goals

10 Skills for Early Sessions

Each year I mentor a small group of therapists to help them set goals for their business and clinical skills. I often ask them to assess themselves by being brutally honest about their ability on a variety of criteria that I believe make for strength and effectiveness as a couples therapist. I am including some of these here so you too can assess yourself. Couples Therapist Self­-Assessment First, read the following statements and respond with a simple yes or no. Later, come back and use a 1­-7 on a continuum from very strong to very weak. Early Sessions with Couples: __ I have a plan when I talk to potential clients on the telephone.… 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...

How to Help Couples Work Towards Positive Dreams Through Visualization

Dreams and visionsToday we are discussing setting larger goals; what is commonly known as having a vision, and working towards them with visualization. Vision setting is the focus of today's blog post. It is an enormous help in couples therapy to take the focus off daily struggles and put relationship efforts into a larger context. The reality is that most couples spend more time discussing what movie they want to see, or what room is a mess than they do discussing any big dreams they have. Bringing the larger dreams into better focus helps give partners a crucial incentive to do some of the hard work in front of them. What is a vision?… Read more...

How to Stop Going in Circles with an Entrenched Couple

Colored concentric circlesSome partners just stubbornly refuse to be accountable for their own role in a mutual mess and you find yourself going in circles in therapy sessions. Perhaps they are resistant to your best explanations, insights, interpretations and confrontations.… Read more...

What do you do when therapy stalls after the first few sessions?

couples therapy stalls Ask Ellyn #8: I am good at getting started with couples, but after 8-10 sessions I feel stuck. I seemed to make headway at the beginning, but now my sessions seem repetitive. What am I missing? The couple keeps bringing up the same old complaints. What do you do when therapy stalls?… Read more...

How can you mobilize ambivalent clients who resist your interventions?

couple with therapist resist change Ask Ellyn #4: I have clients who seem to have clear goals. But then they ignore my suggestions and insights. How can you mobilize clients who resist and even thwart your interventions?  … Read more...

How do you create more effective sessions with bickering couples?

bickering couple Ask Ellyn #2: I work with a lot of angry couples that regress easily into bickering, arguing, and competing. My attempts to have them take turns talking, look at what’s under their defenses, or set goals have little effect. Do you have any suggestions about how to create more effective sessions?… 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...

First of Four-Part Series: Challenges of Hostile Angry Couples

Young Couple Having Argument At HomeI consult on so many cases where therapists are struggling to be effective leaders with hostile angry couples, I know it is a widespread problem. The more disorganized a couple is and the more hostility there is, the more difficult it’s going to be for you to structure sessions and arrive at effective goals for each session.… Read more...

Most New Year’s Resolutions Fail – Here’s Why

For some reason the calendar seems to dictate the desire to become a better person. You may feel a surge of excitement at the prospect of overcoming a bad habit or attitude. What is it about New Year's resolutions? Despite good intentions, your efforts soon evaporate like snow flakes in July. Here’s why you don’t follow through.… Read more...
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