confrontation

Clinical Transcript Reveals Symbiotic Yearnings and Hidden Barriers to Commitment

Therapists who train with me know that many couples who come to therapy are stuck in symbiotic patterns that impede the growth of each partner and also impede the tremendous growth potential that exists in any committed relationship. Today I want to share with you a transcript of a couple where the female partner’s symbiotic yearnings have been hidden. In past sessions, the male partner has been attentive to her requests. She has frequently danced away from what matters to him. This couple is trying to decide whether or not to get married. The reason they are stuck has been hidden. The female partner presents as the more mature grounded partner.… Read more...

Is Confrontation Important in Couples Therapy?

Confrontation is much more of an art than a science, especially in the intricacy of couples therapy. What comes to mind when you think about confrontation in couples therapy?  Do you confront a lot?  Or rarely?   Does thinking of doing some specific confrontations make you feel anxious?  Or, perhaps creating a well-crafted confrontation leaves you feeling enthusiastic and excited? Do you dread confronting an angry partner for fear that you will be attacked or aggressively challenged?  Do you worry that an untimely or poorly worded confrontation will result in a permanent rupture or at least a significant disconnection in a relationship that you have carefully built? … Read more...

Confrontation Video: Challenging Hypocrisy

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

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...

Are You Smarter Than a Fox?

killdeerHave you heard of the Killdeer? No, it’s not a mammal, but an amazing bird from the sandpiper family. The Killdeer do not build much of a nest. They lay their eggs in a nest on rocky ground areas. This makes them especially vulnerable to predators like foxes. So, the very smart killdeer developed special behavioral adaptations to protect the nest. What could this have to do with skillful confrontation in couples therapy?… Read more...

Confrontation Options: Financial Irresponsibility

couple with therapist who confronts financial irresponsibility“Many of us believe that wrongs aren’t wrong if done by nice people like ourselves.” ~Author Unknown. At the risk of starting this blog sounding sexist, there are two common areas of regression I’ve seen in men and women over many years working with couples. Women often dig in and want to be taken care of financially. Men often regress and want to be taken care of at home. They may resist participating in household chores or child rearing. Perhaps you’ve worked with a couple for a while and the husband says,  “She never sticks to our budget and she won’t participate in realistic financial decisions.” His wife typically responds by saying,  “No matter what I do, it’s never enough.… Read more...

The Self-Absorbed Partner

charts and graphs of salesA very big thanks to you if you filled out my survey on the Self-Absorbed Partner. I must have hit a nerve because nearly 200 readers answered the questions.… Read more...

A Disarming Confrontation in Couples Therapy

Choice Traffic SignA very distressed, acrimonious couple comes to see you for couples therapy. They’ve done significant damage to each other over the years. It seems they will fight about anything and you feel like you are getting nowhere. All your best efforts are thwarted. You say to them, “I’m sorry to give you some bad news. You are faced with two ugly choices. This is probably not what you want to hear. Yet, it is your current reality.”… Read more...

Hypocrisy, Immorality, Shame and Change

cofronting hypocrisy“It's discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.” ― Noël Coward, Blithe Spirit Today I’d like to share a fascinating piece on hypocrisy from the University of Colorado’s Conflict Research Consortium.… Read more...

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.