Goal Setting

A Powerful Exercise to Promote the Work of Differentiation in Couples

The differentiation stage is, by far, the most difficult for many couples. Helping each partner set self-focused autonomous goals is crucial to their growth as individuals and to push the development of the couple. In my last blog post, I gave you a glimpse into how I work with couples to tease apart individual goals when their issues are highly entangled and enmeshed. If you missed it, you can find it here. But sometimes, you as the therapist will assess that a couple’s level of differentiation is so low that you’re going to have to start with them at a very basic, fundamental level. When a couple operates with each other almost totally out of reactivity, it takes a fair amount of psychoeducation to help them recognize emotions and pay attention to what’s going on in their body.… Read more...

A Dialogue for Individual Goal-Setting with Conflict-Avoidant Couples

When working with couples within The Developmental Model, it’s crucial to help partners set self-focused, individual goals to support the process of differentiation. This presents more of a challenge with some couples than with others. I’m thinking in particular about conflict-avoidant couples. These are couples who likely have developed well-established patterns of shying away from conflict. They may have little or no recognition of their differences. A couple like this can merge and enmesh their issues very quickly and easily. It can be a challenge to tease out what might make a difference if each of them were to get focused on themselves.… Read more...

10 Skills for Early Sessions

Each year I mentor a small group of therapists to help them set goals for their business and clinical skills. I often ask them to assess themselves by being brutally honest about their ability on a variety of criteria that I believe make for strength and effectiveness as a couples therapist. I am including some of these here so you too can assess yourself. Couples Therapist Self­-Assessment First, read the following statements and respond with a simple yes or no. Later, come back and use a 1­-7 on a continuum from very strong to very weak. Early Sessions with Couples: __ I have a plan when I talk to potential clients on the telephone.… Read more...

How to Help Couples Work Towards Positive Dreams Through Visualization

Today we are discussing setting larger goals; what is commonly known as having a vision, and working towards them with visualization. Vision setting is the focus of today's blog post. It is an enormous help in couples therapy to take the focus off daily struggles and put relationship efforts into a larger context. The reality is that most couples spend more time discussing what movie they want to see, or what room is a mess than they do discussing any big dreams they have. Bringing the larger dreams into better focus helps give partners a crucial incentive to do some of the hard work in front of them. What is a vision?… Read more...

How to Stop Going in Circles with an Entrenched Couple

Colored concentric circlesSome partners just stubbornly refuse to be accountable for their own role in a mutual mess and you find yourself going in circles in therapy sessions. Perhaps they are resistant to your best explanations, insights, interpretations and confrontations.… Read more...

Three Types of Goals and Their Use in Couples Therapy

This month we describe a way of classifying goals into three succinct categories and we show how to use them in couples therapy sessions. Goals can be classified into three types: “doing,” “having/getting” and “being.” Consider each type: 1. DOING. These are action-oriented goals. They require some active behavior. Examples of these include participating in sports, activities, or hobbies. Other “doing” goals include giving a feared speech, hugging one's partner, or traveling to some desired vacation spot. 2. HAVING/GETTING. People talk frequently about what they would like to have.… Read more...

Beyond Plateaus

Quick Questions to Help Increase Momentum When Couples Therapy is Bogged Down Therapists often tell us that they're quite skilled at getting started with a couple, but they eventually arrive at a point where it seems like the couple is making little or no progress. They'd like to develop some momentum in couples therapy. This month let's look at some questions to ask yourself in the middle stages of couples therapy. This can be helpful even if you and the couple aren't stuck at a plateau, just to keep your work together focused and effective. When progress has slowed, ask yourself: 1. Has sufficient progress been made for now?… Read more...
Menu