Attachment theory posits, along with those healthy ones, the ‘securely attached,” two important types of troubled groups – those with “anxious,” and “avoidant,” attachment styles. Said in plain English, this amounts to pursuers and distancers. But the pursuer/distancer dynamic has been a central concern to couples and family therapy since it’s inception in the nineteen-fifties. This workshop will look at some of the many ways this dynamic has been thought of and treated – from recursive feedback loops, to “love addiction/love avoidance,” to attachment styles and beyond.
Affairs can have a devastating impact on couple relationships. Emotionally Focused Therapy provides a powerful way to intervene when there has been an affair. This workshop provides a typology of different types of affairs and treatment strategies for each type. Using video and case demonstration, participants will learn how to identify, manage, and bring healing and safety to couple relationships when there has been an affair.
Gay men face unique challenges regarding intimacy, communication and personal autonomy. Hiding due to being gay along with being raised male, creates a dynamic of distancing as the norm. The goal of psychotherapy is to accept and verbalize vulnerabilities in a context of safety, encourage revealing oneself for the sake of self-acceptance, and to learn how to receive nurturance from others. This workshop will define the art of how to gain connection while maintaining autonomy. There will also be an emphasis on sexuality and how specific attachment styles effects choices related to safety, security and risky sexual practices.
All couples and couples therapies struggle with issues of mixed loyalties. At any given moment, do I choose my own fulfillment as an individual or do I yield to the needs of the relationship? Is it a zero-sum game in which one partner wins and one loses – and if not, how else can we think about it? This keynote address introduces a model integrating both attachment and differentiation in couples therapy through the idea of enlightened self-interest – taking care of yourself by taking care of the relationship – as well as a model of healthy sacrifice, which is missing in our contemporary, Narcissistic culture.
Research confirms our clinical experience. We can teach partners all manner of skills but in moments of triggering, emotional flooding, skills go out the window. Why? Because we are no longer in our adult selves. Our thinking brain has shut down and the limbic system has taken over. An inner child part has seized the wheel. This workshop introduces a model of working with the traumatized parts of the partners we treat by empowering individuals to come into conscious relationship with those parts—loving, understanding, and ultimately containing them.
Two particularly challenging issues that surface in couples therapy are addiction and self absorption. Through the lens of the Developmental Model of Couples Therapy, Sue and Ellyn will describe how to make strategic treatment decisions that propel couples toward sobriety and more collaborative functioning. They will review the troublesome traits of the self-absorbed partner and illuminate ways to increase other-differentiation and increase caring and compassion.
Engaging withdrawn men in therapy is often challenging, particularly when the man is engaged in compulsive sexual behaviors such as affairs and pornography. Therapists will learn to how to engage withdrawers both with their own internal experience and disowned aspects of the self and with their partner. Therapy video will be used to demonstrate the process.
Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher discusses three brain systems that evolved for mating and reproduction: the sex drive; feelings of intense romantic love; and feelings of deep attachment to a long term partner. She then focuses on her brain scanning research (using fMRI) on romantic rejection and the trajectory of love addiction following rejection. She concludes with discussion of the brain circuits associated with long-term partnership happiness and the future of relationships in the digital age—what she calls “slow love.”