Initiator-Inquirer Process

My Visit to a Counseling Center in Africa

A year ago I wrote a newsletter as I was winging home from Africa – and here I am again. So many reflections, so many experiences, sights, sounds, emotions.  Where do I begin? And do I share what meant most to me or what might be most relevant to you and your work? I'd like to tell you about Amani Counseling Center in Africa. This year I went with Michelle Wangler (whom many of you know) and Rita Maynard, a very talented therapist from Portland, Oregon, who trained with us for many years. If you don’t know Michelle, she works at The Couples Institute as both a couples therapist and an assistant in my online training program.… Read more...

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...

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...

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...

Managing Control Issues in Couples Therapy

For this blog post, I am giving you part of a transcript from an Initiator-Inquirer session. It is about working with control struggles, improving couple’s communication, and what that means on a deeper level. This session was very rich in learning, so I am going to break it down into several posts. I’d like you to comment on what you see me doing and on anything you learn from reading this portion of the session. Then in a later mailing I will give you the next section. Vicky and Tom have been married for eight years and in business together for two years. He is 36 and she is 37. They came to therapy because they had been fighting, power struggling and getting nowhere on their own.… Read more...
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