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5 Minute Therapy Tips - Episode 18: Couples Therapy

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hi this is Jeff zag and I'm in the

training room of the Milton Erickson

Foundation in Phoenix Arizona with

another five minute tip for therapists

this time what I'd like to do is to talk

a little bit about couples therapy oh my

gosh how can you talk about couples

therapy in five minutes but let's talk

about the opening of a couple's session

when couples come into therapy

oftentimes they're supercharged to talk

about the complaint and the complaint

has something to do with somebody else

changing their state or the person who's

complaining changing his own state so

it's important and can be very important

to listen to the complaint at least for

a little bit but we could also start a

couple session in a very

solution-focused way an idea that that

I've used many times is to ask a couple

consider the John F Kennedy question the

John F Kennedy question as applied to

couples ask not with this marriage this

relationship can do for you ask what you

can do for the relationship if you got

the idea that you just wanted to

increase improve something about your

relationships something simple a J and D

adjust noticeable difference the field

of psychology started with introspection

in which they were trying to create a

map of human perception and human

sensation and so they would put

something in a person's hand and say do

you feel that and then they would take a

little more or a little less trying to

create a map by introspection of what

sensation was like in the human body

okay what could you do that's just one

simple J and a just noticeable

difference that could make your marriage

better imagine that your partner isn't

in the room and that you're just talking

with me what is it that you would do and

actually it can take a lot of time to

simplify this I could send a text

message I could smile more I could reach

out and touch my partner a little bit

more but something that the person could

commit themselves to and then to ask the

other partner the same thing now the

idea here is that the complaint centers

around a calcified pattern we could

consider that calcified pattern a game

people are involved in sequences that

may not lead them to adaptive places and

so can we substitute one game for

another game and in this game the idea

would be OK at the end of the week

catch your partner tell your partner

what were the things that your partner

did that were J and DS that were just

noticeable differences that we're done

intentionally to make the relationship

just a little bit better now if we can

orient couples from the early part of

the session that rather than talking

about problems we can begin a solution

focused method a solution focused method

that Orient's the couple into positive

things things that they can do to

improve their relationship yes again we

do need to listen to the complaints we

need to understand what the complaints

are but we can start to focus people on

things that they can do that are more

positive now one of the things that I

often do with couples is to do some kind

of sculptural metaphor earlier in this

sequence we talked about metaphors so

let's create a metaphor of what it is

that you want in your partnership and

let's have you position your partner and

yourself in relation to your partner to

create an image of what it is that you

want in your relationship then let's

turn roles now yes you could spend

plenty of time talking about that but it

might be at that point that a simple

thing that you can do is to take a

photograph that you can put as a

screensaver on your iPhone for example

and use that as a memory device to bring

to mind what it is that you're really

looking for in your relationship so one

possibility is to orient the couple into

an IPS if you're a sports psychologist

you know that there's an IPS an ideal

performing state for the task that

you're going to do as an athlete an

ideal performing state for a golfer is

different from the ideal performing

state of alignment and a football game

we want to help people to recognize that

they can transition more seamlessly more

easily than they think into the ideal

performing states that make

relationships work one of the ways of

doing that is by focusing on the John F

Kennedy Kennedy question one of the ways

of doing that is to create a sculpture

perhaps even without naming it or

discussing it this is what I really want

symbolically speaking this is Jeff zeig

in Phoenix Arizona at the Milton

Erickson Foundation offices with another

five minute tip for therapists thank you

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you

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