Free Series January 23 – 27, 2023

The Courage to Lead: Fostering Emotional Risk

Let’s say a couple comes to see you because they can’t seem to move beyond repetitive painful fights.

To show up strong from the beginning you might say something like this:

Here's our challenge if we decide to work together…

I am going to be asking you to take risks, to stretch beyond what is comfortable. I will be stretching myself and I will ask you to push yourself if you want to grow. At first it will challenge you and you will want to fight me.

Over time if you let me coach you, your painful patterns will shift. You will be more in alignment with the kind of partner you truly want to be. That’s when you will be on your way to building an exceptional relationship.

You can follow up by outlining the work ahead with a description like this:

Each of you will want the other to change first. You may blame, point fingers, and encourage me to change your partner. You will wish that your partner would become more supportive, more understanding, and more giving.

There are two concepts that are not intuitive that will make our work together go faster.

1. The principle of autonomous change. Too many people get stuck thinking, “I’ll change if you change.” They wait for the other to go first. I will be giving you exercises and activities to do between sessions and asking you to experiment even if your partner does nothing.

2. Recognize how you get in your own way. There is a part of you that is self-protective. That part shows up a lot and makes it really difficult for your partner to give you what you so badly want. You can’t see it now but you don’t make it easy to get what you want. If we work together, I will ask you to allow me to show this to you. I won’t judge you because I understand the need for self-protection. However, your self-protective behavior actually undermines you getting what you want. The sooner you are open to seeing how you make it difficult, the faster our work together will move.

Early in therapy, strong leaders outline the steps ahead. This includes what you will be doing and why.

Herbert Shepherd eloquently described it when he was speaking to organizational consultants, but it fits for us, too.

“Entering the situation blank is never the answer. One needs to have as many frameworks for seeing and strategies for acting as possible. But it’s not enough to involve only one’s head in the situation. One’s heart has to get involved too.

Rule number one is stay alive. Staying alive means staying in touch with your purpose, your skills, your emotions… and letting your whole being be involved in the undertaking.”

Now is the time.…

 

Act Now

  • If you’re ready to stay in touch with your purpose, your skills and emotions, and let your whole being be involved in the undertaking, click here to learn more about the Developmental Model of Couples Therapy. It’s a place to build your leadership and your capacity to help couples and be fully alive in the process. The program is full of therapists from around the world who share your commitment, motivation, and values.

The Courage to Lead: 4 Steps to Stay in Charge with Hostile Blaming Couples

 

Hostility is unnerving! Fighting partners are highly reactive and surprisingly highly enmeshed with each other. They are competitive, regressed, and desperately trying to preserve an image of a relationship that won’t work. There is so much pain that your courage to lead is more crucial than ever with these constantly fighting couples. And they don’t make it easy!

In the video above, I talk about the emotional contagion that happens between partners and why it’s so easy for anxiety to escalate into hostility. Hostile couples have a particularly hard time deescalating because they get stuck in negative views of each other. Without a base of emotional object constancy, it is easy for them to forget their partner’s positive traits or remember how they have been supportive in the past.

It will be your job to help each partner build their own levels of differentiation, so they can stay steady in the face of resolving scary differences.

Early in therapy with these couples, transformative leadership means you get yourself centered and you don’t focus on the relationship. Instead, you focus on each partner’s differentiation.

Here are 4 steps to stay in charge:

Task 1: Know that each partner contributes to their high distress. Describe each partner’s contribution in a descriptive, non-judgmental way. Delineate each partner’s role clearly and don’t back down.

Task 2: Emphasize the power of individual autonomous goals. It takes time to separate out clear and specific changes for each partner, but the time spent will be well worth your effort.

Task 3: Search for their first moments of self-differentiation. These don’t occur often. When they occur, support them, and recognize the value of these moments. Embellish and support their progress. At these moments they are being different with you and different with each other.

Task 4: Expect ambivalence about connection. Openness and vulnerability do not come naturally. Partners have probably led most of their lives in self-protective defensiveness. As your work progresses, when one partner is open and giving, the other one will be rejecting. Then they rapidly switch positions. At this stage of therapy, don’t expect both partners to be open at the same time.

Distressed couples have created enmeshed systems in which they can’t see themselves clearly and they don’t understand the impact they have on each other.

It’s simple to understand these 4 tasks, but what separates the good from the great therapists is a deep capacity to hold and facilitate differentiation in couples’ relationships. For many therapists, learning how to focus on differentiation and what is internal instead of interpersonal is a new skill set in the context of couples work.

This is one way you will be supported in the Developmental Model of Couples Therapy training program. You’ll practice these 4 tasks and get many examples of how to use differentiation in your sessions.

It may be the turning point for your career, like it was for Martha Kauppi, LMFT:

“I stumbled upon a free webinar presented by Ellyn Bader. It was a revelation. I listened 4 times and took 5 pages of notes. I wanted her exact words, which seemed magical in their ability to shift an entire dynamic. I applied the intervention I learned that very same week. I felt the shift right away; I finally felt like I was in control of each session, and had a plan. I have been using these interventions ever since, with every single couple. That was a turning point in my career.

Ellyn’s program combines aspects of attachment, differentiation, and neuroscience, and frames stages of couple relationships in a way that normalizes and creates context for the struggles we all experience in relationships. It was the missing piece in my practice that I had been seeking.
I felt excited about couples therapy again. The Developmental Model meshed exactly with the things I had developed that worked, and also went SO MUCH FURTHER! I was elated! I stopped feeling like I had to reinvent the wheel, breathed a sigh of relief, and began to train in the Developmental Model.”

 

Act Now

The Courage to Lead: Challenging Regression
(“I just want to be adored.”)

Being a skilled couples therapist calls for you to be courageous in the face of regressed demands. When partners are regressed, they turn on each other and on you. At times like these, they operate in a self-centered way that can threaten you, and it does real damage to their bond.

