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