There are well documented ties between relational and emotional distress. Poor peer relationships in childhood are strong predictors of mental health diagnoses in adulthood. Contentious marriages are a hotbed of trouble for spouses and their children. Since it is said that most jobs are at least 50% political, disputes with bosses and coworkers threaten job security, satisfaction, and advancement. Difficulties making and keeping friends make for a lonelier life.
Relationship counseling is almost always a part of individual therapy because much time is usually devoted to discussing former and current interactional dilemmas. Sometimes relational issues are best delt with exclusively in the one-to-one experience of individual work when, for example:
1) anxiety, depression, or some other problem is paramount
2) relationship trauma has wrought deep psychological injury
especially in the formative years
3) there is a pervasive interactional style that complicates most relationships
4) the other person(s) involved can't or won't participate
5) everyone involved is entrenched in the blame game
In traditional relationship counseling, like couples and family therapies, those in current or past conflict come together in therapy sessions to work out better ways of getting along through finding ways:
1) to de-escalate anger
2) to change rules of engagement
3) to reestablish friendship
4) to cooperate as parents
5) to increase mutual understanding
6) to improve communication
7) to heal old hurts
When all those in conflict are participating, the interactional field is complex with many currents and crosscurrents. The different people involved often have different maturities, needs, sensitivities, and agendas that are related to the issues at hand but also to other past and present influences. Consequently, the therapist may at times see only one person or different combinations of people for a few sessions or periodically to focus the work more narrowly. It takes time, flexibility, and a strong commitment from everyone, including the therapist, to sort through the complexities.
Working out relationship tangles, whether in individual psychotherapy or with everyone involved in the counseling, can take persistence and much patience. Frustrations may be many and progress may be slow with steps backward as well as forward. Nevertheless, the rewards can make it all worthwhile. Important relationships deserve the personal investment in caretaking. After all, to live well is, indeed, to relate well.