Turning that around is not easy. You have to be incisive and confrontive at times when your own doubts, fears, and insecurities are triggered. When a moment of insistent regressed demand occurs unexpectedly, you will be tested and pushed to your intellectual and emotional limits.

Instead of sitting there thinking, “Why me?” or “I wish they were seeing someone else,” it is time to dig deeper inside yourself to find a way to challenge the regressive demand. You can’t shy away from it.

Here is one situation like this that happened to me.

A few minutes before our session ended, an exasperated wife angrily rolled her eyes. Her husband had been risking expressing vulnerable emotions that he had hidden for years.

She looked at me and said, “Where does he get off criticizing and being afraid of me? It’s my turn. I just want to be adored. It’s time I had that in my life. And, if he can’t do any better than this, I’m out of here.”

That one moment was so potent. And so poorly timed.

It was almost the end of the session.

So many thoughts went swirling through my mind. Do I challenge that or let it go?

If I let it go, it will be months before he opens up again. If we end the session on that note, she’ll leave thinking her demand is reasonable and realistic. She’ll have no idea how her threat is undermining what she says she wants. We only have a few minutes left. Is there even a way to redeem this session?

Yet, if I confront her, she may turn that anger on me and we could end on a really sour note. Or at best be very unfinished.

I decided to dig deep and risk making a confrontation. I swallowed and said, “Many people want that. Adoration is so appealing especially if you could get it with little effort, just for being yourself. Only a few spouses ever get that after years of marriage and raising kids. Unless your husband is more open and expressive…doing much more of what he just did… he won’t feel loving and he will live with underlying resentment. That kind of resentment never supports generous giving and adoration.”

She let a big exhale go and looked at me with a face that said, “I don’t like what you said, but I understand.”

Sometimes we have to take risks without a lot of time to think. Sometimes we have to challenge one partner while indirectly supporting the other partner. This takes courage and commitment.

When you are courageous, you give your clients the courage they need to take emotional risks.

When I interact with therapists in my online training program, I aspire to do much more than teach theory, interventions, and techniques. I hope to inspire you to find your voice, trust your instincts and be able to speak to your clients’ pain in a way that can truly make a difference.

When you do, you will gain wisdom and emerge stronger for the journey.

What excites me most is helping therapists like you grow inside and out.

Here is what Amy said as she reflected on her time in the program.

“Although I’ve been an almost entirely silent participant, I wanted you to know that I have received so much from my training with you. The course has been so valuable, even though I usually had to listen to recorded lectures after the fact, just given the busyness of life. You are just so clinically brilliant and it is difficult to find therapists and teachers of your caliber.

I feel like I’ve helped so many couples with your expertise that I never would have been able to help so much. Thank you for allowing me to learn at my own pace, however quietly and in the background, as it has propelled my work with couples forward. I have actually gotten quite good at it, almost entirely because of this course.” Amy Manin, LCSW, Pleasanton, CA

 

Act Now

  • Mark your calendar for January 27 at 9am Pacific. It will be an exciting day! I’ll bring together everything in this series and give you some leadership tools to address hostility, regression, and narcissism. You’ll come away with several handouts, including one that helps develop empathy in shutdown, avoidant, or narcissistic partners. You’ll also get a link to join live or watch the replay.
  • If you’re ready for the expertise to propel your couples forward, you’ll be able to join the Developmental Model of Couples Therapy program in just 2 days. We open registration for a week on Friday. See what’s included.

The Courage to Lead: Confronting Narcissistic Defenses

Some cultures like ours here in the United States revere money, status, and fancy material possessions. We tend to elevate athletes, celebrities, and the rich and beautiful. Many of these people are dominant personalities who give very little and expect a lot.

This week we’ve been exploring what therapeutic leadership looks like in specific clinical situations. Today’s blog post is about helping narcissistic clients evolve.

Just this week, a therapist in my online training program posted a question wondering if she should just give up with a narcissistic partner. I loved her question and wanted to do more on this topic. Over the years, I’ve challenged myself to become more and more effective with these partners when seeing them in couples therapy.

Because the narcissist can be a bully in therapy sessions, I had to learn to develop confrontations and interventions that would reduce their demanding, aggressive rigidity.

First, let’s take a look at a common defensive pattern in the narcissist. When you recognize this, it won’t surprise you.

This predictable defensive pattern occurs when the narcissist feels entitled. He or she will rapidly escalate hostility with minimal provocation.

Underneath the aggression are feelings of hurt and betrayal because the spouse is not catering to their unspoken desires.

The narcissist rarely expresses hurt feelings directly in a vulnerable way, but instead expresses their pain with demands, taking a 1-up position and voicing unrealistic and often brutal expectations.

The demanding behavior becomes so offensive they may frighten or annoy a spouse who then withdraws or disengages.

Sadly, the narcissist feels both deprived and entitled at the same time: deprived of the nurturance, support, or understanding they hope for and entitled to get the “goodies” they want.

So how can you be successful when faced with this situation?

One aspect of successful treatment occurs when the thin-skinned narcissist begins to recognize that their demands actually hide their fears or the vulnerability of feeling hurt. Their anger is used to push away the source of pain.

The narcissist will begin to change when they learn to reveal why an incident felt painful, and seemed like a rejection.

Those insights often require the therapist articulating it for them. When you can be descriptive and non-judgmental and adopt an attitude that conveys, “Of course, you desire nurturance,” the narcissist can begin to soften the rigidity of their defensive stance.

A CASE EXAMPLE

Sally was hurt when Don came home late on their anniversary. She blew up, yelled, slammed the bedroom door and did not come out for the rest of the evening.

THERAPIST INTERVENTIONS IN THE NEXT FEW SESSIONS

At first, progress comes from articulating your client’s pain for them.

For example, “I see that you felt hurt that Don was late. You wanted to feel special to him. Actually, you wanted Don to let nothing get in his way. By the time he came home, you felt humiliated that you cared when he did not seem to care. You ended up punishing him and yourself in order to avoid showing him how much you cared about being special to him.”

