Intrapsychic Impasses

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...

Losing Momentum: Do You Start Strong and Then See the Energy Fizzle?

Momentum-imageIt’s pretty common to start couples therapy strong. You use your empathy skills and make a good connection with each partner. Each one has a chance to describe the problem and each feels understood. And with basic skills, you begin to shift troubled interactions to more collaboration and better communication. Then it happens. Progress stalls. Sessions start feeling repetitive. Your insights and feedback have limited value.… Read more...

Creating Intrapsychic Change in Self-Absorbed Partners

two blue chairs_225 In my previous blog, I started showing you the elegance of using Gestalt two-chair work to transform self-absorbed parts of your clients. With self-absorbed partners, it’s important to recognize that self-absorption is an intrapsychic problem and that you will want to focus intrapsychically in many sessions.… Read more...

Intrapsychic Impasses with Self-Absorbed Partners

leopard silhouette_225We’ve been on a journey together exploring the external behavior of self-absorbed partners. And although they often mislead therapists with detours and distractions, we’ve stayed focused on understanding their behavior and why they often challenge their spouses and their therapists.… Read more...

The Self-Absorbed Partner, Video Two

Click here to better understand the many challenges self-absorbed partners create for couples therapists.… Read more...

The Self-Absorbed Partner, Video One

Click below to watch this video about the troublesome traits of the self-absorbed partner.… Read more...

Building Effective Collaboration with a Highly Anxious Client

couples in therapy sessionA common scenario that many of us see in our practices is the over-functioning wife with the anxious-avoidant husband. He is a highly anxious procrastinator  and is often not accountable for what he says he will do.… Read more...

Confronting Negative Beliefs and Projections

In December, I set a daunting task for myself. I volunteered to do a clinical demonstration at the Brief Therapy conference. I have done many demos over the years, but the topic for this one was about confronting negative beliefs and unrelenting projections in couples relationships. Why is this so challenging in a role play demonstration? When we see clients in our practice, their negative projections have had years to grow and take root. At the conference, I planned to do a role play demonstration with two people who just met and would try to recreate the dynamics of a  long-term very intractable negative projection.… Read more...

Identify Two Common Inhibitors to Progress in Couples Therapy

  This month, we thought we'd address the problem of being “lost and wandering” in the middle stage of couples therapy. This can be tough because the couple may not tell you directly. You may not want to admit it to yourself. Or, if you admit it, it may take you time to figure out how to get back on track. Here are some ideas to simplify the process of regrouping. If you are “lost and wandering,” it is often the result of one of the following two problems. I. GOAL DIFFICULTY: You have lost track of the original goal, or the partners have become vague and ill-defined about their own goals.… Read more...

Transactional Analysis: Strategies

Strategies for Working With Lies, Passive-Aggressive Behavior and Affairs Ellyn Bader, Ph.D., is Co-Founder & Director of The Couples Institute in Menlo Park, California. She is long-time members of the International Transactional Analysis Association (ITAA) and have served in various capacities in the organization. Ellyn was president of the ITAA from 1984-1985. This is an interview of Pete and Ellyn conducted by Bill Cornell for ITAA's publication The Script. Bill: I'm glad to have the chance to talk with both of you, especially since the stimulus for this interview is the release of your new training tape for the ITAA “Transactional Analysis in Action” series.… 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.