We’re not always getting the truth (especially about sex)

One of the things I love about being a couples therapist is that I believe I get more and better data than when I am seeing one person alone.   When an individual minimises the severity or impact of their behaviour to me,  I may have no idea (or I may even suspect, but I can’t be sure).  If their partner …

The “Big Three” Relationship Skills

The “Big Three” Fundamental Relationship Skills PART 1 Many of our clients have had limited opportunities to experience healthy relating directly as they were growing up.  Their role models were absent, ineffective or abusive.  As a result they are at a genuine loss to know what to do when trying to form or be present in a relationship.  They simply …

An iceberg model of consciousness

Explaining how therapy works can be hard Clients who haven’t had much practice at self-exploration or even talking about their feelings often need quite a bit of psychoeducation about the therapy process. I have adapted Freud’s “iceberg” model by getting rid of the confusing notion of the “pre-conscious” and accepting consciousness is a function of what we focus our attention …

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Finding the Middle Ground between Selfish and Selfless

Lots of couples have one person who is more self-centred and one who is more self-sacrificing.  Often we have learned these ways of operating as a self-protection in our formative years. It can be hard for clients to understand what the alternative is – often they fear that they might become like their partner (whose behaviour hurts and frustrates them).  …

Level Up your clients

Clients often mean ALL kinds of things when they say they have “problems communicating”.  But one thing it can be very useful to help them sort out is; what “level” are they communicating at? I describe 3 levels to my clients:  CONTENT level – we are having a discussion about whether we should try and take a vacation this winter …

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Using the important difference between “need” & “want”

In talking with clients, have you ever noticed people describing their partner (or themselves) as “needy” or “demanding”?  They complain about pressure for (or a lack of) affection, sex, attention, talk etc. Yet our culture idealises the notion of needing your partner. “I need you” is generally offered up in a movie or book as the ultimate declaration of love, the …

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Defining Infidelity

Esther Perel recently published a new book called “The State of Affairs” which both Paula and I think is great and recommend highly. It’s got both of us thinking about how we work with infidelity and this is the first of a series of blogs on the topic – something of a warmup for our workshop on the topic in …

HOW TO TURN BAD THERAPY INTO GOOD THERAPY

Paula is off at the Couple’s Conference this week (see our earlier blog if you don’t know what that is) so I thought it was a good time for me (Nic) to confess.  Sometimes I  do bad therapy  – I make mistakes and do things that are not good for the client.   Yet I am frequently encouraging my clients to be …

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CHALLENGING IRRESPONSIBILTY FOR SEXUAL CONNECTION

In the second of two blogs reporting on Ellyn Bader’s recent therapist workshop on Confrontation, Paula offers an in-depth and advanced exploration of a very common issue for couples: In the workshop Ellyn showed us how to skilfully challenge subtle (and not so subtle) patterns of symbiotic regression which prevent couples from continuing relational development. She notes that typically this pattern …

Go for the Jugular Gently: Confrontation as the powerhouse of Couple Therapy

Recently Dr Ellyn Bader presented an online therapist workshop on Confrontation. In this she described “the how, the when and the what” of using confrontation skilfully in couple therapy. Here’s Paula’s report on the training Essentially the technique (or HOW) of therapeutic confrontation involves being able to help each partner see which specific aspect of their behaviour is getting in …