COLLABORATIVE COUPLE THERAPY: TURNING FIGHTS INTO CONVERSATIONS AND PROBLEMS INTO OPPORTUNITIES FOR INTIMACY
DESCRIPTION OF WORKSHOP
Even the most experienced therapists can be challenged in their efforts to move couples beyond the patterns of intense adversarial interaction and withdrawal that frequently characterize couple conflict. Collaborative Couple Therapy, developed by the renowned Dan Wile, PhD, provides therapists with a unique model for moving couples beyond this spiral of alienation and into a cycle of connection.
The purpose of this workshop is to present the principles of Collaborative Couple Therapy and equip participants to begin to use doubling—the signature method of this approach—in their own therapeutic work. When you double, you speak as if you were one of the partners talking to the other. The person you’re speaking for now has someone on their side helping them make their point. And they generally need help. Left to their own devices, people in conflict typically express their wishes as complaints and their needs as demands, leading to bad feeling, power struggles, and despair. Therapists tend to treat such gridlocked interactions as expressions of character pathology, ghosts of the past, personality clashes, or long-nursed grudges.
Dan Wile sees the heart of the problem as loss of voice—the inability of partners to express their inner yearnings and fears. They feel alone in their experience. Hopelessness sets in. This is “loss of voice”—whether it takes the form of kicking and screaming or quiet withdrawn desperation.
In Collaborative Couple Therapy, we take the problem that is occurring at the moment and, by giving voice to each partner’s experience, transform it into a moment of intimacy. Doubling is an excellent way to show partners how to give voice to their experience. When Partner A snaps angrily at Partner B in a manner that appears likely to escalate the situation, the therapist moves in and recasts the statement. If Joe says to Mary, “It’s always about you. You’re selfish. You never consider anyone else. You never think about me at all,” the therapist, doubling for Joe, says, “As you can see, I’m angry” or “I worry you’re going to leave me” or “I fear we’re drifting apart” or “I worry you don’t like me anymore” or “I miss the way we use to be” or “What happened to us?” The therapist transforms Joe’s blurted out accusation into a disarming self-disclosure by bringing out the wish or fear hidden in the complaint.
In Collaborative Couple Therapy, the therapist creates an intimate conversation by introducing into the couple dialogue the haunting feelings that each partner struggles with alone. The ability to have such conversations when needed tranforms the relationship into a curative force for dealing with the issues that arise in the relationship. John and Julie Gottman, who use doubling in their acclaimed couple therapy approach, have granted Dan the honor of calling their use of this method, “Doing a Dan Wile.”
YOU’LL LEARN HOW TO:
- Serve as each partner’s spokesperson and advocate
- Bring out what each partner is struggling with in a way that gets everyone empathizing
- Find ways to empathize with the less likeable partner
- Catch the fight before it escalates
- Uncover the wish or fear concealed in the partner’s complaint
- Turn partners into joint troubleshooters in dealing with relationship challenges
TESTIMONIALS FROM PREVIOUS WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS
Engaging, funny, and insightful.”
“Dan’s style encourages and stimulates discussion and vulnerability. Consequently the discussion was exciting and lively.”
“I enjoyed this workshop very much. You were clear, straightforward, have a good sense of humor, no “star” ego-trip, and are invested in us learning. I am usually quite critical of training workshops, so my compliments are earned (not just polite).”
“Terrifically well organized, meaty, and entertaining.”
“I was delighted, charmed, and inspired.”
“Everybody loved him and everybody loved his presentation.”
“The training has been consistently useful. I especially find the format of both didactic and clinical discussion helpful. But, above all, it is Dan himself who brings the most clarity to the understanding of couples and his style models an extremely effective way to intervene in a non-pejorative way.”
EMAIL SENT ON A LISTSERVE PRIOR TO DAN’S GIVING A WORKSHOP
Stay away from Dan Wile’s training if, in order to pique your interest, you need:
- to feel you’re in the presence of the “greatness” of an inflated ego
- to hear word followed by brilliant and erudite word, without the hindrance of real-life application
- to maintain a sense of perfection as a therapist – rather than to face your inner struggles
However, if you are interested in a couples orientation presented by a truly humble and authentic individual and an outstanding expert in the field, one who:
- strips away your masks, exposing the inner voice of the vulnerable therapist lurking beneath your professional persona as you perform a therapy session
- empowers you with tools to that facilitates each partner to bring forth their voice in the session and have their message – at long last – be heard by their partners,
then look no further.
This is not a paid announcement – political or otherwise; ) It is a tribute to the man in the field who has made the greatest impact on the services I provide in the room, transforming and empowering my sessions. I find couples work to be among the most demanding and challenging of specialty areas and am deeply thankful for Dan’s contribution to the field. Although I have trained with David Schnarch (differentiation) Sue Johnson (need I say attachment?) and the Bader’s (Developmental Model) among others, it is Dan’s voice that has left the greatest imprimatur on my treatment of couples.
If you enjoy the presentation, check out Dan’s text “Couple’s Therapy: A Nontraditional Approach. ” This book is a powerful resource, in that it compares and contrasts the interventions of a number of orientations to a given issue and provides a rationale for his collaborative approach in a clear and concise manner.
Looking forward to shared growth and professional development.
Malki Spira, LMHC
THE MAJOR ELEMENTS OF THE WORKSHOP
POSITIONS. In order to do couple therapy you need a position: a way to make sense of the flood of material coming at you and a plan for how to intervene. Dan lists common positions as an introduction to describing his own.
THEORY OF RELATIONSHIPS. Dan uses a fight with his partner to lay out his theory of relationships and the couple therapy approach that emerges out of it.
LIVE DEMONSTRATION. Using volunteers from the audience to role-play the partners, Dan demonstrates his therapeutic approach, making asides to the audience in which he describes what he’s thinking and feeling.
THE THERAPIST’S INNER DIALOGUE. Using volunteers from the audience to help him read from a prepared script, Dan describes the conversation he has with himself while doing couple therapy. We see here the hidden tempestuous life of the therapist.
THE SOURCE OF THE PARTNERS’ PROBLEM is loss of voice – the inability to express what they feel or even recognize fully what it is. Partners take these feelings that make them uneasy and sweep them under the rug or turn them into something the other is doing wrong – that is, they avoid or blame.
THE TASK OF THERAPY is to turn the couple’s avoidant or angry interaction into an intimate conversation by discovering the missing heartfelt feelings and creating a joint platform (re-assembling the relationship on the next higher level).
THE PARTNERS’ INNER DIALOGUES. A clue to the partners’ missing heartfelt feelings is in their inner dialogues – what they say to themselves while talking to each other. A task of therapy is to bring out these inner dialogues.
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