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.

What Can Couples Therapists Learn from a Martial Arts Master?

  The Japanese sensei who developed Aikido described it as the art of tapping the energies found in any life situation as a means of finding innovative solutions. When I came across a YouTube video of Aikido master Richard Moon, I felt captivated by the smooth, almost effortless movements he used to redirect an opponent without doing harm. As he explains, Aikido isn’t a series of techniques for winning a fight. Instead, it’s peace in action. “In our metaphor,” he says, “the attack represents the energy of change.” Inspired by his words, I felt driven to learn more about the philosophy at the heart of this powerful yet calm practice.… Read more...

Tough Couple Challenge #2: Sparking the Desire for Change

Here you are, preparing to meet with a couple who came to you seeking wisdom and guidance that will lead them to a closer, more supportive relationship.  Like other unhappy couples you’ve seen, this couple has implored you to show them the way. But as you begin defining the issues that are keeping them apart, they’re suddenly fabricating every possible roadblock. Why is this happening? And how should you respond?  In the last blog post, we discussed how you can resist the natural temptation to take on more responsibility when couples avoid the honest dialogue that opens the door for change. Whether motivated by fear and self-doubt, the influence of past trauma, or a simple desire to prove the other partner wrong, these roadblocks can derail your most carefully planned strategies for change.… Read more...

Tough Couple Challenge #1: Do You Take On Too Much Responsibility?

A few weeks ago, my husband and Couples Institute co-founder Peter Pearson and I were talking with fellow therapists about a pattern we’ve all fallen into at one time or another. We’re working with two partners who seem hopelessly stalled. One or both have such deep defenses that we feel ourselves walking in circles, session after session. Conversations may be laced with denial, blame, and resentment, yet neither partner will look deeper at the possible causes. Or things might bounce along brightly, suggesting the denial that often feels like sunshine over troubled waters. Over time, we begin to feel frustration, feeling the urge to do something, anything to break the deadlock.… Read more...

Why the Developmental Model is A Perfect Fit for Working With Sex Issues and Polyamorous Clients

By Martha Kauppi, LMFT and ​​AASECT-certified sex therapist Picture this: I’m a therapist newly in private practice, with a schedule filled with tough relational therapy cases, and not nearly enough tools to work with them effectively. On the plus side, I did have a lot of life experience, considerable professional expertise in sex and sexuality and diverse family systems like polyamory, and a busy practice. But it seemed to me that I was getting an unusually high share of high-conflict couples, and I had next to no idea how to handle them.  I recall one couple I worked with in particular. They were in a polyamorous relationship, and each had one other partner.… Read more...

Helping Fighting Couples

Video: Helping couples see the best in each other It’s like watching a storm roll in. One moment, everything seems fine. Then the couple you’re working with hits a stressful point. Tensions rise. Voices, too. Or maybe a hostile silence falls over the room. Whatever the pattern, the result is the same. As the conversation turns bitter, progress stalls — and you find yourself searching for a solution. When partners lose sight of one another If this couple’s anger seems like a blind force, this might be exactly the point. Trauma from earlier relationships often makes it impossible for them to see each other clearly in the moment.… Read more...

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...

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