The following session:

At this point there’s less need to speak for your client. You might say, “I was thinking about you this week. I wondered if you’ve become any more accepting of yourself for feeling hurt about your anniversary? I was remembering your pain.” A focus for this session might be on why showing vulnerable feelings is not weakness.

The next session:

By this time you might be able to make some major breakthroughs.

You could suggest, “Let’s go back to your anniversary. Let’s see if we can understand what you wanted Don to do or say when he came into the house. By then, you were already hurt, but let’s look at how you could have saved the evening instead of letting your hurt feelings increase your isolation. Let’s consider a few different possible responses from Don, and have you pick the one that’s closest to what you desired.”

Don might say:

“I know I am late. I blew it. I left the office 15 minutes late, but it was enough to hit more rush hour traffic and that made me even more late. I do apologize for getting things off to a late start. Let me change my clothes quickly and then we can go.”

or

“I am sorry to be so late. I want you to know you mean a lot to me even if I wasn’t here. After I change my clothes, I’d like to tell you what you and our anniversary means to me.”

Or perhaps

“I am sorry to be so late. I would not have wanted to be in your shoes waiting for me and not being sure when I’d get here. I hate that feeling of insecurity and unpredictability.”

Ask your client to choose which one is closest or have them articulate another choice.

After the choice is made, ask the partner (the husband in this case) to repeat the response slowly 3 times. Ask your narcissistic client to be aware of the push and pull that will go on inside of them for openly acknowledging their vulnerability. Part of them will like what they hear and soften a little. Another part will be afraid to let it in. They will become aware of their sensitivity and the strength of their defenses. This opens the door to intrapsychic 2-chair work.

When you slow the process down and help your highly defended narcissistic client digest what happened in manageable pieces, you are helping them start to accept their emotional longing. The process of self-acceptance begins slowly.

 

Act Now

  • Set aside 90 minutes starting at 9am Pacific on January 27. I’ll bring together everything in this series to provide leadership tools for challenging narcissism, hostility, and regression. And you’ll get several handouts, including one that helps develop empathy in shutdown, avoidant, or narcissistic partners. Check your email for a link to join live or the replay.
  • Get ready to experience how rewarding these difficult clients can be over time. In my Developmental Model training, we explore narcissistic dynamics and their impact on relationships. You’ll discover the skills to lead narcissists to moments of vulnerability and connection. Training opens tomorrow and I’d love to have you join me. Read about it here.

Therapeutic Leadership: Tools for Confronting Regression, Narcissism, and Hostility

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Audrey
Audrey

Hi Ellyn, First of all, let me say thank you and I totally agree that we as therapists have to be the ones to dare, risk and show/speak our own truth and vulnerability to create the space for BIG change, whether we are working with couples or individuals. Your teachings and the teachings of Pete and the therapists working at The Couples Institute have been invaluable in helping me build my skills, be more confident in trusting what I know/intuit and having the courage AND skills/language to deliver using a compassionate and holistic model with my clients in service of their development and healing.

I use the techniques I learned from the Developmental Model of Couples Therapy course all the time, whether with couples or individuals, precisely because our relationships are about who we are as INDIVIDUALS and how we then learn how to be better at relationships of all kinds.

There are success stories, for which I am happy for the individuals/couples involved, and there are also those who will not want to develop themselves, despite all the best intentions and prospects of a much happier and more fulfilled life as an individual and in relationship with others. What I am most at peace with is that I can now offer an amazing opportunity to clients to develop and thrive, largely due to my training with you and all the amazing people in the Couples Institute network + the superb resources – huge gratitude to all.

Kind regards,

Audrey

Page
Page
Reply to  Audrey

I'm grateful to see more therapists in the field who are willing to use their own personal stories as a way to empathize and built trust and connection with clients.
In the past, I have had a therapist use her own history as a way to dismiss my experiences, as in “I went through a divorce, too, it wasn't that bad.” The sharing became a way to minimize my concerns, not in a healthy way where the details allowed me to see how the situation wasn't so bad, but moreso in a dismissive way that made me feel she thought she had me “pinned” but was very totally off. That cut off specifically, about her divorce, meant I didn't share the domestic violence I was experiencing. I stopped trusting her to be able to see me, let alone help me. Always keep in mind when sharing personal details!

Ron Dyck
Ron Dyck

I won't be able to participate at the scheduled times. Will there be a replay available?

ellyn bader
ellyn bader
Reply to  Ron Dyck

Yes. Fridays webinar will have a replay available through Feb 5th. I am working hard on the webinar and look forward to sharing alot of tools and ideas!

Alice Wells
Alice Wells
Reply to  ellyn bader

Hello and thank you, Ellyn! I also won't be able to participate at the scheduled times, and am not seeing where the replay is available- has it not yet been released?

Barb
Barb

I especially can relate to and use “Recognize how you get in your own way. There is a part of you that is self-protective. That part shows up a lot and makes it really difficult for your partner to give you what you so badly want.” I have a couple where the man does just that, and it's a great way for me to help him. Thank you.

Ruby Zaragoza
Ruby Zaragoza

Thank you so much for this. At times I struggle with going back to level setting their initial expectations of where they want to be at some point. So the point about emphasizing the self-protection, getting in your own way is extremely helpful.

Kate Arey
Kate Arey

The directness of the statements seem quite useful. It seems only fair that you tell your clients.where are you are headed and where you think they need to go. I would think it would be unfair to do otherwise, even though I think many therapist don’t really think to give a clear heads up. My two concerns were: 1. Saying you needed to stretch yourself. I’m not sure what that refers to or whether that would make clients feel you’re not quite sure what you’re doing. The other is the tone of these statements. You seem extremely compassionate in the actual therapist role, but this seems more controlled and controlling It may just be that there is no tone, facial expressions or body language in the text. I would think you would want your compassion to come through since it is part of your style end. It seems to really facilitate your clients’lowering their guard and trusting you

Jeannette Samper
Jeannette Samper

Hi Ellyn, It's always helpful to read or re-participate in conversations or trainings I´ve done because it triggers new reflections and possibilities. I did the Couples Developmental Therapy Training 2 years ago and am always looking for ways to stay connected and learn more. I like the idea of asking people to “take risks and stretch beyond what is comfortable” also in sharing that I too will be taking risks. Since my training with you I tell couples that I see myself as a “thera-coach¨ and that our process deals with both elements ¨understanding yourself, healing and learning¨.

