Narratives, “Normal,” and More:
10 Common Mistakes in Couples Therapy—and What to Do Instead
Couples therapy is different from individual therapy, isn’t it? We have two people rather than one, plus a third entity—a system. Sometime we work with one, sometimes the other, and often the third. If only the two people would get out of the way and let us restructure that system!
Couples therapy provides a unique opportunity for patients to gang up on us, to tell us we just don’t understand their world, to complain that we’re taking sides, to cooperatively withhold important information, to tell colorful (often conflicting) stories that get us further and further from our clinical goals—all while demanding that the therapy move faster.
Given all the pressure and drama, it’s no surprise that couples therapists make mistakes. What’s interesting is how common certain mistakes are, recurring regardless of the therapist’s theoretical approach.
We’re always optimistic with a new couple. We have some ideas, develop a plan—
and then somehow find ourselves getting off course, caught up in the quarrel of the week, giving advice when we didn’t mean to. We may end up defending ourselves, or even criticizing the couple.
We start out focusing on meta-issues like power, agreements, and developmental concerns, only to be dragged back into content—and feeling powerless or self-critical.
Using case examples, we’ll cover topics including:
- The importance of setting goals for therapy, why couples resist this, and how to respond to complaints that the therapy isn’t working quickly enough.
- The role of couples’ narratives in maintaining their problems—and how we can turn that to clinical advantage
- How we unwittingly get caught up in the couple’s system
- How to deal with secrets
- Helping the couple continue the therapy between sessions—and what to do if they won’t
This practical webinar will describe situations you’ll face this coming week—with specific suggestions about how to manage them differently.