Archive for October, 2009

Oct 13 2009

Here Are the Most Common Goals I Suggest During the Beginning of Couples Therapy

Goals for Couples

1.    Learn and use a structured communication model with strict rules about speaking and listening.

2.    Learn and correct mistakes related to speaking, including judgment focus, generalizing, blaming, criticizing, mind reading and ambushing.

3.    Learn and correct the mistakes related to listening, including defensiveness, personalizing, maintaining a negative filter, ambushing, criticism, contempt and reactivity.

4.    Learn and understand the impact of facial expressions, tone of voice, body language and other non-verbal cues in effective communication.

5.    Learn the importance of accepting responsibility for self-care and self-soothing. (We are all responsible for ourselves.)

6.    Learn to use the Cognitive Restructuring written tool and other Cognitive Therapy methods found in the Smart Recovery Tools and Homework website ( to correct distortions and errors in thinking and communication, both in and out of session.

I will discuss and explain these concepts in further posts.

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Oct 12 2009

Listening to Build Closeness

Listening is actually a very complicated process.
Here are examples of reflective listening responses:

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Oct 12 2009


Practice makes perfect and helps train the brain…it all gets easier the more you do it.Turning down the volume of conversations will help too. We can hear each other pretty well, if we feel like raising our voices, it is likely a time for a time-out. Have a cup of tea, do some breathing, then come back later to the conversation.

When I do listening exercises in session with couples, it helpfsto reduce the levels of conflict and create a warmer space for them to be with each other. There is a little hope that things can get better at home.

At the end of the communication exercise, I ask couples to give each other feedback about what they liked about this new way of talking with each other.

Here are some of the things that couples say to each other:

“I liked the way you expressed your feelings so directly.”

“you listened carefully to what I was saying”

“I liked hearing you reflect back what I was saying to you”

“hearing my words reflected back gave me a chance to hear what I was saying…I could evaluate and clarify my words, so I could say what I really mean”

“when I was listening, I realized how much I would argue and try to win the debate, rather than really listen to what you were saying”

“I realized how much what I usually say is blaming…I am not really talking about what I think, feel and want…rather how much I try to make to blame for my unhappiness”

Using words connected to honest feelings is the only way to create an intimate relationship.

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Oct 10 2009

Slow Down and Listen To Each Other

Couples often are skeptical about their ability to slow down and listen to each other. They look at me with extreme doubt, as if to say, “really, who listens to their partner and then says, “…so what I hear you saying is….”

It’s true that such a slow, deliberate and careful way of speaking to each other seems unnatural. Part of the reason may be that couples don’t do this very much and so our brains are not used to communication style.

While pop psychology leads us to believe that men and women are so different, “men are from mars and women are from venus”, the truth is that men and women are more similar than different.

Men and women are both from earth!

All of us are born with the same essential capacity to listen, nurture, be intimate, and love. Our personal history, especially our family experience is what differentiates us.

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Oct 10 2009

Empathy: A Way to Build Intimacy

Empathy is our ability to deeply understand and relate to the thoughts, feelings, and life experience of others.Some of the ways we express empathy are by making eye contact, listening closely, reflecting back the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing from the other person.
Husbands and wives, life partners, significant others, parents and children, all experience empathy as the vital source of support and love.

When someone we love is hurting, it is a wonderful gift to spend time with them, listening, and reflecting back to them that we understand how they are feeling.

Next time you are alone with your partner, sit down with them, get close, look into their eyes, ask them how their day was and how they are feeling. It will be good for you too.

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Oct 10 2009

Find a Peaceful Place to Relax

Prepare to relax by finding a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed for 15 to 20 minutes…loosen any tight or restrictive clothing and remember that learning to relax is learning to allow relaxation to happen.Your body knows how to relax and as you begin to breathe more deeply, relax your muscles, and use peaceful imagery you will be able to relax, feel more comfortable, and manage challenges more easily.

So, the keys so far are comfortable, loose fitting clothing, stretching and relaxing our muscles, finding a quiet, peaceful place, and breathing deeply.

It’s a start.

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Oct 10 2009

Learn to Reduce the Stress in Your Life

Key to achieving any goals in life is to learn to relax. Stress makes everything more difficult, and worse, can lead to high anxiety or deep depression.So, in the spirit of starting out the right way, here is a script for you to follow in your efforts to develop the life you deserve.

Relaxation Suggestions:

Here are some basic tips about learning to relax:

1. Learning to relax is like anything new, the more you practice, the more skillful you become.

2. Wear loose fitting clothing and use your favorite chair or couch whenever you are trying to relax.

3. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugar, or anything that may make it difficult to relax.

4. Create a support group of people who care about you.

5. Get a massage, listen to music, take long walks outdoors, or anything that can help you feel more comfortable.

These are general suggestions for learning to relax. Now, we move on to more specific ideas.

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