Therapists’ Blog

Welcome to our Therapists’ Blog, where we post insights and innovative techniques for couples therapists. Just scan and click to read the articles below, choose by category on the bottom right, or use the search box above. You can also sign up to receive these by email by providing your name and email address in the boxes to the right.

Holding Developmental Tension

Leading the way when couples are lost in their own issues How often do you encounter couples who are so deeply entangled with each other that they can’t tell where one ends and the other begins? It’s a familiar struggle. They may come into your office bickering about what seem like petty conflicts, yet without a clue as to who own is responsible for what. Or they may spend the first several sessions gliding over the surface of major differences they’re afraid to dive into. In many cases, lack of differentiation is the underlying issue. Yet, the right technique for moving these couples forward without getting sidetracked isn’t always clear.… Read more...

Tevis Cup: The Toughest 100 Mile Horse Race on the Planet

It’s a great privilege to choose your suffering in this life. 36,000’ of elevation change. 100 miles. 100 degrees. 6 hours of mild heat stroke. 20 miles of trotting on a rolled ankle. Heat rash and saddle sores.  24 hours of pushing. And no reward. Well, not in the usual ‘win a trophy, prize money, cover of a magazine’ kind of way. The real reward comes in the form of what I learned about myself and my body in this 24 hour meditation on suffering. There’s an intense choosiness my body has when it’s working this hard. Simultaneously it wants very little, and very much. It wants specificity. It wants exactly what it wants when it wants it.… Read more...

The Labyrinth of Love – The Path to a Soulful Relationship

By Chelsea Wakefield, PhD, LCSW Chelsea Wakefield is an Associate Professor and Director of the Couples Center at the Psychiatric Research Institute of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, where she writes, teaches and provides couples therapy. She is the author of three books, is a popular keynote speaker, workshop, and retreat leader, and the creator of the Luminous Woman® Weekend. You can find out more about her offerings at www.chelseawakefield.com. Her most recent book, The Labyrinth of Love, is now available from your local bookstore or online book-sellers. ~~~~~~~~~~~ One of the aspects of the Developmental Model that sets it apart from other models of couples therapy, is its strong emphasis on both personal and interpersonal growth as essential for a successful relationship.… Read more...

Trauma, Part 3: Bringing it Together

  Over the past two months, we’ve examined some key principles behind trauma-informed care for couples. Now it’s time to take a closer look at what these concepts look like in practice. We will explore a case brought to my training group by a seasoned therapist who has been trained in emotionally focused couples therapy and the Gottman method, as well as the Developmental Model. The couple she is treating offers us a chance to see the dynamics of trauma-informed care in action. What we know from the beginning The couple in this case present a complex set of issues. The female partner has a long history of difficulties with attachment.… Read more...

Interesting Ideas from Recent Conferences

In years past, I have shared valuable ideas I’ve heard while attending major conferences, either as a speaker or guest. With so many virtual meetings taking place over the past several months, I’ve had the chance to gather many useful thoughts from a wide range of presenters. I hope these short summaries capture your interest and even stimulate your thinking as they did for me. From attorney and social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy Stevenson’s talk to therapists was designed to stimulate action. He stressed how in the United States, we continue to accept the unacceptable. We must push back against the narratives of fear and anger that surround race relations in the U.S.… Read more...

Couples and Trauma, Part 2: Red flags that may reveal a troubled past

As explained in last month’s article, hidden trauma can be a serious obstacle in your efforts to help partners build stronger, more trusting relationships. We touched on the concept of trauma configurational reflex, which suggests that humans will interpret what’s happening in the present through the lens of the past. Yet when trauma is triggered in therapy, even the most skilled therapist may have difficulty reading the situation at first.  What makes this difficult? In many cases, partners have suffered in ways that aren’t immediately clear. As counseling begins, you may have learned something about their childhood, culture or significant relationships.… Read more...

Couples and Trauma, Part 1: Understanding the Challenges

It’s been said that the past is never really dead. All our prior experiences have the power to shape our thoughts and perceptions – which in turn influences our closest relationships.  The couples you meet with every day are dealing with issues that took root long before they came to you. Yet even after you’ve uncovered signs of past trauma in one or both partners, it’s not always clear how to help them move forward. In some of the next posts, we’ll take a closer look at trauma and couples therapy, offering insights and techniques that will help you plan a highly effective course of treatment. How the past distorts the present  Trauma configurational reflex is a concept that explains how, as humans, we tend to configure what we see in front of us through the lens of our past experiences.… Read more...

Endurance Rides and Relationships

  Our daughter Molly has taken up endurance horseback riding. Two years ago, she rode 600 miles across Mongolia in 9 days. Now she is training for the Tevis Cup, a 24-hour 100 miler from Lake Tahoe to Auburn, CA in July.  This is a recent passion for her, although she has loved horses since she was six. Pete and I asked her why she loves these long, draining, intense rides. To answer us, she sent an article by Jody Buttram that helped capture Molly’ feelings for Rocky(her horse teammate) and the race. Buttram wrote the article to help folks understand the true endurance distance rider. When I read it, I thought, “Isn’t this something all couples should hear when they get married?”  … Read more...

Are You Working Harder Than Your Clients?

Over the years, I’ve talked with many therapists who told me they feel exhausted after seeing certain couples. They describe the sensation of dragging partners along a path that might lead to change, only to find that, in the very next session, they’re starting all over again.  Why and how does this happen? And how can you avoid falling into the trap of overworking with passive or disengaged clients? How do you reset when clients magically hope you’ll do all the work for them?  The assumptions we make – and some habits to break  In a recent training session, a therapist raised the question about how to get unstuck when a husband and wife seemed to be leading her in circles. … Read more...

Couples Who Avoid Conflict, Part 2: Principles & Techniques

  In my last post, I shared 4 key insights that can help you lay the groundwork for counseling couples who shy away from conflict.  In looking at the challenges posed by this pattern, it’s clear that conflict avoidance reveals itself in many ways. Your first clue may be the long, tense silences that follow when you pose honest questions. Or the fact that one partner tends to dominate the conversation, offering lengthy explanations that gloss over the issues you’re trying to explore.  Whatever pattern you’re seeing, you will benefit from having a strong strategy that addresses the couple’s unique situation and helps them move forward. … Read more...