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Easing psychological distress--together?

Making the decision to seek counseling to address a challenge or difficulty in life can be a difficult decision to make.

Once made, the decision that follows can be equally as difficult: do I go alone or with my partner/family member? (I can't forgo mentioning the choice of group therapy as well)

Most commonly, the decision comes down to the following: If I'm struggling with a personal issue, then it's best to address it individually. If I'm struggling with issues related to my relationship, then conjoint (couples) therapy may be appropriate.

While common, it's not always the ordinary way to go. Many individuals seek individual therapy, alone, to address relationship issues--without his/her partner present.

What may be more uncommon is an individual struggling with a personal issue (take depression, for example) seeking to address it within the modality of conjoint (couples/family) therapy.

While this option might appear to be an uncomfortable experience, there is a growing body of research that is drawing attention to how conjoint (couples/family) therapy can be considered an indicated approach when one person shows symptoms of psychological distress. In a study by Denton, Golden, and Walsh (2003), the authors highlighted how couples therapy was found to be superior to medication in reducing depressing symptoms.

Dr. Stan Tatkin, in his book Wired for Love, makes the point that since our Western culture emphasizes autonomy, there is the notion that when there is any kind of distress--whether individual or relational--it's best solved with the "You take of yourself and I'll take care of myself" mentality. Somehow--by doing this--everything will work itself out. In the end, Dr. Tatkin concludes this reliance on autonomy doesn't hold. Rather, emphasizing MUTUALITY is key. Working at it, talking about it, addressing it together.

When deciding what treatment modality (individual, conjoint, or group) to pursue, consider what might be uncommon, yet nonetheless, possibly be more effective.