Session 1

This course is designed for counselors and psychotherapists who work with individuals but have little knowledge or experience of working directly with relationships, or who may have worked with relationships in the past but are a bit rusty. This is the first of four linked CPD days over the next two years which will build competency in relationship therapy, covering key aspects of process as well as common content issues that come up in relationship work. These sessions are pluralistic in approach, drawing on theories and practices from a range of modalities. Attendees are encouraged to bring in ideas and techniques from their own modalities. This first session focuses on the basic process of couple work. We will cover the ways in which the dynamic of therapy alters when there are two clients rather than one. We will address some of the main techniques which therapists employ when working with couples, as well as some pitfalls to be avoided. We will also introduce the different options which are possible for couple work (in terms of length of sessions, alternating sessions, etc.) Possibilities will be tried out in practical exercises during the day.

Session 2

This course is designed for counselors and psychotherapists who work with individuals but have little knowledge or experience of working directly with relationships, or who may have worked with relationships in the past but are a bit rusty. This is the second of four linked CPD days which build competency in relationship therapy, covering key aspects of process as well as common content issues that come up in relationship work. These sessions are pluralistic in approach, drawing on theories and practices from a range of modalities. Attendees are encouraged to bring in ideas and techniques from their own modalities.

Following from the first session, which focused on the process of relationship therapy, this second session focuses on content: the common tensions which come up when working with people in relationships. In the morning we will explore the ways in which conflicts play out in relationships, considering how these escalate and practices which therapists can encourage in their clients to de-escalate conflict. We will examine the power of stories in conflict, key times of conflict in relationships, stuck dynamics, and ways of developing empathy for oneself and the other. In the afternoon we will turn to common underlying tensions which occur within relationships. A key goal of relationship therapy is often to make these underlying tensions explicit in order to understand why certain issues frequently lead to conflict. We will concentrate on the key tension of freedom and belonging, considering the multiple ways in which this manifests in disputes around space, privacy, monogamy, relationship decisions, commitment, etc. During the morning we will engage in self-reflected exercises to increase our understanding of conflict and its resolution. In the afternoon we will practice some therapeutic possibilities in role-play.

Session 3

This course is designed for counsellors and psychotherapists who work with individuals but have less knowledge or experience of working directly with relationships, or who may have worked with relationships in the past but are a bit rusty. This is the third of four linked CPD days which build competency in relationship therapy, covering key aspects of process as well as common content issues that come up in relationship work. These sessions are pluralistic in approach, drawing on theories and practices from a range of modalities. Attendees are encouraged to bring in ideas and techniques from their own modalities. It is useful, for this session, if attendees have been to the first session or have engaged in some relationship therapy themselves as it builds upon the basic skills of relationship therapy.

Following from the first session, which focused on the process of relationship therapy, this playful and creative session aims at building our toolbox of practices which may be useful when working with couples or other relationships. During the day we will try out a number of techniques and practices from different approaches to counselling and psychotherapy (e.g. CBT, solution-focused therapy, systemic therapy, narrative therapy, Gestalt therapy, transactional analysis). In order to experience them we will apply them to our own relationship experience. We will do this for three main reasons:

  • Reflexively examining our own relationships will give us more understanding of them, and of our own beliefs about relationships, which is invaluable for undertaking relationship therapy. We will have a better idea where we are coming from and what our assumptions are about relationships might be, and will therefore be better able to bracket this when working with clients.
  • We can build a toolkit of techniques which may be useful with clients. If we are planning to apply them in therapy it is important that we try them ourselves to understand what it is like to be on the receiving end and how they might be experienced by clients.
  • The practices will give us a flavour of how various theoretical approaches to counselling and psychotherapy understand and work with relationships. This may provide useful pointers to what resonates with us for our ongoing training and professional development.

Session 4

This course is designed for counselors and psychotherapists who work with individuals but have little knowledge or experience of working directly with relationships, or who may have worked with relationships in the past but are a bit rusty. This is the last of four linked CPD days over the next two years which will build competency in relationship therapy, covering key aspects of process as well as common content issues that come up in relationship work. These sessions are pluralistic in approach, drawing on theories and practices from a range of modalities. Attendees are encouraged to bring in ideas and techniques from their own modalities.

Following from the previous sessions, which focused on aspects of the process and content of relationship therapy which apply across all kinds of relationships, this final session considers how we might work across different kinds of relationships. To begin with we will consider various aspects of sociocultural diversity which may impact on how relationships are experienced (e.g. race and culture, religion, age, geographical location, class, gender, sexuality, etc.) For the rest of this day we will focus on working with people in different gender combinations and in different styles of relationship. Most relationship therapy (often even called ‘couple therapy’ or ‘marital therapy’) assumes monogamy, therefore the afternoon will focus on various kinds of non-monogamous relationships and how to work with these in therapy.