Ellyn Bader

Every time a couple tackles a thorny problem requiring change, they go through a predictable sequence of steps to make that change. And the sequence of change process is not linear. Leadership means seeing the journey from denial to commitment and actively challenging either partner when they regress. Watch the video to see Pete and Ellyn go through the stages of change as they conquer the problem of clutter in their home.

Please share your comments or reactions.


Ellyn Bader, Ph.D., is Co-Founder & Director of The Couples Institute and creator 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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7 years ago

Hi Ellyn, nice demo. I see what looks like a map of the heart in the background. Could you post a snippet of it, with the publisher’s information?

Thanks in advance!
Fabrice Nye

Jean Johnson
Jean Johnson
7 years ago

Lovely modelling with reinforcement of steps

7 years ago

Nice video — this is basically a description of the Transtheoretical Model of Change embedded in the context of a couple’s interactions which is a great application of the theory.

7 years ago

Fabrice-The map you see was created by Pete and me. I am sorry I can’t post it because we did it a long time ago and there is no digital version.

Neil Fieland
7 years ago

This was a wonderful video to see what change looks like in the context of a relationship. As a new studnt in your training program, I hope we will be expanding on what to do when couples get stuck in the first two stages.

Thank you

Mary Peterson
7 years ago

Thank you this was fun to watch and demonstrated the steps clearly. When one of the partners is caught in resistance, and admits to a behavior of theirs that could change and says, “…yes, but, you do this…why do I have to change? It’s as if one os saying I’ll change if you change. Where do you go then?

Marty Frankel
7 years ago

Delightful video and oh so true to the reality of couples and change. The hardest lesson for couples I counsel is “giving praise” and having the stamina to return for multiple passes at a problem…and when successful, the partner who asked for change usually has a number of other changes in mind as well. Could this be the source of some of the resistance?

Vivian Baruch
7 years ago

Thanks so much Ellyn & Pete! This is a wonderful resource for my couples. I really appreciate your generous sharing 🙂

7 years ago

Found this really interesting and a great way to share ideas in a simple format that helps people relate what you say to their own issues.

7 years ago

Pete & Ellen:
Thanks for your transparency.
I will use with my clients.

7 years ago

HI Ellyn and Pete
..really enjoyed this video! so great and relieving to see the nitty gritty struggle of it all and phases validated!!
thanks so much for all your ongoing work and commitment to this area …learning heaps along the journey with you all.
best wishes

7 years ago

Ellyn and Pete would love to see this video help lots of struggling couples. Feel free to pass it on and share it.

7 years ago

Wow! I’m so excited about this video for multiple reasons, This was a huge issue in my own marriage for years. I plan to show this to my husband for a laugh together. I was Pete and my h. was Ellyn, and we fought about this for years until I did a version of what I now now is called the Inquirer, from the Bader/Pearson Developmental model. I asked my husband about the meaning of cleanliness for him, and he told me about how much peace it brought to him. I, in turn, was able to talk about the freedom and creativity I felt within the space of messiness while I’m doing something. Our motivation and behavior changed after that, and I am amazingly clean now and he is very tolerant of the messes I do make at times. I share this with my own client couples at times, to demonstrate the power of understanding the other. Thanks for the humor and transparency in the video you shared, Pete and Ellyn. Ann

A Glossary of Terms that are sometimes Confusing

Couples Therapy is a counseling procedure that seeks to improve the adjustment of two people who have created an interdependent relationship. There are no standard procedures to help two people improve their adjustments to each other. Generally, a more experienced therapist will offer more perspectives and tools to a couple. Length of treatment will depend on severity of problems, motivation and skills of the therapist. A couple can be dating, living together, married or separating and may be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

Marriage Therapy is a term often used interchangeably with marriage counseling. The term marriage implies two people have created a union sanctioned by a government or religious institution. The methods used in marriage counseling, marriage therapy and couples therapy are interchangeable and depend more on the specific challenges of each unique couple.

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.

Clinical Social Worker. This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

Marriage and Family Therapist. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

The Couples Institute. We have assembled a group of top notch therapists at The Couples Institute. Whatever marriage help or marriage advice you are looking for, we are here to serve you. While most other therapists see only a few couples a week, we specialize in marriage and couples relationships, working to develop and bring you the most current and effective approaches to couples therapy. For more information about couples therapy or marriage counseling, see our couples therapy section.