Couples Therapy

How to Get the Most From Your Couples Therapy

Couples are often uncertain what to expect from the process of couples therapy. They are not sure of what to expect of the therapist or even if the therapist has any expectations of them. I have found most couples approach therapy with the notion that each person will describe their distress and somehow the therapist will assist them to create a happier, more functional, relationship. They expect to learn some new or better skills. However, most people hope their partner will do most of the learning in problem areas. After 30 years of clinical experience and specializing in working with thousands of couples, I have arrived at some guidelines that can make our work more effective.… Read more...

Couples Therapy: Confronting a Stuck, Betrayed Partner

Couples therapy with one partner who is stuck.For this blog, I’d like to address a common challenge in couples therapy:  how to confront a betrayed partner who remains in a victim position long after infidelity has been revealed. This situation is hard for therapists because the client seems to be a “legitimate victim” of outrageous behavior, when the spouse has had a long-term affair or lied in destructive ways. When I’ve surveyed therapists about stuck infidelity cases, they  expressed it like this.How do I help each partner recognize their role in the dynamic that contributed to the deception? How do I deal with the deceived person possibly “using the betrayal for leverage or punishment”?… 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...

Avoid Losing Control, Momentum or Direction in Couples Therapy

Here are links to all 9 blog posts in my series on losing control, momentum or direction in couples therapy. The first three blogs are on Losing Control: Losing Control: When couples sessions spin out of control Losing Control: It happens sooner than you think Losing Control: When couples fight The next three are on Losing Momentum: Losing Momentum: Do you start strong and then see the energy fizzle? Losing Momentum: With passive-aggressive partners and their spouses Losing Momentum: When one partner keeps obsessing about the details of a partner’s affair The last three are on Losing Direction: Losing Direction: Where are you going and what are you using for a roadmap?… Read more...

How to Stun Your Therapist (Or Your Spouse) With Your Attitude.

mindset-results-225If you happen to be in couples therapy just say this at your next meeting:  Today I’m here to change my attitude about change, because if I don’t change my attitude about change then I will never be able to consistently apply what we are here to learn. My attitude that needs improvement is: “Why should I have to change?” Because as long as I have that attitude I will come across as insensitive, self-centered, oblivious, and negligent. Even though I seek a pain-proof marriage, another part of me knows that’s an impossible goal. Worst of all – my self-defeating attitude keeps me from creating the best possible team we could create.… Read more...

How to Get the Most From Your Couples Therapy

Couples are often uncertain what to expect from the process of couples therapy. They are not sure of what to expect of the therapist or even if the therapist has any expectations of them. I have found most couples approach therapy with the notion that each person will describe their distress and somehow the therapist will assist them to create a happier, more functional, relationship. They expect to learn some new or better skills. However, most people hope their partner will do most of the learning in problem areas. After 30 years of clinical experience and specializing in working with thousands of couples, I have arrived at some guidelines that can make our work more effective.… Read more...

Motivation in Couples Therapy

Please complete this short, anonymous survey to help me address your most important questions in my upcoming series. 1. How big of a problem do you consider the issue of motivation to be in couples therapy?Very LargeLargeMediumSmall2. How frequently do you see partners who present themselves as motivated but don’t follow through on homework and insights?OftenOccasionallyRarelyNever3. What techniques or interventions have you found most helpful to improve couples' motivation? Please list 1 or 2 interventions you use that are designed to increase motivation.4. What are your biggest challenges, questions or concerns about low motivation?… Read more...

Regression and its Impact in Couples Therapy

This month let's look at regression in couples therapy. The old adage says “where the attention goes, the energy flows.” Regressed partners in couples therapy often demand that either you or their partner focus on them. At times, attending to and even promoting regression can facilitate change. However, often it is counterproductive and reinforces patterns that keep the couple stuck. In this newsletter, we will briefly explore what is regression, three issues that tend to intensify regression, and how a therapist may inadvertently contribute to increasing the regression. What Is Regression?… Read more...

Attachment and Differentiation in Couples Therapy

This year's couples conference has now come and gone. Once again we enjoyed dynamic presentations from state of the art thinkers and practioners, such as Harville Hendrix, Pat Love, Cloe Madanes, Terry Real, Dan Siegel, Stan Tatkin and Jeff Zeig. I meant to share some highlights with you sooner, but got swamped with commitments that always crop up at the end of the training year and then had a wonderful trip to France with Pete and Molly. I especially loved the panel on “Attachment and Differentiation in Couples Therapy” that I did with Stan Tatkin. I structured this panel into the conference because I believe it is time for people our field to begin integrating the best of these two theories. … Read more...

Conflict avoidance comes in many forms.

 Conflict avoidance comes in many forms. Do you recognize these? 1. Some couples avoid so many issues that you feel enormous tension just sitting in the room with them. For years they have shied away from discussing any issues that are potentially high-conflict. 2. These friendly conflict avoiders are warm, gracious and engaging. They just can’t bring any depth into their conversations. In fact, their shadow side is often completely denied. To avoid shame or humiliation, they won’t acknowledge negative feelings or impulses. 3. Passive-aggressive partners rarely set positive goals and won’t initiate much positive action.… Read more...
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