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.

Working with Couples Where One Partner Has A Severe Anxiety Disorder

When you apply the Developmental Model in your work with couples, sometimes you will encounter issues that add an extra layer of complexity. Examples of this include addiction or severe depression. An even more common example is when one partner struggles with a severe anxiety disorder. This month let’s look at some ways to begin a session when you encounter a couple with a very anxious partner. When one partner is extremely anxious, the process of defining what belongs to each partner can be frustrating and quite confusing. You will notice that if you are trying to encapsulate each person’s issues, the anxious partner will continue to circle back to anxious thoughts he or she has. … Read more...

Cabin Fever Couples

Couples around the world are being impacted by this challenging time. According to surveys we conducted recently, here are just a few examples of how people are reacting to sheltering in place: Some love it. They enjoy having more time together and a slower pace. “We are really getting to know each other better.” New couples decided to quarantine together and moved in hardly knowing each other. They’re finding out quickly whether they’re compatible or not.  Divorce filings increased in Wuhan and New York. Domestic Violence hotlines are busier than ever. The rate of calls to the suicide and help hotline in Los Angeles went up more than 8,000%.… Read more...

Couples and Mental Health Challenges in the Era of COVID-19

Since the inception of The Couples Institute in 1984, we have been dedicated to supporting therapists and improving their expertise, no matter where they are in the world, or what’s going on in the world. So when the “shelter in place” order first hit us in March, we were anxious to find out how the news was affecting therapists and what we could do to help. We conducted a survey asking therapists about their biggest challenges and concerns, and we shared the results with those who answered.  And today we’re writing to report not only those initial survey results but also main points from a follow up survey we conducted more recently.… Read more...

The Timed Tantrum

My wife Ellyn and I are hard at work looking for new and innovative ways to support your clients in these trying times. We’ve asked therapists in our online training group what’s working for them, we surveyed thousands of therapists about their ideas, and we’ve asked friends what has helped them stay sane at home in quarantine with their partner. Recently a great idea came to us from our daughter, Molly. Her #Quaranteam is herself and her partner, Jake. To deal with the mounting stress and anxiety they’ve come up with something they call the Timed Tantrum.  It was born in reaction to one of them just walking into the room and spilling their doom and gloom dread all over the other one, while the other sat there in stunned silence over how dark the thoughts were.… Read more...

Sharing Inspiration from my Volunteer Work

  There’s a scene in The Little Mermaid after Ariel trades her voice for legs and makes it to land to have dinner in Eric’s palace. New to the human world, she picks up a fork – and starts brushing her hair with it at the table. The audience laughs, knowing surely this is not what a fork is for! This whimsical and lighthearted scene may seem fit for just Disney movie fantasy, but I can tell you it also rings true for a group of kids in Africa. Over the last 8 years, I’ve been working in resettled refugee communities in Kenya. With the organization Village Impact [formerly called World Teacher Aid], Pete and I and our daughter Molly have helped build 14 schools including 120 classrooms and helped educate over 5,000 students. … Read more...

Fighting Chronic Misunderstanding about Traumatic Brain Injury

By Lori Weisman, MA, LMHC I want to share with you my reaction to the recent news story reporting President Trump’s remarks about the concussions that American service members received from the blast in Iraq. The original number was 34, but as of January 29, the Pentagon reported over 50 troops sustained brain injuries. This tragedy and the news that followed went straight to my heart since what we heard about brain injury is so far from the truth. I specialize in helping clients with traumatic brain injury, and I have seen the very real and very debilitating fallout of such injuries. Here is some of what was said: “….I… Read more...

Building a Foundation for Working with Highly Distressed Couples

When working with a couple that’s in deep distress, it can be a challenge to get each partner to look at his or her own role in the problems. More often than not, both partners blame and try to make the case that the other is at fault. What neither partner wants is for you to expose their vulnerability. I have an example from nature that illustrates what this looks like in couples’ therapy. It’s about the killdeer – a bird that lays its eggs on the ground. When a fox or a predator gets close to the nest, the momma bird jumps up and spreads her wings wide to attract attention. Then the bird drops one of its wings to the ground as though injured.… Read more...

Couples and Addiction

My advanced online training group recently has been focusing on working with addiction issues in couples therapy. For this blog, I thought I’d share some important insights from Sue Diamond, a couples therapist who specializes in treating addiction. Many couples come to therapy with addiction as an undisclosed issue. In fact, the addict has had many years, maybe even decades, to build up defenses that unconsciously deflect their awareness and prevent them from facing their addiction.  Also, when a couple decides to come for therapy, confronting an addiction may not be their top priority. They may be more concerned with their hostility or broken agreements.… Read more...

Choice Points in Disrupting Symbiosis in Conflict-Avoidant Couples: Moving These Couples Forward

When you are working with a conflict-avoiding couple, it is especially difficult to create positive forward moving momentum. These couples merge boundaries often and it can be a challenge to disrupt the status quo. If you search for openings in the issues they present, you will find choice points that enable you to disrupt their symbiosis. First, start by supporting their interactions that are truly positive and that are part of a healthy relationship. This is important because, once you start disrupting their symbiosis, it will be scary for them. So, the more they sense that you're in their corner – with them as a couple and as individuals – the safer they're going to feel, and the more able they will be able to risk new behavior.… Read more...

What Would You March For?

Dateline Hong Kong August 18, 2019 Protestor March, 5:03 PM I am standing in front of a mall in the middle of Hong Kong as thousands of marchers parade by me in the rain. No violence. No threats. No police brutality. Some chants in Chinese but not too much or too loud. Some marchers are couples holding hands. Some couples are pushing strollers with babies and toddlers getting an early taste of what it means to march for freedom. They walk past me by the thousands. It seems like a never-ending stream of peacefully moving humanity. So far this parade has been 45–minutes long and still no end to it. Watching this flow of frustrated freedom seekers, I feel as safe as I would on Sunday afternoon in quiet Menlo Park, California. … Read more...