I also am giving thought to your words…¨your self protective behavior actually undermines you getting what you want” ….”I won't judge you because understand your need for self- protection”…. Wow!! This is truly a challenge for both of us in our conversations!!

Thanks for challenging me!!! Jeannette Samper (Bogotá, Colombia)

mchel lemieux
mchel lemieux

Excellent guidelines. It makes it more realistic and it offers the couple the chance and opportunitéy to tell us where they are for the therapist to take the lead ans sow where he wants to go.

Mary Hoganfinlay
Mary Hoganfinlay

Ellyn I have reflected to an attacking couple that they are sabotaging what they dearly want- a more loving relationship. The man shifted his behavior to kindness but when his wife did not reciprocate within his time line he quickly reverted back to yelling and bellugerant behaviour. I told him his kindness and compasdion seemed to have a Best Before date. He laughed and seemed to get that his kindness was very conditional. He is very impatient for his wife to bounce back from years of being demeaned. Your thoughts??

Jen Graves
Jen Graves

Also, just a thought, but have you said to him, “You are very impatient for your wife to bounce back from years of being demeaned.”? There may be another way to phrase that, but the way you say it here, it's very clear that his timeline may need some reflection and his expectations some shifting, even as she works to close the gap on her side.

Jen Graves
Jen Graves

“Best Before”! That's a great way to challenge without being heavy, introducing humor. I love this and am so grateful you shared it. I'll use it myself!

John King
John King

Mary, this sounds a lot like a couple I am working with. He changed a lot of his behavior to be more attentive, but a recent fight suggests he is stepping backward again, and she is close to divorce. I like the “Best Before” date reflection. Reflecting on the work in light of today's post, I think I have stayed too technique-oriented and haven't really brought my whole heart into it. I'm afraid to confront him. I'm hopeful that pointing out recent fights as a form of resistance and self-sabotage, that we could have expected, will help. And of course, getting to the bottom of my own fears is necessary. Ellyn, I second Mary's request for your thoughts. Thank you for the post. These are very practical ways to give each couple a roadmap and primes them for “going first” and not waiting for the other.

Mary degen
Mary degen

Help! I cannot get your zoom link for Jan.23–

Mary degen
Mary degen

PLEASE send zoom link for todays webinar -1/23/23

Monte
Admin
Reply to  Mary degen

Hi Mary, there is only one live webinar on Friday 1/27 from 9am-10:30am Pacific: Zoom details here: https://www.couplesinstitute.com/the-courage-to-lead-series/#stage-5 and https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83195863178. The replay will be available until Feb 5.

Debi Jones
Debi Jones

What a dazzling description of what strong supportive leadership looks like right up front! I absolutely LOVE it ….aaaaah :)!!

I've thoroughly enjoyed the task of stretching my skillset to lead my sessions with an increased level of directional clarity, plaited together with loads of heart. I feel thoroughly excited about integrating these words into the mix of my intro – said with a big smile! “At first, what I'm going to be asking of you is going to stretch and challenge you and you will want to fight me but if you trust me enough to allow me to coach you, your painful unhelpful coping patterns will slowly start to shift and before you know it, you'll find yourself increasingly able to respond in a manner that's far, far more reflective of the kind of partner you've always wanted to be! And when that happens, you'll be on your way and you have to know that I'll be the first one standing to my feet, celebrating and cheering you on your way!”

THANK YOU…THANK YOU ALWAYS ELLYN, FOR BEING AMONGST THE MOST SUPPORTIVE, ENCOURAGING, AND MARVELLOUS TRAINERS WE COULD EVER ASK FOR.

Eunice
Eunice

HI Ellyn I am not able to access today's link for the 23rd January , Fostering Emotional Risk, this is a topic I need help with and would be really grateful if you can send me a link that works.Thankyou so much for your help. Kind Love. Eunice

Jolyn Sawatzky
Jolyn Sawatzky
Reply to  Eunice

Hi Eunice, I just figured out that I cannot access the articles on my phone, but they are easy to access on my laptop

Monte
Admin
Reply to  Eunice

Hi Eunice today's article is above this comment section: https://www.couplesinstitute.com/the-courage-to-lead-series/#stage-1

Ulf
Ulf
Reply to  Monte

Hi Monte, thanks for your kind support. From over here in Europe, the link you provide just seem to bring up these comments and a static banner above, but no content. What can I do to access the course material? Thank you!

Eunice
Eunice
Reply to  Monte

Thankyou for your response Monte. The link does nor work for me. It is highlighted but when I click on the link there is no response and it does not take me to the article. Please advise and many thanks for your help. Kind Love. Eunice.

Ann Langley
Ann Langley
Reply to  Eunice

It’s not really a link you just have to scroll down below it. I had the same problem.

Jolyn
Jolyn
Reply to  Ann Langley

For some reason the links are not working for me either. I can’t seem to access the articles. (Is this a phone problem??)

Jill
Jill

Thank you, Ellyn, for imparting your clinical wisdom gained by your experience! This is very helpful to see how you set the stage for couples to see the path to get them where they want to go! I love reading the exact script you would use and can envision myself doing my own version of it. Thank you so much for offering this wonderful resource!

ANNETTE
ANNETTE

as always…. WELL DONE!

Daphne
Daphne

Thank you, Ellyn. This succinct, thorough description of such a couple's challenge is a great sum-up of the work! Part of me wants to print it and read every word to a couple I'm seeing tomorrow night. It's our first session together since I've described some of the hard, risk-taking work they have ahead of them and how I can be helpful if they are willing to make the time investment that is needed.

