"We'll be glad to help you learn more about couples therapy"
– Dr. David & Deborah Woodsfellow
We offer workshops on a variety of important topics in couples therapy. Our workshops give Category IV CE hours for psychologists, and Core CE hours for counselors, marriage and family therapists, and social workers.
See our Training Calendar for the 2022 Schedule.
about each of our workshops:
- Couples Therapy Essentials: Love Cycles and Fear Cycles
- Narcissism and Emotional Abuse
- Affairs in Couples Therapy
- Anger and Verbal Abuse in Couples Therapy
- Starting Well with Couples
- Ethics in Couples Therapy
Couples Therapy Essentials: Love Cycles and Fear Cycles
So many people come to us hoping we can save their marriage. They’re usually stuck in some very hurtful negative cycle that they can’t stop, no matter how hard they try. We call that their Fear Cycle. It's a far cry from the Love Cycle that began their relationship. The task of therapy is to change their fear cycle back to their love cycle. This workshop offers a highly efficient, user-friendly model to guide us in understanding, and changing, these cycles.
This workshop is designed for couples therapists and individual therapists. You might also want to bring your life-partner with you to this workshop. You might want your partner to learn this model too – so you both can apply these principles to your own relationship.
In time, every couple finds their own fear cycle – the worst possible combination of their two issues. In these fear cycles, things worsen quickly. Each person threatens the other. Again and again and again. This feedback loop leaves both people feeling frustrated and hurt, with issues unresolved and at an impasse.
For instance, if Jill's vulnerability were feeling intimidated, and Jack's vulnerability were feeling abandoned, their fear cycle might go like this:
Jack feels abandoned.
So he gets angry in protest.
Then Jill feels fear.
So she withdraws.
Then Jack feels more abandoned.
So he gets angrier.
Then Jill feels more fear.
So she withdraws more.
The four words in their cycle are Abandoned, Angry, Fear, and Withdraw. Understanding these four is essential to interrupting their fear cycle, changing it back to a love cycle, and saving their marriage. In this workshop, we'll teach you how to do this.
Narcissism and Emotional Abuse
Narcissists can be difficult therapy clients. They can be hard to motivate. Their insight may be low. They may not understand their impact on others. Also, they probably have a defect of empathy.
Grandiose and entitled clients can be even more difficult. Entitlement and grandiosity are not endearing traits. They may see themselves as better than others, or deserving special treatment. They may see many problems in their partners, but few problems in themselves. They may not recognize how they abuse and neglect those close to them.
Usually, narcissistic people don't seek therapy. They don't feel they need it. Usually they feel good, not bad. They may even look down on the whole idea of getting help, and feel condescending toward those who need it - like their spouse.
And, of course, that's who drags them into therapy – usually with the threat of divorce. It's a difficult way to start treatment.
Usually their spouse is hoping that we can help them get their narcissistic partner to change. They usually want their spouse to be warmer, kinder, more loving, more compassionate, and more understanding - and less neglectful and abusive. Often we therapists support these goals.
This workshop presents Terry Real’s method, Relational Empowerment, to strengthen the one-down partner and (amazingly often) motivate the narcissistic one-up partner. In my 25 years of doing therapy, I've learned and used many different methods of couples therapy. This Relational Empowerment method succeeds with narcissism better than any other I’ve tried. Much better.
In this workshop you will learn how to:
- Distinguish healthy self-esteem from unhealthy narcissism
- Use the Relationship Grid to explain healthy self-esteem and healthy boundaries
- Distinguish Blatant relational problems from Latent relational problems
- Know when to intervene asymmetrically versus when to intervene symmetrically
- Decide which relationship problems need to be addressed first
- Empower Latent clients to find their respectful, assertive voices
- Join with Blatant clients by telling them the truth and evoking their best selves
Affairs in Couples Therapy
Affairs are usually excruciating for one party, exhilarating then guilt-producing for the other. Clients’ affairs can be excruciating and guilt-producing for the therapist too.
We shouldn't tell clients what to do. Or should we? We should help them take time to explore their options, and the consequences of their decisions. Or shouldn't we? Those are big issues in all therapy.
But in couples therapy it's a lot hotter than in individual therapy. It’s hotter because the person who is being hurt by the indecision is sitting right in front of you. In individual therapy a client can take years to decide whether to end an affair. In couples therapy, that decision phase is more intense, and much briefer. In couples therapy, the decision happens in weeks, not years.
The working-through phase is where we spend most of our time. This is when important character change can happen. People change by sharing their pain, their wounded-ness, and their fear. People change by sharing their compassion, remorse, and regret. Sincere, heart-felt understanding and apology can lead to healing. Couples therapy can be the crucible for this emotional honesty and re-connection. When this happens, intimacy and love can be reborn.
Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't. Our part is to do everything we can to promote this positive working-through.
