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.

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...

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...

A Glossary of Terms that are sometimes Confusing

Couples Therapy is a counseling procedure that seeks to improve the adjustment of two people who have created an interdependent relationship. There are no standard procedures to help two people improve their adjustments to each other. Generally, a more experienced therapist will offer more perspectives and tools to a couple. Length of treatment will depend on severity of problems, motivation and skills of the therapist. A couple can be dating, living together, married or separating and may be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

Marriage Therapy is a term often used interchangeably with marriage counseling. The term marriage implies two people have created a union sanctioned by a government or religious institution. The methods used in marriage counseling, marriage therapy and couples therapy are interchangeable and depend more on the specific challenges of each unique couple.

Psychotherapy is one or more processes to help improve psychological and emotional functioning. Examples are psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, Gestalt therapy, Transactional Analysis, Rational-Emotive therapy, or group therapy. Many forms of psychotherapy are blends of different approaches. For example, newer forms of psychotherapy called energy psychology draw upon recent advances in brain and neuroscience. These approaches often build on cognitive behavioral methods.

Clinical Psychologist. After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psycholgy. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Psychiatrist. After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Clinical Social Worker. This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

Marriage and Family Therapist. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

The Couples Institute. We have assembled a group of top notch therapists at The Couples Institute. Whatever marriage help or marriage advice you are looking for, we are here to serve you. While most other therapists see only a few couples a week, we specialize in marriage and couples relationships, working to develop and bring you the most current and effective approaches to couples therapy. For more information about couples therapy or marriage counseling, see our couples therapy section.