Individual therapy, as opposed to group therapy, couples therapy, or family therapy, is what most people think of when they hear the term “psychotherapy.” It is one client interacting with one therapist. Unfortunately many people also think of this process based on what they have seen portrayed on television or in movies. Rarely are these portrayals accurate.
For many people individual therapy is their first experience of psychotherapy of any kind. For this reason it most often focuses on what I think of as the first level of psychotherapy. People entering individual therapy for the first time may not even be aware that there are other forms of psychotherapy: group therapy, family therapy, and couples therapy—sometimes called “marriage counseling.” They also may not be aware that there is a second level of psychotherapy.
Individual psychotherapy is based entirely on the relationship between just two people, the therapist and the client. It is therefore important that these two people have some initial compatibility beyond the therapist’s area of expertise and the client’s presenting problem. For that reason the first appointment is focused primarily on determining if both parties feel they are a good enough personal match to enter into the deeper interpersonal relationship that will be required for healing and growth to occur.