couples therapy tools

Fear of Couples Therapy

Many therapists are drawn to doing psychotherapy in order to be helpers and also because we enjoy the closeness with our clients. Individual therapy can be calming and comfortable. It feels good and we often like the experience of providing support and unconditional positive regard to our clients. I don’t mean to imply that individual therapy is without its difficult confrontations. But in individual therapy, our clients can titrate how slowly or quickly they inform us about their “dark side”. In couples work, the other partner may dump the worst aspects of their spouse on us in the first session.  And things escalate quickly because, after all, who is able to be openly, vulnerably accountable for their own behavior under these conditions?… 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...

Couples Therapy Tools: The Paper Exercise

When I am doing training, I get many requests to learn more about the Paper Exercise. I thought you might like having more information about it. The Paper Exercise is an exercise that Pete and I adapted from Susan Campbell’s book, The Couples Journey. The exercise sounds a bit contrived, but it is so revealing of couples’ dynamics that it is worthwhile learning to use it. It can be used either diagnostically or as an intervention into the couples’ system. Setting up the exercise You will need a piece of plain white 8 ½ x 11 paper. Hold it in your hand, look into the eyes of one partner, and say, “This piece of paper represents something important to you.… Read more...
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