Peter Pearson

a way to win your ex back
how to get your ex girlfriend to come back or
how can you make your girlfriend to get back with you
how to write a letter to win your boyfriend back, etc.

 

Reprinted from the January/February, 2005 issue of “Psychotherapy Networker”

Question: I find that in the early stages of couples therapy, I spend time trying to get clients to stop rehashing the “fight of the week.” How can I more quickly help them focus on their individual responsibility?

Answer: Even experienced therapists have couples who lurch from topic to topic and replay fights from the preceding week. Several years ago, frustrated with how much time and energy many couples squandered in therapy, we created a special handout we call, “How to Get the Most from your Couples Therapy.” To get clients ready to make better use of their time in treatment, we started giving it to them at the end of the first session or have them read it on our web site before the first session. The handout briefly describes the goals and objectives of couples therapy, the tradeoffs and tough choices involved in making a relationship work. It includes hints about how to maximize the value of therapy (and what patterns to avoid), and suggestions, questions, thoughts and maxims that help clients think about what a healthy relationship entails.

The handout is designed to help couples approach therapy with an active and engaged frame of mind, encouraging each partner to take individual responsibility for change rather than trying to reform the other. It offers enough of an overview of how we view relationships and the therapy process to put them into a mind-set that can speed up the change process. We challenge each partner's normal human desire to be passive and let someone else do the work for them, emphasizing up front that there can be no sitting around in sessions waiting for change to somehow “happen” of its own accord.

The handout begins by describing the key tasks of couples therapy as we see them: The couple needs to become clear about:
– The kind of life they want to build together and individually;
– The kind of partner they aspire to be
– The individual blocks that prevent them from being the kind of partner they aspire to be;
– The skills and knowledge necessary to do the above tasks.

Couples who come for therapy rarely think about working towards positive future life dreams. Usually couples in distress focus myopically on changing irritating behaviors in the spouse. The handout informs them that if they want to establish a successful relationship, they need to think about developing “a vision of the life they want to build together and individually and adding the appropriate attitudes and skills to work as a team.” Like good coaches, we inform them that we will do our best to help them reach their goals, but that the outcome is up to them.

The handout also warns couples that therapy will present them with some “difficult tradeoffs and tough choices.” It informs them that they will have to stretch their emotional comfort level by listening instead of butting in, by speaking up instead of withdrawing into silent resentment, and by looking directly at the consequences of some of their own behaviors. We remind them that the work will take time and that there are rarely one-session turnarounds in couples therapy. They are also informed directly that it is desirable for them to come to therapy with some realistic sense of what they must be prepared to do in order not to waste their time or ours.

Most partners who read our handout say they are glad to know that there is a clear direction to our therapy approach and are reassured by the idea that change is possible. Even though they hope their partner will do most of the improving, they know down deep that this is mostly a desperate hope and that they will have to do their share.

The handout also describes what to avoid in sessions. It points out that the common pattern of focusing on “whatever problem happens to be on someone's mind at the moment” is an ineffective away to bring about sustained change. It also emphasizes that “walking into therapy without any forethought and saying, ‘I don't know what to talk about, do you?' will result in frustration.” And, of course, simply rehashing the fight they have had since the last meeting is another unproductive strategy. “Over time, repeating these patterns will lead to the plaintive question, ‘Are we getting anywhere yet?' By the time you ask that question, the answer is painfully obvious.”

The couple is encouraged before every session to “reflect on the objectives for being in therapy, and think about your own next step that will support your larger objectives for the kind of relationship you wish to create, or the partner you aspire to become.” We admit that this kind of active reflection takes some time and effort, but remind them that “they wouldn't call an important business meeting and then say, “Well, I don't have anything to bring up. Does anyone else have anything on their agenda?”

Another section of the handout includes some challenging questions to reflect on, which we hope will stimulate each partner to think about his or her own contribution to marital mishaps. Some examples include:
– In a strong disagreement, do you really believe your partner is entitled to their opinion?
– Can you legitimately expect your partner to treat you better than you treat him/her?
– Can you legitimately expect your partner to treat you better than you treat yourself?
– When you want your partner to change, do you think about what you can do to make it easier?

The handout illuminates five basic categories of defensive interaction that are most likely to lead to destructive relationship cycles: blaming or attempting to dominate; emotionally disengaging or withdrawing; resentfully complying with what the other wants; whining/victim behavior; denying what is happening or being chronically confused about it. It is emphasized that these are normal reactions to feeling emotional threat. After these patterns are clearly labeled and normalized, it is easier for most partners to claim what they do non-defensively without shame or humiliation.

With all of our profession's fascination with theory and technique, it may seem odd that a straightforward printed handout could have much impact, but it does. It is common for clients to refer to some aspect of the handout even many weeks after they first read it. It seems to generate more openness to understanding the complexities of relationships and to confronting directly their own shortcomings in a less defensive manner.

You can find our complete document at How To Get The Most From Your Couples Therapy. We invite you to use it as a springboard to create your own. If your experience is anything like ours, you'll find that giving clients information in this simple and direct way demystifies the therapy process and can often speed it up. But most of all, it clarifies from the beginning where the responsibility for change ultimately rests with the clients who seek our help.

About 

Peter Pearson, Ph.D., Relationship & Teamwork Expert for Entrepreneur Couples

Pete has been training and coaching couples to become a strong team since 1984 when he co-founded The Couples Institute with his psychologist wife, Ellyn Bader.

Their popular book, “Tell Me No Lies,” is about being honest with compassion and growing stronger as a couple.

Pete has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including “The Today Show,” "Good Morning America,” and "CBS Early Morning News,” and quoted in major publications including “The New York Times,” “Oprah Magazine,” “Redbook,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “Business Insider.”

Category: Getting Off to a Powerful Start,Therapists' Blog
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