Searching for Intimacy and Aliveness

Here is the transcript I promised you in my most recent blog post, “Moving Couples Through Defense and Ambivalence Toward Intimacy.”  In that blog post I said that when I hear clients “intellectualizing” a desire for intimacy, it’s an indicator that they’re in the “Adult-ego state,” and probably covering vulnerability and fear. This transcript demonstrates the Gestalt two-chair work that I discussed in that blog post. Two-chair work can be extremely helpful in identifying parts of the self that are blocked. Notice how difficult it is for Sue, the client, to feel her aliveness. Wanting it and experiencing it are two different things.… Read more... “Searching for Intimacy and Aliveness”

Confrontation Transcript: Disrupting Hidden Symbiosis

couples therapy confrontation transcript, disrupting hidden symbiosisTherapists who train with me know to look for symbiosis and understand how symbiosis impedes the tremendous growth potential that exists in any couples relationship. Sometimes symbiosis is obvious because a couple has been stuck there for a very long time. Other times it is more disguised. Below you will read a transcript from a session with a couple deciding whether or not to get married. In this couple, the female partner acts as if she is the more mature grounded partner. She is decisive where her boyfriend is anxious and conflicted. In this session I decided to confront her hidden “stuckness.” She had been dancing around his requests for several weeks.… Read more... “Confrontation Transcript: Disrupting Hidden Symbiosis”

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... “Confrontation Transcript: Indecision After Infidelity”

Building Effective Collaboration with a Highly Anxious Client

couples in therapy sessionA common scenario that many of us see in our practices is the over-functioning wife with the anxious-avoidant husband. He is a highly anxious procrastinator  and is often not accountable for what he says he will do.… Read more... “Building Effective Collaboration with a Highly Anxious Client”

Shifting Relationship Impasses, Part Four

conflict avoidant couple at impasseTranslating Internal Conflicts as an Emotional Bridge Before sharing the final part of this transcript from a session on shifting relationship impasses, I want to answer the questions I asked you last month. What are some of the wife’s struggles?   As I listened to the wife, I was aware that she drives herself very hard. She has a lot of expectations of perfection. She must do all her tasks well. It is rare she feels any break from multiple responsibilities and from being parental at home. Performance dominates her life. How is the husband doing with my assists? Her husband is struggling in this dialogue. It is extremely difficult for him to recognize that she has her own struggles separate from him.… Read more... “Shifting Relationship Impasses, Part Four”

Conflict Avoidance: Shifting Relationship Impasses, Part 3

Helping partners develop clearer separation between self and other This is the third part of a series in which I have shared sections of a session on shifting relationship impasses in a couple with conflict avoidance and encouraged comments and questions from readers. Thank you to those of you who have participated in our dialog on the blog. In this portion of the session, because the wife has taken more of a risk, I decide to stay with helping her express more while simultaneously seeing if her husband can get any separation from her.  … Read more... “Conflict Avoidance: Shifting Relationship Impasses, Part 3”

Conflict Avoidance: Shifting Relationship Impasses, Part 2

Thanks a lot to those of you who took time to write your thoughts about the transcript I last posted about shifting relationship impasses in a conflict avoidant couple. You were processing many of the issues involved. I picked this couple because they demonstrate many traits that are common in intensity avoiding and conflict avoiding couples. As I sat in the session with them, I could viscerally feel how disengaged they had become. I knew they would not change from insight alone! I asked myself: Why does the wife have so much difficulty expressing her desires? Why is her husband so sensitive to rejection? I don’t want to assume I know the answer to these questions.… Read more... “Conflict Avoidance: Shifting Relationship Impasses, Part 2”

Conflict Avoidance: Shifting Relationship Impasses, Part 1

About a year ago, I wrote a series of newsletters dissecting one session with a particular couple. It seemed to motivate readers to exchange ideas on the blog. I’d like to revisit that format and ask you to think developmentally along with me, this time about shifting relationship impasses in a couple with the pattern of conflict avoidance.… Read more... “Conflict Avoidance: Shifting Relationship Impasses, Part 1”

Couples Resources

This page, organized by the type of program, summarizes the various couples resources that are offered by The Couples Institute. These are in addition to couples therapy, which is described here. Couples Workshops Sign up to join Michelle Wangler Joy, M.A., MFT, for the next Couples Communication Workshop to learn skills to overcome stubborn relationship challenges. Invite one of our therapists to speak to your couples, parents, or family-focused community group by contacting our office here. E-Book Initiating Calm Discussions In this e-book by Ellyn Bader, Ph.D. and Peter Pearson, Ph.D., you will discover three different perspectives for every discussion.… Read more... “Couples Resources”

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... “Beyond Listening Skills: Developing Compassion and Empathy”