Jennifer
Jennifer

I identify with the get in your own way. I feel that I do well in my sessions. I am excited to see where this series leads….Just as an FYI I did not get a link for today

Jim
Jim

Explicitly naming autonomous change in the beginning, as part of an introduction to the process of couples therapy is very helpful and wise. I love the way you phrased this, framing the need to redirect and the likelihood that resistance will come up. When I think of my high conflict couples in particular, this strongly resonates with me. Thank you.

Julia
Julia

I appreciate the directness of how you suggest entering into the therapeutic contract with couples. In my experience, couples seek counseling when they are feeling aimless in their pursuit toward safety and nourishment in their partnership, so being the person to create a strong container with some sense of direction– while perhaps also nerve-wracking for the couple– provides them, right from the get-go, with what they need. Your model seems to set a solid foundation upon which the true work can begin. Looking forward to learning more from you throughout the week!

George Kich
George Kich

Thank you!
With psychodynamic training ingrained in me (for better and for worse…), I resonated to your quote from Herbert Shepherd about “Entering the situation blank is never the answer.”  An aspiration that sits in my subconscious is to be that blank slate; but, I never succeed with that ridiculous stance because in fact I am heart-fully engaged when the couple session starts. However, what I learned from today's reading: 1. My phantasy of a neutral stance actually covers up my dread of the courage it does take to invite the couple (and of course myself!) to “take risks, to stretch beyond what is comfortable…[and] …I will be stretching myself…” 2. Being courageous in the therapy is not just the couple's task, but mine too! and 3. Making that explicit in the first session (along with the other follow-up statements) engages me with them as a working agreement to have our whole beings involved in the work. I am reckoning with how my courage as a therapist is integral to the couples therapy. Thank you.

Stephanie E
Stephanie E

Thank you Ellyn for beginning this series with how to show up from the beginning – showing up strong but with a large dose of compassion for our clients and ourselves as therapists. I believe after 31 years of being a couples' therapist if I do not outline how it is I work when I am sitting with them then it doesn't bode well for positive outcomes. They need to know how I work and how important it is for us to reveal and make conscious the patterns that keep them stuck and together figure out ways out of those patterns and almost always those problem patterns have to do with self protection and neither of them ever talking about how unprotected they feel and where that all began. The beginning is usually childhood and therefore often knee jerk and immediate. So slowing it all down is really important too. And oh so true – the locked position of I won't go first because of all the hurt the other has delivered. Being a couples' therapist is a personal growth experience for the therapist too – always room for self development.
Looking forward to tomorrow's wisdom!

Wilfred Weeks Jr
Wilfred Weeks Jr

Is it recorded for later viewing?

Monte
Admin

Hi Wilfred, the recording for Friday's webinar will be up until February 5. Thanks!

Marcia Naomi Berger
Marcia Naomi Berger

Thank you, Ellen. This is terrific. You eloquently show the mindset of so many couples when starting therapy and give them understanding, realistic expectations. and structure

Kat
Kat

Hi Ellyn, thank you deeply for sharing these resources and I look forward to the webinar this Fri. I find it such a balance to both communicate my non-judgement and compassion to enhance trust and connection while also helping a client recognize the impacts of their behaviors. Some more than others, of course :). I have found by drawing attention to and normalizing the “out dated” strategies, the client is more engaged in the process. I like the idea of laying this out in the beginning with your framework. I did notice the urge to play around with the language…not sure if it is the language itself I would adapt or perhaps something about taking more leadership… I shall continue to reflect as the week goes on :).

Nikki
Nikki

This is great to outline the work ahead with directives. Thank you for showing this outline. Looking forward to this weeks content.

Jen Graves
Jen Graves

This is a terrific reminder and list. I will print it out and put it up in my office!

My experience with couples since I've begun training in this program has taught me the truth of these principles so many times over. I can feel that the sessions in which I can't seem to find my way to my own leadership are the weakest.

I have one particularly tough couple. They return to their pattern over, and over, and over. However, whenever I remind them using the question, “But how do YOU want to be as a partner?” they shift and move and can become malleable for the process to happen in session. We have lots of work to do still, but that reorienting and recentering helps every time when they are stuck in endless blaming, escalating, and repetitive patterns.

Lee Faver
Lee Faver

Since participating in the year long course, I actively engage each person in couple therapy (and not infrequently in Individual therapy as well) to define dev'l goals. And I reference them often throughout therapy to orient people to their work, to join with their defenses while gently challenging, and to foster self accountability toward growth.

Peter Gibb
Peter Gibb

Great advice. I like to sometimes almost try to talk people out of it. “This requires work. It is likely to be uncomfortable at times. You'll need to open up, be vulnerable, and most of all, be honest. You have to make a choice: either you stay where you've been, or invest in your relationship. Is it worth it?”

Sybil
Sybil

Thanks! I like the Parts stance, here, that “your self-protective behavior actually undermines you getting what you want,” and I believe the compassion with which this is stated, the understanding that this Part is just trying to help (but is getting in the way), is important -perhaps that Part needs a new, more productive assignment! QUESTION: the email stated “you can read a case example and see how to show up strong with a couple who can't move beyond their painful fights.” I don't see a specific case example anywhere. Am I missing a link?

Larry Cloninger
Larry Cloninger

I believe very much in having a method and purpose which should be developed with the clients. It is a neccessary part of the process and struggle.

Noreen Santos
Noreen Santos

Been clicking on the Jan 23 pdf file from the email link but I can't seem to open it. Help please. Thank you.

Monte
Admin
Reply to  Noreen Santos

Hi Noreen, sorry there are no pdfs for this series. If you'd like to save the articles feel free to copy and paste the text into a Word or Google Doc. Thanks!

Abida Batool
Abida Batool

This session was good.all 4 tasks are very important in couple therapy .

Gulzar Ahmad
Gulzar Ahmad

Dear Ellyn. You are doing an excellent job for sffering humanity. Keep it up and stay blessed!

