differentiation

A Powerful Exercise to Promote the Work of Differentiation in Couples

The differentiation stage is, by far, the most difficult for many couples. Helping each partner set self-focused autonomous goals is crucial to their growth as individuals and to push the development of the couple. In my last blog post, I gave you a glimpse into how I work with couples to tease apart individual goals when their issues are highly entangled and enmeshed. If you missed it, you can find it here. But sometimes, you as the therapist will assess that a couple’s level of differentiation is so low that you’re going to have to start with them at a very basic, fundamental level. When a couple operates with each other almost totally out of reactivity, it takes a fair amount of psychoeducation to help them recognize emotions and pay attention to what’s going on in their body.… Read more...

Differentiation in Couples Relationships

Recently I was interviewed by Diane Heller for her membership program. My topic was “Differentiation in Couples Relationships.” The hour-long interview covered many aspects of differentiation and why I am passionate about couples therapists really understanding the essence of differentiation. I share this with you because differentiation is what makes the difference between relationships that are stuck or boring and those that are alive and growing. I’ll be sharing some sections of the interview with you in my upcoming blogs. Today’s post introduces and discusses Differentiation in Couples Therapy.… Read more...

Ellyn Bader and Other Experts on Differentiation at Couples Conference

Ellyn Bader presenting at Couples Conference 2016Day 2 was on Differentiation at Couples Conference 2016. In a panel discussion early in the day, I set the stage for understanding differentiation by explaining that in thriving relationships, partners are able to… Express their own thoughts, feelings, wishes and desires while being curious about their partner’s  thoughts, feelings, wishes and desires.… Read more...

A Fresh Perspective on The Couples Conference

CouplesConferenceOne attraction of The Couples Conference is that in addition to presenting and learning, I am able to connect with colleagues and meet face-to-face for the first time with some of the members of my online training group. One of those therapists wrote an informative summary of the conference that’s also an inspiring message. I am pleased to share it here on our blog. I hope you enjoy this message from Nancy St John, a couples therapist from Ireland who is one of the training assistants in my online program.… Read more...

Couples Conference Notes for You

couples conference 2013I am stuck in the LA airport counting the hours until I can get home and sleep in my own bed.  Indefinite delays at the boarding gate are particularly difficult after the hard work and excitement of the Couples Conference. After sitting here for 3 hours, I realize I can pass the time more productively by recapturing some of the highlights of this year’s meeting for you now, while the memories are fresh.… Read more...

Developmental Change, Focus on the Initiator, Part 3

Therapist Errors: Not Recognizing Protective Passivity This blog post continues to focus on the initiator. Last month we looked at  recognizing a “non-Initiation.”  Remember we are discussing couples who have done very little active differentiation. An important subtle issue that occurs in many initiations is passivity. Passivity happens as a self-protection when partners fear the vulnerability of self-exposure. They may have difficulty articulating what they desire or they may not even know.… Read more...

New Ways to Create Collaboration for Severely Distressed Couples

October is here. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all quickly tumble into the family, creating stress for couples. School has been underway long enough for kids’ schedules, the demands of various activities, and homework challenges to create additional stress. Couples start fighting much more than they did in the summer months. Their lack of ability to collaborate effectively becomes apparent. Perhaps they call a therapist or perhaps they wait even longer. Too frequently they wait until their problems have become chronic. John Gottman says, “People wait an average of 6 years to get any couples counseling after distress” (Notarius).… 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...

How to Identify Failed Empathy in the Narcissistic Personality

… and Utilize Specific Tools for Increasing Differentiation Last month we talked about one defensive pattern of a narcissistic partner. This month we will address the low level of empathy in the narcissistic partner. A narcissistic partner would never start therapy by saying this in an initial interview: “I wish I could give even when it isn't convenient for me. However, I hate to admit I'm wrong and I have a very thin skin, so I frequently make demands or attack my partner. I wish I could make a sustained effort to give and respond in an empathic way. But, I am rarely giving or nurturing unless I feel like it.” The narcissist will never say this because they do not give when it is inconvenient and they have minimal capacity to be psychologically separate from another person.… Read more...

Transactional Analysis: Strategies

Strategies for Working With Lies, Passive-Aggressive Behavior and Affairs Ellyn Bader, Ph.D., is Co-Founder & Director of The Couples Institute in Menlo Park, California. She is long-time members of the International Transactional Analysis Association (ITAA) and have served in various capacities in the organization. Ellyn was president of the ITAA from 1984-1985. This is an interview of Pete and Ellyn conducted by Bill Cornell for ITAA's publication The Script. Bill: I'm glad to have the chance to talk with both of you, especially since the stimulus for this interview is the release of your new training tape for the ITAA “Transactional Analysis in Action” series.… Read more...
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