Initiator Inquirer

Developmental Change, Focus on the Initiator, Part 3

Therapist Errors: Not Recognizing Protective Passivity This blog post continues to focus on the initiator. Last month we looked at  recognizing a “non-Initiation.”  Remember we are discussing couples who have done very little active differentiation. An important subtle issue that occurs in many initiations is passivity. Passivity happens as a self-protection when partners fear the vulnerability of self-exposure. They may have difficulty articulating what they desire or they may not even know.… Read more...

Developmental Change, Focus on the Initiator, Part 2

Recognizing When Your Client Defines a Clear Issue with Related Feelings Today's blog post is the second in which we focus on the Initiator for more effective Initiation. We are explaining the steps with volatile couples as you begin working with them in the Initiator-Inquirer format. The tasks of being an effective Initiator sound simple. The Initiator… 1.  Brings up one and only one issue/problem 2.  Uses “I messages” to describe thoughts & feelings about the issue 3.  Describes the issue without blame or name calling 4.  Is open to learning more about him/herself than was known before he/she started talk For you as the therapist, this step involves asking yourself, “Did my client actually initiate?”… Read more...

Developmental Change: Focus on the Initiator with Volatile Couples

  I thought I’d write a few short blog posts that focus on the Initiator in the Initiator-Inquirer Process. Attaining successful initiation in the early stages of therapy is not easy. There are many subtleties that make a big difference.  In this series, I will write each time about one main point. I hope it will give you a focus in future sessions with highly volatile or very disengaged couples.… Read more...

Conflict Avoidance: Shifting Relationship Impasses, Part 2

Thanks a lot to those of you who took time to write your thoughts about the transcript I last posted about shifting relationship impasses in a conflict avoidant couple. You were processing many of the issues involved. I picked this couple because they demonstrate many traits that are common in intensity avoiding and conflict avoiding couples. As I sat in the session with them, I could viscerally feel how disengaged they had become. I knew they would not change from insight alone! I asked myself:Why does the wife have so much difficulty expressing her desires? Why is her husband so sensitive to rejection?I don’t want to assume I know the answer to these questions.… Read more...

Attachment and Differentiation in Directing Change

The beginning of each year is a time when I reflect on my own goals for the year and also stop and think about whether I have a clear direction with each of my clients. I frequently check in with each partner to see that we have agreement about their focus. Developing a strong direction with a high probability of success in couples therapy often involves supporting the couple's bond and simultaneously stressing the importance of self-directed differentiated change — change that is not connected to what the partner does. What does this actually look like? In early sessions, it is important to define what positive outcome each partner is trying to create.… Read more...

Challenging Choice Points for Using the Initiator-Inquirer Process

  This month's newsletter is specifically for you if you use the Initiator-Inquirer process in your work with couples. The Initiator-Inquirer helps partners repair emotional upset while increasing the differentiation in each partner. Often the therapist is confronted with challenging choice points about which partner to focus on, when it is impossible to work deeply with both partners in a single session. Common choice points are: 1. Do I work more actively with the Initiator or the Inquirer when both are emotionally distressed? 2. When has an emotional upset occurred for too long in the room?… Read more...

Here is Your Additional Information on Collaborative Conversations

The Role of Differentiation in Collaborative Conversations   Using the Initiator-Inquirer™ Exercise is a Powerful Way to Promote Differentiation. The first section below describes the exercise in language you could use with clients. The final section makes a few points for you, the therapist.The Initiator-Inquirer™ Exercise Differentiation of self is the ability to identify and express important parts of yourself. It’s about telling your partner what you think, feel, want or desire. This can be scary because you are exposing important and sensitive aspects of yourself. Differentiation from your partner is the ability to be curious about what your partner says while managing your own emotional reactions.… Read more...

Beyond Listening Skills: Developing Compassion and Empathy

So, after several months of us working with a single session with Tom and Vicky, I am now posting the final section of this transcript. Before reading it you might want to review last month’s post and some of the insightful comments by your colleagues about the process of developing compassion and empathy. We begin this section with only about 10 minutes left in the session. Until this point, much of the focus has been on Tom. Now, I want to check in and work with Vicky before the session ends. I step partially out of the Initiator-Inquirer framework. I don’t know Vicky very well yet and I want to understand her more completely.… Read more...

Working with Early Trauma in the Initiator-Inquirer

When you are doing Initiator-Inquirer sessions, be sure to watch how partners function in their assigned roles. The combination of the role and each partner's functioning will give you a clear insight into each partner's level of differentiation. You will see where each person breaks down and you will also be able to locate past or early trauma that is being re-enacted in the current relationship. Today's blog post is a continuation of the session with Vicky and Tom. If you missed the beginning of the series you can read the first section here and the second section here. This session originally began with a blaming initiation from Tom.… Read more...

Helplessness Underlies Many Control Struggles

I am pleased that many readers took the time to think about the last transcript I posted. I enjoyed reading your perspectives and seeing your comments about my interventions.… Read more...
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