About Ellyn Bader

Ellyn Bader, Ph.D., and her husband, Dr. Peter Pearson, are founders and directors of The Couples Institute and creators of The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy. Ellyn is widely recognized as an expert in couples therapy, and since 2006 she has led innovative online training programs for therapists. Professionals from around the world connect with her through internet, conference calls and blog discussions to study couples therapy.

Ellyn’s first book, "In Quest of the Mythical Mate," won the Clark Vincent Award by the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists for its outstanding contribution to the field of marital therapy and is now in its 18th printing. She has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including "The Today Show" and "CBS Early Morning News," and she has been quoted in many publications including "The New York Times," "The Oprah Magazine" and "Cosmopolitan."

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Here are my most recent posts

I woke up this morning feeling sad

Springs High SchoolAt 9am, I was supposed to be riding in a stuffy 9-seater van driving down dusty, unpaved roads to a Kenyan refugee village. For the past 6 years, I’ve taken this bumpy drive to visit the Shalom community. Today I was longing to see those children’s happy faces and feel their little hands in mine when I return and reconnect with them. They cheerfully welcome us with exuberant singing and dancing, and playfully fight over holding the hands of all the donors who accompany us.… Read more...

How to Help Couples Work Towards Positive Dreams Through Visualization

Dreams and visionsToday we are discussing setting larger goals; what is commonly known as having a vision, and working towards them with visualization. Vision setting is the focus of today's blog post. It is an enormous help in couples therapy to take the focus off daily struggles and put relationship efforts into a larger context. The reality is that most couples spend more time discussing what movie they want to see, or what room is a mess than they do discussing any big dreams they have. Bringing the larger dreams into better focus helps give partners a crucial incentive to do some of the hard work in front of them. What is a vision?… Read more...

Differentiation in Couples Relationships

Disco ball in party atmosphere Recently I was interviewed by Diane Heller for her membership program. My topic was “Differentiation in Couples Relationships.” The hour-long interview covered many aspects of differentiation and why I am passionate about couples therapists really understanding the essence of differentiation. I share this with you because differentiation is what makes the difference between relationships that are stuck or boring and those that are alive and growing. I’ll be sharing some sections of the interview with you in my upcoming blogs. Today’s post introduces and discusses Differentiation in Couples Therapy.… Read more...

Couples Conference 2017 A – Z: Dan Amen to Jeff Zeig

EB presenting at Couples Conference Each year I enjoy sharing a few key points from the presentations I was able to attend at The Couples Conference. This year the conference focused on challenging issues therapists face, with special focus on addictions, affairs and sexual boundaries. With daily keynotes and multiple workshops running simultaneously, it’s impossible to attend everything. And as a presenter and co-sponsor, I was even busier than the average participant. So I can’t report on the entire conference or even on entire workshops. If you were there, please feel free to add points of interest in the commenting section at the end of this post.… Read more...

Managing First Sessions After an Affair

Couples therapy with one partner who is stuck. Treating couples in the aftermath of an affair is one of the most important challenges you will face. Other problems gradually weaken a relationship, but infidelity, once it is discovered, rips it apart abruptly and violently. So much is at stake. You have two partners who are hurting for very different reasons. They both want the pain to stop. You enter the couple’s world at this time of turmoil, rage, despair – and at a time when the meaning of the affair is fuzzy. Even though it may be presented to you as if there is one perpetrator and one victim, it’s not so conveniently black and white. How you position yourself and what you accomplish in that first session matters a lot.… Read more...

The Value of Obsessing About an Affair

Couples therapy with one partner who is stuck. When two people get together, they date and spend time getting to know each other. For some, the “falling in love” is intense and the decision to become a couple is easy. For others, it is far more difficult as they thoughtfully consider differences in challenging areas such as religion, culture, social class, child-rearing, or where to live. Then the two partners decide to marry or live together in a committed partnership, and that  decision draws a boundary around the “two of them” as a couple. This decision, when done well, completes the initial bonding stage of a relationship and paves the way for a healthy, growth-promoting process of differentiation.… Read more...

Confrontation Transcript: Disrupting Hidden Symbiosis

couples therapy confrontation transcript, disrupting hidden symbiosisTherapists who train with me know to look for symbiosis and understand how symbiosis impedes the tremendous growth potential that exists in any couples relationship. Sometimes symbiosis is obvious because a couple has been stuck there for a very long time. Other times it is more disguised. Below you will read a transcript from a session with a couple deciding whether or not to get married. In this couple, the female partner acts as if she is the more mature grounded partner. She is decisive where her boyfriend is anxious and conflicted. In this session I decided to confront her hidden “stuckness.” She had been dancing around his requests for several weeks.… Read more...

Confrontation Video: Challenging Hypocrisy

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couple in therapy confronting hypocrisyWith certain presenting problems, it’s obvious that some confrontation will be required. For example, the denial associated with drugs, alcohol or gambling addiction will inevitably require confrontation from either you or the spouse. Also, the major lies and deceptions that happen with infidelity are often obvious in calling for confrontation. However, there are some more subtle patterns, like symbiosis and regression, that also take skillful confrontation. Long ago I realized it would be impossible to do successful couples work without confronting the consequences of these behaviors. Without becoming skillful at disrupting symbiosis and recognizing and challenging regression, couples work will just skim the surface.… Read more...

Confrontation Transcript: Indecision After Infidelity

Unhappy couple in therapyMoving along in our series on confrontation, I wanted to share a series of confrontations  made by my husband, Peter Pearson, during a 90-minute session with a couple facing indecision after infidelity. Observe how his confrontations move from softer to more intense. Jeff and Julie came for their first session after being married for 40 years. Jeff was in the midst of an affair and Julie was very depressed. Jeff was severely conflicted. Should he stay married or go with Clara, his new love?  He was also “shopping” for therapists and had already been to several. Jeff was approaching his indecision from a passive, but painful position.… Read more...

Six Types of Confrontation and How the Cycle of Confrontation Unfolds

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couple in therapyConfrontation skills did not come naturally to me. When I was growing up, if I had issues with my sister or my mother, my father sent me to my room  saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” As a therapist, it took concerted effort for me to learn how to be nice and make effective confrontations at the same time. I had to learn how to make incisive confrontations or watch couples repeat the same negative patterns over and over. To be effective, you must be able to hold up a mirror so that partners can see (and recognize non-defensively) what they are doing and how they are getting in their own way.… Read more...

Psychotherapy is one or more processes to help improve psychological and emotional functioning. Examples are psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, Gestalt therapy, Transactional Analysis, Rational-Emotive therapy, or group therapy. Many forms of psychotherapy are blends of different approaches. For example, newer forms of psychotherapy called energy psychology draw upon recent advances in brain and neuroscience. These approaches often build on cognitive behavioral methods.

Clinical Psychologist. After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psycholgy. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Psychiatrist. After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

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