“One of the key challenges facing marriage and family therapy today is that graduate schools are not teaching their students couples therapy skills.”
Dr. Ellyn Bader, co-founder of the The Couples Institute, kicked off the 2018 Couples Conference with this call to universities around the nation to improve their offerings in support of healthy relationships and families. Over the next 3 days, participants, including Pam Costa, a Holistic Counseling Studies graduate and founder of Down To There, listened to experienced therapists discussing attachment, differentiation and neuroscience, and how we can use insights from these theories in the therapy room.
Costa said “It was great hearing leaders in the field such as Ellyn Bader, Stan Tatkin, Helen Fisher and Esther Perel share their experiences and openly debate various approaches and perspectives. Unlike individual therapy, couples therapy often requires a much more directive stance, and I walked away from the conference with a newfound appreciation for how to do that with my clients.”
Similar to John and Julie Gottman’s research which shows that it’s not necessarily about helping couples resolve the conflict itself, Bader suggests that couples therapy more often entails helping a couple respond to and navigate conflict in a more productive manner. Throughout the conference, Bader led the audience through several interventions designed to help couples better understand what they are fighting for, what outcome they desire, and how to engage in a way that better supports that outcome.
Costa especially enjoyed an intervention called the Paper Exercise which Bader adapted from The Couples Journey by Susan Campbell, saying that she’s used the intervention with many of her clients since the conference and found it useful in helping clients better acknowledge and inquire about difference between their desires and their partner’s desires, as well as learn to give and receive.
In addition to the discussions on attachment, differentiation and neuroscience, a variety of other topics were also discussed at the conference include sexuality, non-monogamy and polyamory. Presenters on these topics pointed to the growing number of clients curious about improving their sex lives and/or exploring non-traditional relationship styles, suggesting that becoming more knowledgeable about these topics will be critical for couples therapists moving forward.
John F. Kennedy University is pleased to offer several upcoming courses focused specifically on couples therapy including: Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT): Helping Couples Form a Secure Attachment Bond on June 23 and Relationship Repair After Infidelity on August 10-11 (CEUS available).