Initiator-Inquirer Process

A Couples Therapy Session After Infidelity: Transcript of a Role-play, Part Two

I’ve been highlighting ways I’ve used Initiator-Inquirer when working with couples who have experienced infidelity. Recently I shared a role play with a couple we called Logan and Marta. I demonstrated how I might work with Marta, who had been cheated on in the Initiator role. You can find that exchange right here. Now today, I’m going to shift to the part of the role play demonstrating how I might work with the other partner, Logan, in his role as the Inquirer. I began by feeding him a question:   Ellyn:Can you ask her to tell you what it's like to be tracking you? Logan:Can you tell me what it's like to be tracking me?… Read more...

A Couples Therapy Session After Infidelity: Transcript of a Role-play

Infidelity can be devastating to a couple’s relationship. Even before we walk into the room and learn anything about the couple, we can be sure the crisis has them deeply unsettled. In my last blog post, I gave an overview of some of the issues you are likely to confront when working with a case like this. If you missed it, you can find it right here. Many times, a couple will want to rush you, or you may want to rush yourself to move faster than a couple is ready. So, in your work, it’s crucial to slow things down. One way to slow things down is to use the Initiator-Inquirer process with them. The Initiator-Inquirer is a powerful exercise that gives partners specific skills to learn and apply so they can manage their own emotional volatility during tense discussions.… Read more...

Using a Developmental Approach and the Initiator-Inquirer Process with Cases of Infidelity

Few situations are as painful for a couple, and as difficult for a couples’ therapist to work through as the experience of infidelity. The bottom-line questions you’ll inevitably be working with include: What is trust? Can it be restored? If so, how is it going to be restored? Who gets to define trust, and how does all of this happen? As I’ve worked with couples around this issue, I’ve seen several specific challenges that typically come up. I thought it could be useful to you in your work if I outlined some of the important steps that are involved after infidelity is revealed. Stage 1: Stabilize the Conflict For many partners, betrayal is likely one of the worst experiences they encounter.… Read more...

Using Initiator-Inquirer to Support Growth in Couples

One of the reasons I find the Initiator-Inquirer process especially valuable in our work with couples is that it exposes so much about where they are developmentally. It helps us see the cutting edge of their development and reveals ways we can challenge each of them to work at their growth edges. Now if you are unfamiliar with the Initiator-Inquirer Process, you can find out more about it here. As you use this process, it’s important to learn how to look at what your clients’ edges are. What are the places where they fall apart with each other when you’re not around? For example, I often see couples who are stuck because they lack the self-capacity to allow one of the partners to come forward.… Read more...

Utilize the Initiator-Inquirer Process in Couples Therapy

Stop Angry, Hostile Fighting and Immediately Structure More Effective Interaction Are you interested in a way to get out of the middle of a couple's conflicts and work with both partners at the same time? One important and powerful aspect of our Developmental Model is the Initiator-Inquirer process for effective communication. The guidelines are simple, but the process is rich, and quite revealing. It can be used with couples at all of the different developmental stages. In the “I-I” process, there are 2 roles, the Initiator and the Inquirer. The Initiator: Brings up only one issue/problem Uses “I messages” to describe thoughts and feelings about the issue Describes the issue without blame or name calling And most essentially is open to learning more about him/herself than was known before he/she started talking The Inquirer: Listens actively and recaps a description of the issue Asks questions to understand the partner's feelings, thoughts or desires Responds with empathy Continues with empathic responses until a soothing moment occurs for the Initiator At first glance the roles sound easy.… Read more...

My Visit to a Counseling Center in Africa

A year ago I wrote a newsletter as I was winging home from Africa – and here I am again. So many reflections, so many experiences, sights, sounds, emotions.  Where do I begin? And do I share what meant most to me or what might be most relevant to you and your work? I'd like to tell you about Amani Counseling Center in Africa. This year I went with Michelle Wangler (whom many of you know) and Rita Maynard, a very talented therapist from Portland, Oregon, who trained with us for many years. If you don’t know Michelle, she works at The Couples Institute as both a couples therapist and an assistant in my online training program.… Read more...

Developmental Change, Focus on the Initiator, Part 3

Therapist Errors: Not Recognizing Protective Passivity This blog post continues to focus on the initiator. Last month we looked at  recognizing a “non-Initiation.”  Remember we are discussing couples who have done very little active differentiation. An important subtle issue that occurs in many initiations is passivity. Passivity happens as a self-protection when partners fear the vulnerability of self-exposure. They may have difficulty articulating what they desire or they may not even know.… Read more...

Developmental Change, Focus on the Initiator, Part 2

Recognizing When Your Client Defines a Clear Issue with Related Feelings Today's blog post is the second in which we focus on the Initiator for more effective Initiation. We are explaining the steps with volatile couples as you begin working with them in the Initiator-Inquirer format. The tasks of being an effective Initiator sound simple. The Initiator… 1.  Brings up one and only one issue/problem 2.  Uses “I messages” to describe thoughts & feelings about the issue 3.  Describes the issue without blame or name calling 4.  Is open to learning more about him/herself than was known before he/she started talk For you as the therapist, this step involves asking yourself, “Did my client actually initiate?”… Read more...

Developmental Change: Focus on the Initiator with Volatile Couples

  I thought I’d write a few short blog posts that focus on the Initiator in the Initiator-Inquirer Process. Attaining successful initiation in the early stages of therapy is not easy. There are many subtleties that make a big difference.  In this series, I will write each time about one main point. I hope it will give you a focus in future sessions with highly volatile or very disengaged couples.… Read more...

Attachment and Differentiation in Directing Change

The beginning of each year is a time when I reflect on my own goals for the year and also stop and think about whether I have a clear direction with each of my clients. I frequently check in with each partner to see that we have agreement about their focus. Developing a strong direction with a high probability of success in couples therapy often involves supporting the couple's bond and simultaneously stressing the importance of self-directed differentiated change — change that is not connected to what the partner does. What does this actually look like? In early sessions, it is important to define what positive outcome each partner is trying to create.… Read more...