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Why is the Developmental Model So Helpful for Couples Counseling?

Reaching out for therapy is a big step and it’s totally normal to feel a sense of anxiety or fear about starting couples counseling. Maybe you have a bad preconception of what marriage or couples counseling is. We’ve all heard from friends or seen on TV the unpleasant challenges and dissatisfaction partners express that can leave you feeling vulnerable.  People often worry that their partner will use the counselor against them to highlight their faults and flaws. Or maybe their life is already filled with so much stress, the last thing they want to do is add in another chore that’s going to dredge up all their issues.  We can understand that apprehension. Thankfully, that is not the type of relationship counseling our therapists offer.  

What Is The Developmental Model?

The Developmental Model for marriage and couples counseling is a tested approach to counseling developed by Dr. Ellyn Bader and Dr. Peter Pearson over 30 years ago. It’s an internationally recognized form of counseling that has helped benefit tens of thousands of couples across the U.S. and worldwide.  Hundreds of counselors go each year to the Couples Institute in Menlo Park, California to attend the acclaimed training program and learn about utilizing the Developmental Model in their practices. Therapists who received training in the Developmental Model are listed in Psychology Today and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) as skilled therapists for adult relationships. 

What’s The Developmental Model’s Approach To Marriage Counseling?

Good news! If you’re someone who’s feared counseling in the past, you can expect a different focus and energy from what you might have imagined. In the Developmental Model, you’re encouraged to focus on the strengths of your marriage, not being stuck on mistakes from last week. The goal of each session is to embrace growth, change, and forward motion.  With the Developmental Model, couples are taught to see the challenges that naturally occur in marriages as part of the normal struggle for growth and wholeness, instead of as an illness or problem that needs fixing.  The goal is to help you see life as a developmental process in which we as humans are constantly challenged to continually grow through different stages. By learning to understand where we’re at in these different stages, we can refocus our attention on breaking patterns or having empathy for our partners when they’re working through a stage in their journey. 

The Stages Of The Developmental Model Are:

Symbiosis – Exclusive bonding where we experience the ecstasy of giving and receiving from a special someone.  Differentiation – Managing anxiety over the differences that emerge as we notice each other’s imperfections.  Exploration – Learning to have your own identity and self-esteem, independent of how the relationship is faring.  Re-Connection – Thinking more productively about differences and disagreements, instead of having automatic negative responses.  Synergy – Ability to relate to your partner with your true self, and the relationship becomes more vital than each partner separately.  Relationships move through the stages in various, non-linear ways. Often, one partner will be at a different stage than the other. That’s OK. The Developmental Model teaches us how to appreciate the flow between stages and to see our struggles as normal phases in development.  We understand that it is hard to work on something when you lack motivation. Counselors trained in the Developmental Model help refocus you and your partner on your strengths. Focusing on your individual and shared strengths helps you find the motivation to work on improving your relationship both during your counseling session and when you’re at home. 

What’s the Goal of the Developmental Model?

While the specific goals of couples therapy differ among each couple, the general goal of the Developmental Model is to help you become a better partner and a more effective team.  Counselors work with you to help you better understand yourself and your partner so that you can gain insights into how you interact with each other and how you can break ineffective patterns to build better ones.  Through your therapy sessions, you will gain clarity about:
  • The kind of life you want to build together
  • The kind of partner you aspire to be
  • The kind of individual blocks that are keeping you from becoming the kind of partner you aspire to be

Is the Developmental Model Right for Your Relationship?

We believe that the Developmental Model is an excellent approach for many couples. However, it might not click with your needs for a variety of reasons. That’s OK as well.  What we can promise you is that you will not be coming week after week to rehash the same old disagreements. You will not be progressing through your issues blindly, lacking a purpose and direction. If you’ve been worried about walking into an ambush where your partner and counselor are lying in wait with rehearsed bad behavior stories for you to face, you can rest assured that the Developmental Model approach does not allow or encourage this type of behavior.  If you’ve struggled with the idea of counseling for any of these reasons, the Developmental Model will provide you with a forward-focused approach that encourages your relationship strengths rather than dwelling on failures.  Finding the right counselor and method of approach is a personal journey. It’s often a difficult, but rewarding choice. Counseling is an empowering choice that will strengthen yourself and your relationship.  If you have more questions on the Developmental Model approach, finding a marriage or couples counselor, or would like to know where to start, take the first step in your journey and reach out to us. You do not have to be a conventional couple to seek therapy. As long as you are facing relationship issues, our practitioners are here to help you get to a healthy and happy relationship.
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Coach

A relationship coach supports couples in learning vital partnership skills and helps you to develop conflict resolution skills, offering tools to achieve a thriving, healthy relationship. Coaches tend to focus on the present and creating an inspired future.

All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve. Therapists and counselors have mandatory educational and licensing requirements that are determined by the state or country in which they practice. Coaches do not.

Clinical Social Worker
All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve.

This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

As you know, this is not an easy task when you and your partner are struggling to communicate, cooperate, and connect. This is where a highly trained guide is especially valuable.

Marriage and Family Therapist/Counselor (LMFT)
All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve. 

Therapists and counselors have mandatory educational and licensing requirements that are determined by the state or country in which they practice. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

Counselors and therapists may make situational determinations about how deep to go into the personal history of each partner. They may seek to help you see where certain unhelpful patterns of behavior originated. 

Clinical Psychologist
All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve.

After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psychology. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Our professionals can guide you to clarify your individual goals as well as enable you to develop mutually agreed upon and supported relationship goals.

Psychiatrist
All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve.

After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Our professionals can guide you to clarify your individual goals as well as enable you to develop mutually agreed upon and supported relationship goals.

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