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So Your Client Is Having an Affair...

Should You Be a Secret-Keeper or is Honesty the Best Policy?

Michele Scheinkman

By Michele Scheinkman - Underlying the perceived magnitude of an affair is an idealized view of marriage as the "shelter" in our lives, with a primary function of providing emotional security and attunement. I've found it perplexing that, although we live in an ostensibly liberal and sexually permissive society, therapists typically have one-track minds regarding how to approach infidelity.

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January Quandary: Should I Keep One Partner’s Secret in Couples Therapy?

Five Clinicians Give Their Take

Chris Lyford

By Chris Lyford - Mark and his wife, Nicole, have been in couples therapy for almost six months. But Mark recently requested an individual session, where he revealed he recently shared a kiss with an old girlfriend and has plans to rekindle their friendship. He's asked his therapist to keep the whole thing a secret. Here's how five clinicians say they'd tackle the situation.

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Should You Take Sides in Couples Therapy?

Why Psychotherapy's Views on Male Intimacy Need to Change

Terry Real

By Terry Real - The pressure to be hard, logical, independent, and stoic all too often sets men up to be emotionally distant, arrogant, and numb to their own feelings. These aren't pathological aberrations; they're the defining characteristics of manhood in our culture. That's why I break one of marital therapy's cardinal rules. I side with the woman.

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The Liberating Power of Honesty

What People Don't Know Can Hurt Them. What They Don't Reveal Can Hurt Even More

Frank Pittman

By Frank Pittman - When we therapists believe a secret's revelations would be dangerous, the client receives a frightening message about him- or herself and about the world. We may accept our patients and make psychodynamic, systemic or sociological excuses for them, while still conveying that their secret is unacceptable. Thus, while explicitly "supporting" them, we implicitly undermine their sense that they are fundamentally decent, acceptable people.

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Keeping Secrets When Everyone Already Knows Them

A Therapist in Small-Town America Struggles with New Ethical Dilemmas

Jan Michael Sherman

By Jan Michael Sherman - When my wife and I moved to a place in the Yukon so small that when someone sneezed at one end of town, someone at the other end reached for the Kleenex, I quickly found that practicing therapy could get pretty tricky. Not only did everyone know everyone else's business, everyone was in everyone else's business.

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Esther Perel’s Growing Cultural Presence

Expanding the Conversation on Couplehood

Lauren Dockett, Rich Simon

By Lauren Dockett and Rich Simon - By questioning some of the fundamental premises of traditional marriage, couples therapist Esther Perel has become, at least for the moment, psychotherapy’s public face and most quotable voice. But what is she saying that’s so intriguing and makes her stand out from all the other relationship experts our field produces?

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After an Affair, How Much Should Be Shared?

How to Have an Honest Discussion Without Accusations and Defensiveness

Shirley Glass

By Shirley Glass - How much to share and when to share are issues that confront every couple trying to recover from the discovery of infidelity. I actively structure the timing and the process of disclosure because I've found that revealing the details of an affair is seldom constructive in the presence of uncontrolled emotional intensity or unresolved ambivalence about the future of the marriage.

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Affair Repair

Two Contradictions That Can Help Couples on the Brink Restore Connection

Michele Weiner-Davis

By Michele Weiner-Davis - Couples therapy can be difficult and dicey, especially when there’s an affair in the mix. To keep afloat in the emotional tumult, most therapists cling to certain hard-and-fast rules that form the foundation of their work. One therapist learns some surprising lessons when she reevaluates those tenets.

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Mind-Mapping: The Spark in Couples Conflict?

David Schnarch Explains How to Look for Mind-Mapping in Therapy

David Schnarch

Rather than being triggered by fear, shame, or insecurity, some people do hurtful things with impunity and entitlement to gratify their own needs and wishes. In marriage, they’re engaging in the form of relationship with which they’re most familiar, one that, in fact, they prefer. The key to grasping the roots of this “inner game” is to understand the brain’s ability to map another person’s mind---what I call “mind-mapping. Marriage is inconceivable without some degree of mind-mapping: you need it to understand wants and desires. Of course, it comes in handy if you want to be a good liar, manipulator, or adulterer.

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Erotic Intelligence

Reconciling Sensuality and Domesticity

Esther Perel

America, in matters of sex as in much else, is a goal-oriented society that prefers explicit meanings, candor, and "plain speech" to ambiguity and allusion, the former encouraged by many therapists in their patients. But I often suggest an alternative with my clients: "There's so much direct talk already in the everyday conversations couples have with each other," I tell them. "If you want to create more passion in your relationship, why don't you play a little more with the natural ambiguity of gesture and words, and the rich nuances inherent in communication."

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