This training will show you how. Based on a blend of Hendrix, Gottman, Real, and Johnson's, I've evolved a method of working with affairs that is straightforward and powerful. It's respectful but no-nonsense. It involves choices and open-hearted sharing.
Some parts are very easy. For instance, when you get them talking to each other, you don't usually need mirroring. Plain honest, respectful sharing seems to work just fine.
Some parts are not so easy -- like when someone doesn't want to end their affair. At those times, Terry Real's relational empowerment is what gives the best chance for a good outcome. Empowering the betrayed spouse to speak their truth respectfully can be difficult, but it's the crucial first step. Joining with the unfaithful spouse can be difficult, but it's also crucial. The success or failure of these two steps is often the success or failure of the therapy.
In this workshop, I'll teach you my method of working with affairs. I think you'll find it helpful.
This workshop will help you:
- Be more comfortable dealing with affairs in couples therapy
- Make sure that you don’t collude with ongoing betrayal
- Learn the research findings on the impact of affairs
- Clarify when and how to use your scientific knowledge
- Clarify when and how to use your own personal values
- Learn straightforward methods to help clients end affairs
- Facilitate the working-through of hurt, anger and betrayal
- Navigate the waters of what-to-ask and what-to-tell
Anger and Verbal Abuse in Couples Therapy
Anger and verbal abuse are serious problems in a relationship. Physical abuse needs to stop right away, and verbal abuse also needs to stop right away. The therapeutic problem is how to do that. Often, angry verbal abusers don't think they've got a problem. They may feel their anger is justified, and see the fault in their partner, not themselves. They make think it's their partner who needs to change, not them. Angry blamers are hard to change. Entitled, narcissistic people are hard to change. Abusers are hard to change.
But we've got to try. Often spouses bring these angry verbal abusers into treatment hoping and praying that we can stop the abuse. But how?
That's what this workshop is all about. Using a new model, Relational Empowerment Therapy, you will see a way of conceptualizing abuse in terms of boundaries and self-esteem. Then you will learn an intervention of empowering the victimized spouse and creating powerful motivation for the angry abuser to change their ways.
Of course, this doesn't work every time. But in my 25 years of doing therapy, this approach succeeds dramatically more than any other model I've seen.
This workshop will help you:
- Distinguish between healthy anger and unhealthy verbal abuse
- Explain different sub-types of verbal abuse
- Use the Time-Out method of repair
- Empower victims of verbal abuse with healthier self-esteem and boundaries
- Help perpetrators of verbal abuse become more respectful and appropriate
- Use the clients’ relationship as leverage for making significant, substantial change
Starting Well with Couples
The beginning of couples therapy is especially challenging. We need to establish rapport with two people at the same time. We need to hear and understand each one, but not let them wound the other. We need to calm their intensity, soften their blaming, and frustrate their wanting-to-get-us-on-their-side. We need to give them a positive therapy experience and instill hope. We need to motivate them to continue. We need to explain our policies, get informed consent, and make a next appointment.
Doing all this feels impossible. Because it IS impossible
Luckily, there is a better way to start couples therapy. I learned it from Dr. John Gottman, modified it, and have used it with more than 500 couples. I’ll be glad to teach you how to do it. The first three sessions are a couples assessment, before we even start couples therapy. What a difference that makes! It’s so much more do-able. You’ll be amazed at what at the change it makes in your practice.
This training will help you:
- Learn how to begin therapy with a new couple
- Understand John Gottman’s three-step couples assessment
- Decide how to implement your own couples assessment
- Assess each couples’ strengths, weaknesses and prognosis
- Identify the areas each couple needs to improve
- Formulate a specific treatment plan for each couple
- Give couples important feedback about their situation
- Establish your objectivity from the very beginning
Ethics in Couples Therapy
In couples therapy we've got two clients, not one. They can each want us to take their side. They can have different "best interests." They can have secrets from one another. They can disagree very intensely. They can hurt one another very deeply.
This is why couples therapy is so difficult. It's why we have special sections of our Ethics Codes on couples therapy. And why we need to be careful when we apply the Ethics Codes that were written for individual therapy. Yes, all those individual codes apply to couples therapy, but they need to be applied in a different context. Confidentiality, for instance, is more complicated when there are two clients.
It's important to learn the circumstances where couples therapy ethics differ from individual therapy ethics. We need to think about these situations ahead of time to prepare for them -- and make better decisions when these situations occur.
In this workshop, our four topics will be: (1) boundaries and loyalty; (2) confidentiality and secrets; (3) multiple therapies; and (4) therapist values. We will consider how each of these ethical issues has a special application in couples therapy.
This workshop will help you:
- Do better couples therapy
- With more confidence and less worry
- Know that you are handling issues ethically
- Clarify and improve your verbal and written informed consent
You will learn:
- Why you need to clarify “who is the client”
- Whether (and when) to see clients together versus individually
- How to respond to requests for secret-keeping
- Why you need a clear "secrets" policy
- When and how to use your own relationship in your couples therapy