therapist, it’s important to understand the differences between the two. Couples counseling focuses on addressing issues between the two partners in a relationship. Individual counseling is focused on working with each individual on issues that they may be dealing with that could have an impact on the relationship. Then each partner brings what they've learned and work together to improve communication and conflict management.

Boundaries and Confidentiality

The issue is that for some couples, an individual session can part of an adversarial process if partners are not getting along with each other. In order to create a safe space for one partner, a couples therapist may not be able to properly serve the other partner.

Maintaining Confidentiality and Objectivity

A “no secrets policy” is often used to safeguard against conflicts of interest between partners in couples therapy. This policy is used when a couple individually meets with their therapist, and allows the therapist to disclose private information shared within a session with the other partner during a shared session.

Therapists are also trained to use sound judgment before disclosing information, and before they do so will often explore ways to support you into finding your own way to share any difficult information yourself before stepping in.

Avoiding Conflicts of Interest in Therapy

A dual relationship occurs when a therapist has a personal or professional relationship with someone other than their client. This can include seeing a friend or family member of the client, or even a romantic partner. Most therapists will not do this, as dual relationships can compromise confidentiality and create a conflict of interest.

Finding the Right Therapist for Each Partner

If romantic partners are interested in attending individual sessions, the best bet is to find a separate therapist for each partner of the couple individually, and then if they want to attend couples therapy later, they can choose to see a different couples therapist together.

What makes a good therapist for each individual?

A good couples counselor should be a trained professional who is experienced in helping couples work through their issues and improve communication, and will be able to offer a safe, non-judgmental space where a person can express themselves without fear or criticism or ridicule.

A good couples therapist, whether they see a couple together or work with one person at a time in a relationship, should be sensitive to the unique needs and concerns of both partners, and be respectful of each partner's opinions and feelings. In other words, they should remain objective, whether they are seeing both, or an individual partner.

Considering Individual Therapy with a Different Therapist for Each Partner

It’s not typical practice to see the same therapist as your husband or wife, as it can lead to dual relationships and compromise confidentiality. Because a therapist's primary duty is to their client, seeing both parties can create a conflict of interest. It can also lead to feelings of discomfort, anxiety, and mistrust, especially if your relationship is currently contentious.

Explore Individual Counseling in Austin, TX

If you are currently in couple's session with a therapist and need someone for individual therapy, or you are interested in seeing different therapists for relationship issues, we can help.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists offer both online and in-person sessions to accommodate different schedules and busy lives, and allow you to work with a provider that can meet your individual therapy needs.

If you are seeking help for relationship issues, give us a call today, and our patient coordinator will help you find the right therapist to help you feel safe, talk through your challenges, and offer the tools to build a lasting and happy relationship with your partner. 

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