Individual therapy is for just one person and focuses solely on his or her therapy needs. Family therapy is focused on an entire family or several of its members. Both types of therapy may prove beneficial, and sometimes a person may be involved in both individual and family therapy. For example, a person may meet with a therapist for individual therapy on a weekly basis and then meet with a family therapist later in the same week, biweekly, or on some other schedule.
Individual and family therapy differ in terms of the focus of the therapy. With individual therapy, there is one patient and the therapy is focused solely on him. For example, if an individual is in therapy for anxiety, the sessions will focus on dealing with his anxiety and the problems it may cause in other areas of his life. Family therapy, on the other hand, involves several people at one time. For instance, a whole family may be in therapy together or multiple members of a family may attend a therapy session at one time.
The difference between individual and family therapy often involves the focus of the sessions, but some sessions are still initiated because of the problems of one family member. For example, if an individual is working through a problem, family therapy may help his family members better understand his problem, develop new ways of coping with them, and learn how they can help him. Sometimes family therapy sessions may also help family members learn how they are contributing to an individual’s problems or impeding his progress toward getting better.
There are also many cases in which family therapy isn’t focused on the problems or needs of one person. Sometimes, this type of therapy is focused on overcoming the issues an entire family faces or the problems of a few of its members. For example, if family members have dysfunctional habits when it comes to dealing with each other, family therapy may help them to overcome the habits. Likewise, family therapy may also help families who are struggling with mutual grief or dealing with such issues as divorce and remarriage.
Interestingly, an individual may engage in individual and family therapy at the same time. For example, an individual may use individual therapy to focus only on his problems. He may then participate in family therapy as well, in order to deal with his problems from a family perspective.