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...

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.