QUESTION FOR PONDER – for week 3 on Evolutionary Journey

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    • #26483
      Gene Shelly

      What are some of the techniques/interventions you use to help couples deal with their reactivity when they are working with you in session? What if anything have you taken away from the course to help modulate reactivity when you work with couples?

    • #26518

      Interventions I might use will depend on the couple, whether I am in the beginning stages, working stages or later on and the degree of reactivity that is being expressed. I might:
      – Do a centering or grounding exercise. Remind them to breathe.
      – Put anger (if that is the reactivity) in a container to be explored when the time is right. Can be done via visualization.
      – Interrupt the escalation, set boundaries.
      – Assess for flooding. Take a time-out if needed. Provide psycho-education on flooding.
      – Explore root of reactivity. What’s really going on? “We are never angry for the reason we think.”
      – Acknowledge and validate feelings and re-direct.
      – Allow some time for venting (minimal).
      – Re-visit their goals of couple counselling.

      What I have taken away from the course to help modulate reactivity:
      • Using The Appreciation Dialogue.
      • Using The Full Dialogue (Mirror, Validate, Empathy).
      • Provide couples with some psychoeducation around the evolutionary process, brain, neuropathways etc. Educate them on hailstones/turtle i.e. natural adaptation to pain which reinforces pathways in order to survive. Helping them to understand that their reactivity is hard-wired and comes from early experiences/attachments. Reminding them that this is a process and will take time to shift automatic reactions but gives them hope when they learn that the brain has plasticity and that the brain and their reactivity can eventually change.
      • Invite/teach couples to become curious about what is fueling the reactivity.

    • #26549
      Gene Shelly

      Dianne, Your first comment is so appropriate – “… will depend on the couple.” And weather you are in beginning stages or much later in the treatment. You reference many points of intervention, trying to regulate the couple. I think your instincts are good at working with this couple. One thing I might add is to keep the work focused in the presence, in the here and now. Right here in the office. Because the couple will want to rehash the past over and over for which there are no solutions, only pain. Sometimes I found it helpful to stop all the talking – require silence for a minute.

      Thanks for your observations,


    • #26550
      Christine Petrik

      Hi Dianne

      Ditto for your astute observations. I particularly appreciate your last comment -Take Away:
      • Invite/teach couples to become curious about what is fueling the reactivity.
      Curiosity can not be understated.

      Thank you!

    • #26567

      What are some of the techniques/interventions you use to help couples deal with their reactivity when they are working with you in session? What if anything have you taken away from the course to help modulate reactivity when you work with couples?

      In a session with a couple I would do the following:
      grounding / breathing to get them centred, followed by having them facing each other and having eye contact with each other and holding hands and acknowledging each other’s presence.
      Find out what their intentions are.
      Guide them in the appreciation Dialogue exercise, Caring behaviour exercise, One minute hugs, flooding of positivity exercise if needed.

      This course has been very informative and helpful in understanding relationships and the choices we make.
      An eye opener to me was how we choose our partners from the relationships in our childhood with our parents. We look to our partner to full-fill our unmet needs.
      Each class had great points that I held on to, like the understanding of the brain and how we hold on to past memories and our brain remembers the emotion attached to event, and reactions. This makes it hard to let go and teach the brain a new way of handling situations, but it is not possible.
      I loved the material from the past weeks class, bringing back the romance in the relationship. Play is a very important part of that and we as adults tend to do very little of that.

    • #26636

      Historically I have used grounding techniques with my couples, such as square breathing or progressive muscle tensing/relaxing when escalation occurs. Since learning more about Imago I have integrated more mindfulness and visualization into our work, and just yesterday guided a couple through a grounding exercise before using the dialogue. I also see the dialogue itself as a way to modulate reactivity since it slows things down and keeps clients in their new brain.

    • #26656

      I encourage my couples to practice mediation in conjunction with their marital work. This practice helps feed energy to the prefrontal cortex and away from the amygdala, allowing the partner to be more present and manage triggers more effectively. Breathing and grounding in the moment with the triggered partner is vital to help them remain present in order to complete such dialogs.

    • #26658
      Herb Tannenbaum

      Hi Jina,
      I am delighted to learn that you are enjoying the class and learning insights into Imago Theory. It brings a smile to my face.
      Certainly, Grounding exercises and beginning the session with a guided imagery that puts couples into a safe place where they can open their hearts and be curious about learning about their partners world is a good way to shift the brain and neuro-energy to a higher level of functioning. Then the Appreciation Dialogue deepens their openness and reminds them both of the positive things that their partner does. It really can change the energy of the session.
      Thanks so much for sahring.


    • #26659
      Herb Tannenbaum

      Hi Cadey,
      Thanks for taking the time to share your insights from the front lines of your practice.
      Using square breathing and muscle relaxation techniques are really good ways to help couples move into their bodies and away from their reactivity. It changes brain chemistry and helps move partners to be in a safer space and more open to authentically participate in the Couples Dialogue. As you point out, the dialogue is a way to create co-regulation for the couples and building it upon a guided imagery really helps the couple to get in a place to be more receptive to hearing, validating and empathizing with their partner.
      See you in class on Thursday.
      Best regards,

    • #26660
      Herb Tannenbaum

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for taking the time to respond to the “Question to Ponder”.
      You are spot on!!
      Moving the energy to the prefrontal cortex away from the amygdala sets the stage for a session that comes out of vulnerability rather than reactivity. Thus, any grounding exercises that you use at the beginning of the session as a segue to helping the couple leave their days at the door and be open and receptive to their partner is key to deepening the process of connection and understanding.
      Looking forward to seeing you in class on Thursday.
      Until then, stay safe and be well.


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