Can you do relationship therapy by yourself?

Yes, and there are several solid reasons to do so. The first of which is that you, by yourself, can make positive changes in your marriage once you learn how. In addition, you can:

  1. Learn how to behave differently to promote lasting change in a partner.
  2. Notice what approaches work, and what don’t with your particular spouse.
  3. Know how to talk effectively so that your partner will listen. The goal is to be honest but not hurtful.Your own changes can motivate your spouse to work with you in therapy.

Change is like a chain reaction. She tips over the first domino, then he changes. When a woman who is dissatisfied in her relationship decides to change her method of getting through to her partner, she isn’t doing “all the work.” 

What is the difference between marriage friendly couples therapy and other solo therapy?

Hopeful Spouse Coaching  (also called Couples Therapy for One ) is emphatically Marriage friendly.

The clinical emphasis is on discovering what you say and do that matters to your marriage. It teaches you to notice your own individual part in continuing and reinforcing negative patterns. It also helps improve poor communication skills.

Couples Therapy for One actively coaches you to be a better spouse. Those receiving critical relationship skills training will see just as much improvement in your relationships as in couples therapy.

The best science-based couples therapy involves teaching both spouses effective relationship skills. However, some partners aren’t always willing to see a marriage and family therapist with you. Reasons include:

  1. They don’t think relationship counseling will do any good or will make things worse.
  2. They fear that the session will focus on feelings without concrete action. They may not be comfortable talking about their emotions or have little practice doing it.
  3. Partners may prefer to believe that the relationship has no serious problems.

What is a “marriage friendly” therapists?

Conventional individual counseling sessions and couples therapy have different assumptions and approaches. They each require a different clinical skill sets. Individual therapy predominantly explores the intrapsychic realm. It is often insight-oriented. It helps you to reflect on how you became you in the first place.

Hopeful Spouse” coaching can enable a couples therapist to concurrently confront and align with you. Hopeful Spouse coaching is not only marriage friendly… it’s also focused on concrete relationship changeMichele Weiner Davis notes that with a strong bond, a therapist can be more challenging and direct with the client than they would if the other spouse was involved.

The problem with individual therapy without a relationship focus

One danger of seeking professional advice for your marriage by yourself is the possibility that your therapist may emphasize “personal growth.” Even good relationships have rough patches and a marriage counselor is trained to see issues as interlocking problems impacted by two people. Many couples with problems go on to enjoy productive healthy relationships over time with effective couples counseling. The severity of your problems do not predict the effectiveness of couples therapy.

An individual therapist who is not marriage friendly can accept a client’s version of reality, without question. They can begin to plant seeds of doubt about how viable the marriage actually is. They can unconsciously “buy into” their clients’ accounts of their marriage without forming an independent assessment of the spouse.

Assuming responsibility for creating positive change in life isn’t working harder, it’s working smarter.

Michele Weiner-Davis

Multiple research studies have observed a frightening pattern when therapists treat married clients in individual therapy. A higher number of their marriages end in divorce. When both hire two individual therapists, the risk of divorce goes even higher. Incredible as it may seem, “his and her” individual therapy results in the statistically highest chances of couples divorcing. It is so common, in fact, that one welll-known couples therapist calls it a “relationship-dectomy.”

What if I am married to a person with a mental health issue? Will it still work?

This approach also supports clients who have partners with serious personality disorders and other mental health issues that impact the marriage. This work helps you establish firm boundaries, reject hostile interactions as acceptable and clarify your options.


Gurman, A.S., & Burton, M. (2014). Individual therapy for couple problems: Perspectives and pitfalls. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, Vol 40, No 4, pp. 470-483.