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Making Partners Therapists for Each Other

In a Good Relationship, Your Problems Aren't Yours Alone

Ellen Wachtel

By Ellen Wachtel - In couples therapy, if we can help each partner be a better therapist for the other, all three of us can feel more helpful and effective. My favorite way is to start by using a particular exercise to provide a window into each partner’s psyche.

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VIDEO: When One Partner Wants Out

Discernment Counseling for the Mixed-Agenda Couple

Bill Doherty

In at least 30 percent of couples who come to therapy, partners enter the consulting room with different agendas---one wants a divorce, the other wants to save the marriage. Bill Doherty, cofounder of The Doherty Relationship Institute and director of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project, says the stakes are high in this scenario and traditional approaches fall short with these mixed-agenda couples.

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Can Couples Therapy Work with Only One Partner?

Action-Oriented Strategies for the Couples Therapist

Michele Weiner-Davis

Many therapists define the type of therapy they practice by taking a head count: if one person is present, they're practicing individual therapy; if two or more people are present, it's couples or family therapy. I believe this is misguided. The key to determining which brand of therapy is in use at any given point lies in the therapist's orientation and focus, not the number of people occupying space in the room. In contrast to therapists who question the value of doing couples therapy with individuals, this approach is often my method of choice for a variety of reasons. I find it can empower people by showing them that they no longer have to play the waiting game of "I'll change if you change first." Instead, they find themselves back in the driver's seat of their own lives.

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When the Therapeutic Alliance Makes Clients Dependent

When Should We Stop Seeing Difficult Therapy Clients?

David Treadway

After 22 years, I can still see Amy sitting there, cross-legged, with her arms folded across her chest. This case had been emotionally devastating for me. Amy began calling me at home. Then she began making hang-up phone calls, started cutting her wrists again and threatened suicide. Years after terminating therapy with Amy, she called me again, begging for me to treat her. I agreed. She was caught in the vortex once more and, like a complete fool, so was I.

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The Rebirth of Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment

How Marsha Linehan Revolutionized Therapy with DBT

Katy Butler, Katy Butler

For decades, most clinicians who had a choice avoided borderline clients, while agency staff (who couldn't) went through the motions with a sense of futility. Therapy consisted of guarding against "manipulation" and mining the borderline's reactions to the therapist for clues to her fragmented inner world. It was hard on clients---and on therapists as well. Then, in 1991, a behavioral psychologist and Zen student at the University of Washington named Marsha Linehan introduced an alternative. Her treatment was called Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT.

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Does Couples Therapy Work? When Therapists Avoid These Mistakes, It Does.

Therapy Tools for the Novice Marriage Counselor

William Doherty

Couples sessions can be scenes of rapid escalation uncommon in individual therapy, and even in family therapy. Lose control over the process for 15 seconds and you can have a couple fighting with each other to the point where the argument dominates the rest of the session, each partner wondering why they're paying you to watch them mix it up.As in any sport or art form, there are beginners' mistakes. Here are a few of them.

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It Takes One to Tango

You Don't Need Both Partners to Do Couples Therapy

Michele Weiner-Davis

Many therapists define the type of therapy they practice by taking a head count: if one person is present, they're practicing individual therapy; if two or more people are present, it's couples or family therapy. I believe this is misguided the key to determining which brand of therapy is in use at any given point lies in the therapist's orientation and focus, not the number of people occupying space in the room. In contrast to therapists who question the value of doing couples therapy with individuals, this approach is often my method of choice for a variety of reasons. I find it can empower people by showing them that they no longer have to play the waiting game of "I'll change if you change first." Instead, they find themselves back in the driver's seat of their own lives.

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Bad Couples Therapy

Betting Past the Myth of Therapist Neutrality

William Doherty

Most therapists learn couples therapy after they get licensed--through workshops and by trial and error. Most specialize in individual therapy, and work with couples on the side. So it's not surprising that the only form of therapy that received low ratings in a famous national survey of therapy clients, published in 1996 by Consumer Reports, was couples therapy. The state of the art in couples therapy isn't very artful. I'll start with beginners' mistakes and then describe how couples therapy can go south, even in the hands of experienced therapists.

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Revolution on the Horizon

DBT Challenges the Borderline Diagnosis

Katy Butler, Katy Butler

DBT was no walk in the park: it required team treatment, including weekly individual therapy, a year-long "skills training" class, telephone coaching and supportive supervision for the therapist. But it offered clients and therapists alike a way out of chaos--a systematic clinical package that integrated the technical and analytical strengths of behaviorism, the subtleties of Zen training, the warmth and acceptance of relationship-centered therapies and the often undervalued power of psychoeducation.

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The End of Innocence

Reconsidering Our Concepts of Victimhood

Dusty Miller

As a systems therapist, incest survivor, and recovering alcoholic, I've lived through several stages of our culture's attempt to come to terms with child sexual abuse--as a victim in the silent 1950s; as a therapy client in the oblivious 1960s and 1970s; and as a psychotherapist in the 1980s and 1990s, when once-dismissed accounts of abuse filled my therapy practice (and my television screen) only to be partly discredited within the decade during another swing of the cultural pendulum.

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