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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 Get the Most from Our Work Together

Couples are often uncertain what to expect from the process of couples therapy. They are not sure of what to expect of the therapist or even if the therapist has any expectations of them.   I have found most couples approach therapy with the notion that each person will describe their distress and somehow the therapist will assist them to create a happier, more functional, relationship. They expect to learn some new or better skills. However, most people hope their partner will do most of the learning in problem areas. After 30 years of clinical experience and specializing in working with thousands of couples, I have arrived at some guidelines that can make our work more effective.… Read more...
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Daily Double Practice Guide

Sport couple of athletes successHere’s something you can do for your relationship today. It’s called The Daily Double 30-Day Challenge. Twice a day – for 30 consecutive days – say or do something that communicates to your partner that you love, value or appreciate them.… Read more...

Managing First Sessions After an Affair

Treating couples in the aftermath of an affair is one of the most important challenges you will face. Other problems gradually weaken a relationship, but infidelity, once it is discovered, rips it apart abruptly and violently. So much is at stake. You have two partners who are hurting for very different reasons. They both want the pain to stop. You enter the couple’s world at this time of turmoil, rage, despair – and at a time when the meaning of the affair is fuzzy. Even though it may be presented to you as if there is one perpetrator and one victim, it’s not so conveniently black and white. How you position yourself and what you accomplish in that first session matters a lot.… Read more...

The Value of Obsessing About an Affair

Couples therapy with one partner who is stuck. When two people get together, they date and spend time getting to know each other. For some, the “falling in love” is intense and the decision to become a couple is easy. For others, it is far more difficult as they thoughtfully consider differences in challenging areas such as religion, culture, social class, child-rearing, or where to live. Then the two partners decide to marry or live together in a committed partnership, and that  decision draws a boundary around the “two of them” as a couple. This decision, when done well, completes the initial bonding stage of a relationship and paves the way for a healthy, growth-promoting process of differentiation.… Read more...

Daily Double Practice Guide – Up the Ante

Sport couple of athletes successHere’s something you can do for your relationship today. It’s called The Daily Double 30-Day Challenge. Twice a day – for 30 consecutive days – say or do something that communicates to your partner that you love, value or appreciate them. *And – if you're now looking to up the ante – avoid negative behaviors at the same time (see below).… Read more...

Avoid Losing Control, Momentum or Direction in Couples Therapy

Here are links to all 9 blog posts in my series on losing control, momentum or direction in couples therapy. The first three blogs are on Losing Control: Losing Control: When couples sessions spin out of control Losing Control: It happens sooner than you think Losing Control: When couples fight The next three are on Losing Momentum: Losing Momentum: Do you start strong and then see the energy fizzle? Losing Momentum: With passive-aggressive partners and their spouses Losing Momentum: When one partner keeps obsessing about the details of a partner’s affair The last three are on Losing Direction: Losing Direction: Where are you going and what are you using for a roadmap?… Read more...

Couples As a Team: Questions to Discuss with Your Partner

Build your foundation today so you can thrive tomorrow. These questions pull for your values, interests, challenges and perhaps priorities… all things to explore with each other as you contemplate working as a team. Discuss these questions when you are relaxed and have ample time, perhaps over a nice dinner. 1.   What gives me energy in life? (People, places, things, activities) 2.   What sucks energy out of me? (People, places, things, activities) 3.   What do I want to be really good at? 4.   What would I attempt if I knew positively I would not fail? 5.   Ask your partner, “What can I do to bring out the best in you?”… Read more...

Deep Listening on a Japanese Subway

An account by the first American Aikido Master trained in Japan, Terry Dobson The train clanked and rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy spring afternoon. Our car was comparatively empty – a few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks going shopping. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedgerows. At one station the doors opened, and suddenly the afternoon quiet was shattered by a man bellowing violent, incomprehensible curses. The man staggered into our car. He wore laborer's clothing, and he was big, drunk and dirty. Screaming, he swung at a woman holding a baby.… Read more...

Couples As a Team: The Daily Double

Here’s something you can do for your relationship today. It’s called The Daily Double. You earn two points today by doing two positive things on the positive list below, while avoiding doing any of the negative behaviors from the list at the end.… Read more...