Differentiation

A Closer Look at Early Differentiation

What is real developmental progress? How do we recognize and support it? Many couples in therapy are starting to move from the symbiotic stage into early differentiation. It’s not the kind of progress that comes with fanfare and celebration. In fact, the couples might not even recognize their progress. So it’s especially helpful for you to know exactly what’s happening in this stage. Let’s examine what is going on during early differentiation and look at how you can support your clients at this stage. Clients in early differentiation start to express their own thoughts, feelings, and desires more actively.… Read more...

A Developmental Model for Healthy Couples

Throughout my experience as a couples therapist, I’ve observed that couples relationships typically progress through 5 normal and predictable stages. In healthy relationships, a couple’s development closely parallels the stages of early childhood development originally conceptualized by Drs. Margaret Mahler and Fred Pine. In what ways are these developmental processes similar? And how does understanding the Developmental Model increase your effectiveness working with couples? The Beginning: Symbiosis Mahler describes a brief period of time in early childhood development during which a newborn becomes acclimated to being alive.… Read more...

Going Deeper: Moving from Hostile Symbiosis into Differentiation

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been discussing angry fighting couples who are arrested at the first stage of development. If you’ve been following along, you’ve been laying a strong foundation for change; assessing motivation and doing some trust-building. Now it is time to push for individual development. A big stumbling block is partners’ focus on changing each other rather than changing themselves. But self-accountability is crucial to making lasting change. Here are some questions I like to use to shift partners into focusing more on internal change. 1. What kind of relationship do you want to create?… Read more...

What do diets and fighting couples have in common?

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The Sequence of Change is neither simple nor smooth, especially for fighting couples. In fact, it’s usually messy and rarely linear. For most, the process of change encompasses 5 stages, starting with denial and ending with commitment. A therapist in my Developmental Model program named Neil said, “This is a wonderful video to see what change looks like in the context of a relationship.” Now that you know what it looks like, my hope is that you have an easier time keeping the couple engaged, encouraging them to actively define themselves, and challenging each partner to stick with the journey when they regress.… Read more...

Differentiation in Couples Relationships

Disco ball in party atmosphere Recently I was interviewed by Diane Heller for her membership program. My topic was “Differentiation in Couples Relationships.” The hour-long interview covered many aspects of differentiation and why I am passionate about couples therapists really understanding the essence of differentiation. I share this with you because differentiation is what makes the difference between relationships that are stuck or boring and those that are alive and growing. I’ll be sharing some sections of the interview with you in my upcoming blogs. Today’s post introduces and discusses Differentiation in Couples Therapy.… Read more...

Are You Smarter Than a Fox?

killdeerHave you heard of the Killdeer? No, it’s not a mammal, but an amazing bird from the sandpiper family. The Killdeer do not build much of a nest. They lay their eggs in a nest on rocky ground areas. This makes them especially vulnerable to predators like foxes. So, the very smart killdeer developed special behavioral adaptations to protect the nest. What could this have to do with skillful confrontation in couples therapy?… Read more...

Losing Direction: When Intimacy Avoiders Lead You Astray

Direction-imagePartners who desperately want intimacy often push it away. It’s easy to lose direction with them. They demand more openness from their partners but then deflect, attack or give double messages when their partners are more open.… Read more...

Losing Control: It Happens Sooner Than You Think

control-imageLosing control of a given couples therapy session happens sooner and faster than you think. How soon? Often it is in the first few minutes of a session.… Read more...

Couples Therapy Benefits From Interpersonal Neurobiology

Neuron_225In my online training program, I often invite guest experts to teach an extra class for my members. Recently Dr. Dan Siegel joined us. He packed an enormous amount into the time we all spent together.… Read more...

Suggestions for Working with Hostile Angry Couples

Young Couple Having Argument At HomeWe are now halfway through my blog series on Hostile Angry Couples. In the first blog I wrote about some challenges you face working with these couples. The second blog suggested goals for both you and the couple. At the end of the second blog post, I promised to summarize some solutions to these challenges.… Read more...
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