Therapist Resources for Relationships and Sex

This page lists resources you can use to help clients deepen their emotional and physical connection. I evaluate a lot of couples therapy resources; these are ones I think are exceptional. I receive no compensation for these recommendations except for my own courses.

THERAPY TRAINING IN THE BOSTON AREA

“Tough Topics in Couples Therapy” by Eric Albert. Newton, MA; 11 weeks; one 2-hour meeting per week; 22 CEs. This practical course answers the question “What do I do now?” for challenging areas of couples therapy: affairs, sexuality (including sex therapy), addictions, abuse, stepfamily issues, and couples where one partner is on the spectrum. Much specific advice, plus in-session exercises, supporting handouts, and resource lists.

“Becoming a More Effective Relationship Counselor” by Eric Albert. Newton, MA; 15 weeks; one 2-hour meeting per week; 30 CEs. This course covers a wide range of key couples therapy skills, including how to structure a first session, reduce partner conflict in sessions, develop shared goals, improve communication, increase connection, and much more. Includes many session-tested handouts, exercises, and resource lists.

“The Program in Couple Therapy: The Art of Facilitating Intimacy” by Charlie Verge. Wellesley, MA; 20 weeks; one 2-hour meeting per week; 40 CEs. Charlie is a gifted teacher with a deep understanding of couples therapy. His program is packed with practical and theoretical information, and is an excellent introduction for beginning and experienced therapists. Much of it will go by you the first time; later you’ll realize just how deep it was. Take good notes!

RELATIONSHIP THERAPY THEORIES AND APPROACHES

Enhanced Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Couples by Norman B. Epstein and Donald H. Baucom (2002). A clear, detailed, practical summary of relationship research and assessment tools (as of 2002) along with a large number of effective clinical interventions. Methodical and solid. If you read this cover to cover and remember any significant amount, you’ll be more knowledgeable than most couples therapists. The only downside: it reads like the textbook it is.

Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy, Fourth Edition edited by Alan S. Gurman (2008). This collection of academic articles gives a good introduction to a variety of couples therapy approaches, each explained by a clinician involved in creating the approach. Includes behavioral, humanistic-existential, psychodynamic, social constructionist, systemic, and integrative approaches, along with chapters on affairs, divorce, remarriage, physical abuse, substance abuse, depression, borderline personality disorder, sexual dysfunction, medical issues, gay and lesbian couples, African-American couples, gender issues, and ethics.

Recreating Partnership by Phillip Ziegler and Tobey Hiller (2001). This book does a wonderful job of integrating postmodern ideas from Solution-Focused Therapy, Narrative Therapy, and social constructivism into a practical approach to working with couples. Deep, radical, nuanced, thoughtful, and well thought out. The authors are always collaborative, client-centered, and perception-focused (as opposed to, say, behavior-focused), even with challenging issues (such as intimate partner violence) where many approaches wimp out. Written in jargon-free, fat-free prose that requires and repays careful reading.

Integrative Couple Therapy by Neil S. Jacobson and Andrew Christensen (1996). A warm, straightforward description of a behavioral approach that uses relationship incompatibilities as opportunities to increase mutual tolerance or even to promote closeness and intimacy. The authors also describe the change-focused techniques of behavioral exchange and communication skills training, but the primary focus on acceptance offers powerful tools for helping couples navigate irreconcilable differences. Contains many practical tips, along with useful strategies for working with challenging issues such as abuse and affairs.

“Collaborative Couple Therapy” by Daniel B. Wile (2002). John Gottman has called Dan Wile “a genius and the greatest living marital therapist.” This 39-page article describes Wile’s approach to doing couples therapy, which is based on the theory that people have difficulty in relationships because they don’t believe they are entitled to express, or even experience, their softer, more vulnerable feelings. Also check out Dan Wile’s excellent blog. If you want more, he’s written a great book for professionals (Couples Therapy: A Nontraditional Approach (1981)), and two books for a general audience (After the Fight (1995) and After the Honeymoon, Revised Edition (2008)).

The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, Second Edition by Susan M. Johnson (2004). This approach focuses on creating a secure attachment bond through the in-session evocation of new, corrective emotional experiences between partners. It’s a “hot” therapy, best suited to therapists who are comfortable with clients expressing strong feeling. Regrettably, the author has taken to overselling her approach’s effectiveness and applicability; the approach is strong, but not superior, so take the claims with a pound of salt. There’s a very detailed workbook: Becoming an Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist: The Workbook by Susan M. Johnson, Brent Bradley, James L. Furrow, Alison Lee, Gail Palmer, Doug Tilley, and Scott Woolley (2005). Her book for a general audience, Hold Me Tight (2008), is OK, but not great. It also oversells the theory and approach.

ATTACHMENT THEORY

Attachment in Psychotherapy by David Wallin (2007). The best book I know for explaining attachment in a clinically useful way. The author begins with a brief history of attachment theory, then integrates the concepts of mentalizing, mindfulness, intersubjectivity, and the relational turn in psychoanalysis. This is followed by the meat of the book, an elegant and practical presentation of how a therapist can use these ideas to work with clients. Intended for a professional audience, but so well-written that sophisticated readers of any persuasion can benefit.

AFFAIRS

Helping Couples Get Past the Affair by Donald H. Baucom, Douglas K. Snyder, and Kristina Coop Gordon (2011). This is a calm, methodical, easy-to-read book that gives practical advice for how to help couples get through the initial distress from an affair, understand how the affair came about, and evaluate whether the relationship should continue. The authors examine the ways in which both partners can contribute to laying the groundwork for an affair, while neither demonizing the partner who engaged in the affair, or minimizing the pain of the other partner. The book is well-organized, with a number of detailed charts; many of these charts could be photocopied and given directly to clients. There is an associated self-help book Getting Past the Affair (2007) for clients to use at home.

EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL ABUSE

Couples Therapy for Domestic Violence by Sandra M. Stith, Eric E. McCollum, and Karen H. Rosen (2011). This is a research-based approach to working with couples whose relationship includes ongoing low-level violence. The main model is a structured, time-limited, co-led group treatment for couples; modifications are suggested so the approach can be used with a single couple. The book is short and well-written. I commend the authors for their courage in researching an approach that defies conventional wisdom, and for their humility in accurately reporting the effectiveness of their treatment.

Treating the Abusive Partner by Christopher M. Murphy and Christopher I. Eckhardt (2005). The authors present an excellent summary of research on abusive behavior that contradicts much of the conventional wisdom, and points out many flaws with current court-mandated batterer-intervention groups. The heart of the book is a detailed cognitive-behavioral approach for individuals. Therapists who prefer a conjoint model will find a wealth of useful ideas and techniques, a rationale for working with both partners, and citations of research that supports the safety of such an approach.