Monday, August 29, 2011

Couples Therapy 4

Marriage Enhancement is commonly a weekend workshop put on by churches or synagogues or temples. It wasn't developed as a 'religious' workshop but was picked up by the religious organizations because the premise of marriage enhancement is that marriages are best and that couples benefit from help keeping them together. The exact opposite of a marriage enhancement coordinator would be the divorce lawyer.  In these workshops, often a one day session though some go on in evenings over a few weeks,  newly married and long term married folk, mix and discuss issues,  share stories, and play some couple games.  By all accounts of those I've referred to these, the experience has been fun,  entertaining, inspirational and helped the couple improve their marriages. The cost of these workshops is kept low.  They are for the married people who want to stay married but would like to know how to do marriage better.
Virginia Satir was one of the earliest leaders in Couples Therapy. Indeed her name is often synonymous with Communication Therapy for Couples.Her writings are an excellent resource for training in the 'communication school' of therapy.  Her books  include actual written tracts of therapy with the words of Virginia indicating the therapists 'take' or response.  They are easily accessible and serve as excellent training manuals. I trained with Virginia Satir and love her work.  Unfortunately I have  found that most couples who come to see me in my referral psychiatric practice aren't  ready for "communication therapy'.  Couples who I've seen in the last few years have often consulted a divorce lawyer or are on the verge of breakup when I've been able to suggest alternatives.  I think it's best that there is  a 'ceasefire' in place for Virginia Satir's 'communication theory' to work.   Higher functioning couples do well with this approach and couples once they are no longer committed to killing their partner benefit greatly from this work. PD Seminars on Gabriola Island for many years held workshops for counsellors to learn the basic techniques which could help couples who were committed to relationships and wanted to learn resolution strategies.
"Structural Family Therapy" taught by the likes of Minuchin was a well established therapy for couples and families. There's a lot of scientific research and specific training for doing this advanced form of therapy which has a high likelihood of helping couples stay together when they are on the verge of separation.
Milton Erickson, MD, psychiatrist,  was the father of American Hypnosis.  He is the founder of the school of therapy called "Strategic Therapy".  This was studied by Cameron in Canada and found to be clearly an evidence based for of therapy which required fairly advanced training.  Jay Haley wrote the book "Uncommon Therapy" describing some of Erickson's cases and how he addressed couples with difficulties. The Ericksonian Foundation continues in Phoenix and every few years has an amazing workshop which looks at all the varieties of therapy used for couples and individuals which have derived from the 'interventionist' approach which originally was behind hypnotic therapies but has expanded to encompass the Palo Alto school and other 'change' therapies.  The idea isn't laissez faire but rather there is an agreed outcome and various forms of therapy and homework and exercises are given to achieve the desired outcome.  Paradoxical intervention, reframing, sympton suggestion, psychodrama techniques are all employed.
The Love Lab is a recent successful therapeutic approach for couples. The techniques utilized by therapists have resulted in 80% success rates for couples staying together after therapy is initiated. This evidence based approach and utilization of a variety of therapy approaches from previous schools of therapy is excellent. The weakness from a scientific point of view is that it is predominantly a 'business model' which markets it's work in a modern way with only limitted availability of the actual workshop content for general perusal.  In contrast Satir and Erickson shared their material fully without any issues of 'copywrite' so that those who are more inclined to 'share ware' approaches have objected to the cost of training and materials. On the other hand the outcome success of this model argues that commonly higher costs are associated with sometimes higher quality products.  What is available to review certainly supports the validity of this approach and I strongly recommend people go to the "Love Lab" site and read the material that is posted there as well as the books which are truly inspirational.
Alot of material is now available which can be said to optimize couples functioning.  Transactional Analysis, mediation therapies, communications couples therapies, Structural and strategic therapies, Ericksonian models, all have strong evidence based results.  The difficulty is finding adequately trained therapist.  To this end it's really useful to ask ahead and review the experience and training of the person doing the therapy.
Having a phd in Psychology might mean that a person is a specialist in mice behaviour. A clinical psychologist however is a person with a phd who has worked with patients.  A psychiatrist may have gone to a school which trained them predominantly in psychopharmacology whereas other psychiatrists are trained in both psychopharmacology and psychotherapy. However many psychiatric psychotherapists and psychological psychotherapists have never been formally trained in couples therapy. Social workers have had a major contribution to the field of couples therapy given that couples therapy is more a 'sociological' external phenomena than internal 'psychological' phenomena.  Clearly a social worker who has specialized in couples therapy would be more desirable than a counsellor with limitted experience. More and more too ministers and priests have recognised that their training in pastoral counselling can be coupled with formal couples therapy to result in a stronger basis for therapeutic intervention than might a person coming from an 'insight' based therapeutic background.

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