Jane Arthur
Jane Arthur

I appreciate the directness of the expectation and and the introduction of self protection right away The autonomous goals have been a slow builder of self reflection and emotional capacity for each partner. Thank you Ellyn!

Carol Kline
Carol Kline

I have been trying since 8:58 to get in. The only message I get is that the meeting has not yet started. Can you fill me in? Was the time changed–or the date? Thanks.

Monte
Admin
Reply to  Carol Kline

Hi Carol, sorry there is only one live webinar this Friday Jan 27 at 9am Pacific, it hasn't changed. The rest of the content this week are articles. If you scroll to the top left hand side of the page you can see the format for each day. Hope to see you on Friday! Thanks

Farella
Farella

Thanks Ellyn for the many ways you help to make us stretch and grow. I especially like the directness in this approach at the start of therapy with couples. I might also add that this may also be very effective with individual therapy as well. Thanks once again for this year’s training, it has changed my approach completely.

Laurieann
Laurieann

I love the idea of confronting the perspective around self-protection. Seeing it in ourselves and helping our clients see it as well adds substance to the dialogue and work.

Doug
Doug

Thanks for reinforcing what I've learned the hard way: that couples work goes better when we set expectations at the outset.

Ann Langley
Ann Langley

This article made me think of a very difficult couple who could not stop fighting. I think I did a somewhat good job and laying out what they would need to do to succeed and confronting them when necessary but this article makes me wish I had stronger leadership skills and maybe they would’ve stayed in therapy, I probably worked with them for six months, but they were not entirely consistent in being able to attend both of them. One of the other person to change, of course!

ellyn bader
ellyn bader

I am reading every comment-and appreciating your comments and reflections!!

Lorraien Krane
Lorraien Krane

This description was very helpful; not to get engaged in their interpersonal issues.

Li
Li

I absolutely believe in the importance of fostering a sense of confidence and leadership. I find myself wincing a bit at script offerings like “you can’t see it now but you don’t make it easy for yourself,” or “if you let me guide you, you’ll shift.” Ive seen these kinds of assertions be responded to with defensiveness, and clients have respirated feeling talked down to or disempowered by the therapist. I might soften the approach by saying something like, “It’s really normal to self protect, every human does that; unfortunately those kinds of responses can also get in our own way and keep our partners a bit stuck in giving us what we need to feel safe. As we build trust together, I hope we can investigate those times you may be getting in your own way, so that we can develop more options for yourself that feel more generative, and also connected to yourself and your partner(s).” Hopefully this still communicates leadership and inspires confidence, but also inspires empowerment, and without the sense of “therapist as expert” before trust is built and before we even know what kinds of histories and triggers live in each person.

Richard
Richard
Reply to  Li

I agree with this, it’s like we aren’t considering core wounds in this approach.

Katrine Scholl
Katrine Scholl

Ellyn I SO appreciate your thinking…concise, clear and so practical! Thank you for sharing as much as you do and all the time that it takes to make your teaching so poignant.

Ulf
Ulf

Hi Ellyn, thank you for offering the series but I'm afraid I seem to be unable to see the content.

After klicking the link in your email, just the comments are visible to me on this page, and your static banner above.

What can I do to access your course?

Thank you,
kind regards,
Ulf

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Ulf

Unfortunately, there is no content above the comments. It was there at the start of the programme, but now there is only the banner. I've tried in different browsers with the same result.

Chana
Chana
Reply to  Ulf

Yes, me too. I'm only getting comments, cannot see the content

P Ochs
P Ochs
Reply to  Ulf

I'm encountering the same issue. The content should have been above the comments section, as it appeared on Monday. I was not aware of any notice that the written content would not remain available all week.

MaryC
MaryC

If it helps give others the courage to confront their clients, I can share that by not doing so, our own couples therapist did do more harm than help when I was that man, and my husband was that woman in your story. Our situation is much worse today, a year later, as that resentment is stronger. It took a long while to try therapy again. Our new therapist is not afraid to confront and it is so appreciated and I am hopeful our relationship will recover.

Lyndel
Lyndel

Hi Ellen, “Regressed demand” there is so much in what she just said that tells me a lot about her, that is now that I have time to really look at what was underneath, what she just said, and you so cleverly nailed her on it….her own selfish, non-appreciative, non-compassionate demanding. And I find those moments catch me so often with couples, and I just don't know which way to go, and it all seems to speed up. And, you so elegantly slow the pace down and so graciously confront her and turn her around, and I doubt she even knows what you did.

I had the worst male partner in my room, he was Spanish and feisty. He was also very regressively demanding that I spend all my time listening too him bragging about how “self-aware”, and how good he was and how his on and off-again partner of 5 yrs was so lucky to have him. When I finally turned to his beautiful and gracious partner to get too know her, he just turned on me about how this was a “couple's session” and I shouldn't be spending time listening to “her”, after all he “knows” how things are, I don't have to ask “her” ( he almost spat it out). I tried to say explain that this is how couple's therapy works, but even before I could finish, he suddenly stood and began pacing and waving his arms around furiously, loudly demanding that should not be asking for her opinion about the relationship, and if this is what I do, it is a waste of their time that I continued to listen to her, and why should he waste any more of his time with me. I had no idea how to respond to such an outburst, his partner and I both just stared at him. I almost felt like laughing, he looked quite comical, if it wasn't so serious. Of course, I was not anywhere near elegant at calming his fury. The best I could come up with was,” X, we can see how angry you are at my exploring Y's story. And you are right, this is couple's therapy. However, it seems that what you are needing Y and I to sit here silently and allow you to complain about how “bad” she is? How are we going to move on, if I don't get to hear how the relationship is for both of you? You both have your own reality and sense of things”. Then Y quickly interjected, yes, that is exactly what you always want, an audience so you can just criticize and denigrates me in front of? We came here too make changes in how we do things don't we?” (mind you this is only the second session)
But it was no good, he didn't buy it and nearly yelled, “Well if this is how its going to work, we are leaving right now!” To which Y replied, “Not me, this is exactly what I need. Lyndel is right on with what she said about how you behave?. He looked shocked that she actually refused him, but he actually huffed, turned and stormed out while she stayed for the rest of the session (30mins) continuing to express her gratitude for standing up too him and saying “That was great!! I love it because no one else stands up to him, and he just shoots me down and I go just home”. She came for one more session where she wanted to know how to end it with him once and for all. I was actually shaking from the experience and knew that I didn't handle him with skill. I just hoped that I never would have another client like him. He wasn't scary, just volatile and so un- “self-aware”!!

Paula Shulman
Paula Shulman

thank you so much Ellyn . Way back in graduate school I interned with the Family Therapy institute of UMDNJ in New Brunswick , NJ – total Bowen emersion – I met him once at a presentation he did for our area. It is so nice to be drawn into my roots of learning.

ALso, The object relations dynamic is so important, as this is something I personally have been working on due my core childhood issues Between my own personal struggles with it and the way you frame and break it down, makes me feel much more confident in helping my clients with it.

Jennifer
Jennifer

Yes I had something just like what you describe happen this fall! We had very little time left, with an upcoming break in our time together, working so gently and carefully, and collaborating towards their expressed goal of creating homework for a concrete win in their messy house they could both feel good about. And she suddenly turned to him and rather aggressively said “We've been living your way for too long! It's time to live my way now!” I didn't have time to address it. She left the session energized. But he left the session pale as a ghost. (And he has a decades-long history of seeing her as a bully and withdrawing and resentment). Anyway, it is very helpful to think of it with a name–regression, and to consider being able to challenge it right in the moment, and maybe some day skillfully. Thank you so much for all that you offer us to grow as therapists!

Lori Keegan
Lori Keegan

I learned this from you Ellyn & it saved me in the last 5 minutes of a session where the wife decided to dump her decision on me to quit couples work. After the initial second or two of shock, I realized it was up to HER to confront herself! So had her do some quick 2-chair work to have her say out loud her internal struggle about the parts of her that did and did NOT want to quit. She decided to stay with the process! That was an amazing 5 minutes that helped her pursue the health of her marriage! Whew! Thanks Ellyn! ~Lori Keegan, MSW, MFT, MS, Pres./CEO TransitionByDesign.com

Meredith
Meredith

“Adoration is so appealing especially if you could get it with little effort, just for being yourself.” Great way to address that and you’re right, the desire to just be adored is a sign of regression. Thank you for addressing this topic. What I see is a cultural shift toward this kind of regression. Women, perhaps particularly in America and especially the younger generations, are falling into the desire to be adored simply for being women. Men are turned off by this, probably because they don’t want to date an entitled child. I think social media has had something to do with spreading this regressed desire culturally, in an environment where women post photos of their bodies to get attention and adoration, then that feedback gets woven into their sense of self and creates a distorted belief that they should be treated that way in dating and relationships. This theme is probably extra enticing to those who grow up with narcissistic parent/s who give intermittent adoration and devaluation. That can lead to craving the adoration (pleasure) as a relief from the devaluation (pain).

La'Tonya Fisher-Grace
La'Tonya Fisher-Grace

I wasn't able to log in to the sessions. Was there a specific link sent? Are the sessions available to be viewed?

Here's what other therapists are saying about
the developmental model training program

Play Video
Not only was Nancy hooked from day one on the training and lessons, she also appreciates how Ellyn respects other models of couples therapy and how they can be woven into the Developmental Model.
Nancy St John
Couples Counsellor
Ireland
Other Models, Community,
Clinical Improvement
Play Video
Martha used to become confused in sessions because sexual issues are so complex and difficult for clients to discuss, but now she can hold the focus on one thing at a time and really make a difference for them.
Martha Kauppi, LMFT, ACST Madison, WI
Challenging Couples, Community, Clinical Improvement
Play Video
Sue was an individual therapist. But after she got the tools she needed and learned how to be an effective leader, she now specializes in working with couples – and really tough couples!
Sue Diamond, MA, RCC Vancouver, BC
Confidence, New to Couples, Individuals, Tools/Framework, Challenging Couples
Play Video
When Janae first started training, her work was primarily with individuals. Now she is able to work at a new level with individuals and see more couples, too. She’s learned a whole new language she can use with all of her clients.
Janae Munday, LCSW Phoenix, AZ
Individuals, Tools/Framework, Clinical Improvement
Play Video
Glen is an experienced therapist and the President of Well Marriage Center in Fairfax. When Glen learned about the Developmental Model he signed up for the training program and soon realized that he wanted all of his associates to take the training. As a result Glen has noticed improvements for clients, and also richer exchanges in staff meetings.
Glen Denlinger, LCSW, BCD President & Clinical Director of Well Marriage Center. Fairfax, VA
New Therapists, Experienced Therapists, Training, Associates, Confidence
Play Video
Before the Developmental Model training, Nicole used to get stuck with hostile-angry and passive couples, often wondering, “What the hell just happened?”Now she feels clarity. With the framework that’s been provided, she knows what is happening and what to do.
Nicole Van Ness, PsyD, LMFT-S Grapevine, TX
Hostile-Angry, Passivity, Clinical Improvement

TESTIMONIALS

Even after 40 years in practice, Madge feels this training enabled her to feel more confident with couples, eventually charging more and having a waiting list.

“This training was well worth the time, energy, and expense. Every lesson opened up my clinical insights and skills. I have been in practice nearly 40 years and still devoured the materials like a young and eager college student. Frankly, I consider Ellyn to be a genius and at the top of her game. Her lessons are precise and masterful and spot on. Her mastery of the craft is breathtaking. She is wise and exact and her talent cannot be underestimated. EVERYONE should jump to study under her. She is one in a million.

The handouts are very useful and my couples were appreciative for them because they afforded a concrete accountability that they could lean on between sessions. Thank you everyone for your cases, your openness and camaraderie. Couples work can be a bitch, frankly, but since having this training I am equipped and of value. I have a waitlist out the door and I earn more doing couples than I do individual. This training has paid for itself in spades.”

MADGE FLYNN, LCSW, PhD - Fayetteville, NY
Full Practice/Waiting List, Clinical Improvement, Community, Investment

Kira feels like she's much more able to help her individual clients in a relationship with the effective interventions she's learned from Ellyn and the training program.

“I am currently only seeing individuals. This course has elevated my practice in ways I had not anticipated.

I have used many of the interventions which came up in lessons and calls in individual sessions, and I feel so much more able to help clients with their relationships. Listening to you, Ellyn, role play and demonstrate techniques was probably the most helpful part of the course. You reminded me every week to slow down, rewind, go back. You've also shown me how to effectively step back and look at the big picture of what is going on with my clients and address the patterns and processes rather than the situations.

This program has given me a whole new perspective on relationships and communication, and it is invaluable!”

KIRA LYNNE, BA, RPC, CCPCPR - Vancouver, BC Canada
Individuals, Clinical Improvement

Nicole appreciates the masterful skill that Ellyn brings to the cases presented by therapists. Ellyn does the consults in such a supportive way, asking really great questions and making it so easy to learn from her.

“The thing I like about watching Ellyn work with case consults is her masterful skill set to support the therapist presenting in a way that makes the audience want to take that huge risk and present themselves! Ellyn is so supportive for the presenting therapist, seeing strengths, validating a challenging case. I remember one time watching a case and thinking to myself, ‘oh wow would I ever be stuck here,’ and then Ellyn said, ‘this case would be challenging to the most seasoned therapist.’ Ellyn also asks really great questions, she is crystal clear about what she is doing and anchors it well to the Developmental Model, so easy to learn from. But most of all, it’s in her being that keeps me coming back: she is friendly, warm, approachable and conveys a caring for anyone she is engaged with. Thank you, Ellyn.”

NICOLE MAIER, RN, MA, RCC, CCC - West Vancouver, BC, Canada
Clinical Improvement, Case Consultations

Considering the depth of clinical training, tools, and consultations on the clinical calls with Ellyn, Nathan says it's been one of the best investments of his personal development and professional career.

“Ellyn's training is simply fantastic! From the beginning, I felt her sincere investment in my growth and development as a couple therapist. I was continuously gratified and impressed by the depth of understanding about couple relationships as well as the sophisticated training in practical tools that created more genuine and lasting change in my clients. This training provided me a wonderful community of other caring and brave therapists. Ellyn herself is the best couple therapy trainer in the profession. Her consultations and demonstrations are remarkable. She is also humble and invites other experts to the table to share their additional knowledge and skills, which she beautifully weaves into her training. This has been one of the best investments of my personal development and professional career!”

NATHAN HARDY, PhD, LMFT - Stillwater, OK
Clinical Improvement, Investment, Community

Shobha felt 400% more confident in her couples work within the first week, thanks to the first training call, lessons, and handouts provided.

“It's been less than a week, and with the first training call, the lessons, these handouts, and having the ability to watch the intro session video literally made a 400% difference in the quality and confidence I was able to bring to couples work this week! I was able to feel supported enough to relax and meet more in a session. Thank you for the support, your expertise and creating all of this!!!!! I am on cloud nine!!”

SHOBHA RANGANATH, Holistic IFS Couples Coach, Empowered Wellbeing IFS Coaching - Berkeley, CA
Confidence, Clinical Improvement

MORE VIDEO TESTIMONIALS

Play Video
Tammy joined training as a relatively new therapist and it has made a big difference in her personal life as well as her professional life. She values the community, has increased her confidence in working with couples, and is now having to decide what to do with more clients than she can see.
Tammy Van Hinte, MA, RCC Victoria BC
Community, Personal, New Therapist, Full Practice
Play Video
Tom says the Developmental Model translates well for working with queer couples because it’s really about how to be an individual inside a relationship, whatever the relationship structure looks like. And he especially appreciates the supportive community.
Tom Bruett, MS, LMFT Denver, CO
Diversity, Community, Clinical Improvement
Play Video
Lori is a seasoned therapist who has been using the Developmental Model for several years. With a successful practice and a long waiting list, Lori felt bad turning away so many couples who called in crisis.It was in the Couples Institute mentoring program that she became inspired to think about how she could specialize in couples intensives, and now that’s a major part of her practice.
Lori Weisman, MA, LMHC Bellevue, WA
Couples Intensives, Tools/Framework, Challenging Couples
Play Video
Jeremiah had an EFT background in working with couples, and now he’s moving out of that. The Developmental Model training has made a big difference in how he works with couples, even though he’s been in the training for a year. He’s seeing big changes that he’s able to make using the Developmental Model. Some of his clients have expressed appreciation for his work, and getting that feedback has been thrilling.
Jeremiah Gibson, LMFT, CST Quincy, MA
EFT Model, Other Models, Clinical Improvement
Play Video
Nancy and Lori recount many ways they’ve grown personally and how their relationships have improved since being part of the training. Lori says, “It’s a model that helps us do our own personal work.” Nancy agrees, “It’s profoundly life-changing and enhancing on a relationship level.” And she adds, “It’s the most positive environment you can be in.”
Lori Weisman, MA, LMHC, Bellevue, WA
Nancy St. John, MIACP, Couples Counsellor, Ireland
Personal Growth, Community, Clinical Improvement
Play Video
Alexa was very grateful she took the training and learned the material when she did, but it wasn’t until she started working with it that something shifted inside and she really saw what differentiation was, how it functioned, and how it strengthened relationships. She’s had especially complex cases during the pandemic, and she couldn’t have done the work as well without the training. “I am forever grateful for what you and Pete put into this.”
Alexa Elkington, MFT Las Vegas, NV
Remote Work, Complicated Cases, Clinical Improvement

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Learn from a pioneer and leader in couples therapy training as she shares exactly what to say in difficult therapy sessions.
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