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Narrative techniques in couple therapy: from vicious circles to the unfold of virtuous projects

Montesano, A., (2014, June). Narrative techniques in couple therapy: from vicious circles to the unfold of virtuous projects. Workshop. XII Conference European Personal Construct Asssociation. Brno/Prague, Czech Republic .

Adrian Montesano

on 22 May 2015

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Transcript of Narrative techniques in couple therapy: from vicious circles to the unfold of virtuous projects

We understand identity as an
infinite process of construction
and reconstruction that takes place in different context of belonging. Often the couple is the most significant bound through which identity is constructed.
1930-1963: Marriage Counselling
1930-1966: Psychoanalytic experimentation
1963-1985: Family therapy
1986-2014: Refinement, Extension, diversification and Integration
Gurman. A (2008)
Phases and Challenges of CT
Why couples seek
Narrative Techniques in Couple Therapy
Adrián Montesano
1. Definition of the relationship:
Disagreement in affective needs
Power struggles
Project definition
2. Mechanisms of conflict resolution:
Combination of communication styles
Rhythms of reconciliation
Attempts of reparation
3. Organization of life in common:
Dimension pleasure-duty
Routines y rituals
Individual and couple spaces
4. Specific crisis:
Sexual dissatisfaction
Abuse and violence

1. Systems and developmental perspectives
Common characteristics of CT
2. Present focused
3. Balance favoring strengths (vs. weakness)
4. Brief therapy (8-10 sesions)
5. Focused on the system’s “problem maintenance structures”, patterns that revolve around presenting problems

6. Address intra and inter personal issues

7. The central healing relationship is the couple (not the therapeutic)
Incorporate the individual in CT
Application of CT to individual complains
Feminism, Multiculturality and constructivism
...as a project
Wanting to be the best for the other,
we bring out the best of ourselves
This is a basic
background mechanism
to use in CT
But... this
can "break" and lead to infinite forms of mistreatment, abuse of power and symptoms.
Rather than in specific objectives, the therapeutic focus lies on the projects and intentions with life.
For some couples, defining the project collaboratively can be a very important part of the therapy.

Some techniques
"Entering couples into an adventure"
Circular Diagram
Collecting butterflies
Definitional ceremonies
Positions for witnessing:
Ask the person to imagine a
particular person
who will help to create and maintain a position of security/calm/curiosity, etc.
Ask the person to identify
in which he or she uses abilities, skills or perceptions that might be helpful for this context
Use the vantage point of a
version of self that is attending to "what is important
", rather than being right. begin by talking about hopes, values, and wishes for the relationship. Invite him or her to hold them.
Listen from the vantage point of "
the project
indirect ways
to listen: videotape, closed-circuit video, one-way mirror, etc.

The heuristic power of listening:
Never assume that you have understand something
Always check whether the meaning we give to the story is the intended meaning
The "hall of mirrors": our mere presence changes the narrative
"Choose roads" vs "find certainties"
Deconstructive questions in CT:
Therapists are responsible of asking in detail about the problem to make visible the underpinning social discourses and constrictive FCS
Session about family of origin: capturing and questioning those beliefs
Communication as a panacea and the narrowing of legitimate relationships
Common definitions of problems:
"Our relationship doesn't work"
"We are not compatible" or "he/she is a..."
"We have a lack of communication"
Double externalization:
1. The problem: caution! is the dynamic not the relationship what should be externalized
2. The project: as a way of strengthening the counterplot
¿Cómo se refleja este
en vuestra relación?

¿ A qué
ha hecho este problema que lleguéis acerca de vuestra relación? ¿cómo o afectan estas conclusiones?

¿Cómo ha afectado este problema a vuestra
sobre la relación? ¿Cómo afecta esta percepción a vuestra interacción?

¿Qué tipo de
has formado sobre vuestra relación desde que ha estado bajo la influencia de este problema? ¿Cómo esto da forma a los patrones de vuestra relación?

¿De qué maneras pensáis que este problema ha influenciado vuestra
en el día a día? ¿hasta qué punto os lleva a adivinar lo que el otro es pensando?

observáis en el otro en respuesta al problema? ¿cómo afectan a vuestra relación?¿A qué técnicas, por culpa del problema, os sentís obligados a recurrir en vuestra vida de pareja?

How and when
Couples with a prolonged conflict and for stopping the "load the gun" phenomenon
Encourage each other to be storytellers and witnesses from a different new position
Ask the witness to what he or she has heard: openly or directed to exceptions. Then ask the teller about the witness
Use the hierarchy to determine the order
problem –vs– project

This is the most common circumstance we will have to deal with in CT: sessions that start with "as usual, everything is wrong" and end up with "we are on the right track"
Sometimes is the opposite: These are couples with a rigid plot of "is bad to have problems"
Final reflections
1. The narrative reparation multilayered and mulifaceted revolves around the couple's project
2. Searching entry points for developing the project
3. The turning point as the "narrative thread" between plots
From vicious circles to the unfold of virtuous projects
Recognize the multiplicity of ways in which is possible to be a couple

Te norms about intimacy and the use of power basically depend on sociocultural variables
tell stories
(Freedman & Combs, 2008)
Brief protocol
Evaluate changes
Story of the problem


Clarification of the complain and expectations
Story of each member


Special attention to Family of Origin
Story of the couple
Chapters of their story
Balance of each chapter
Define their project
Only the 50% of complains are genuine. Common traps:
Searching for allies (infidelity)
Searching a judge: who is crazy or guilty?
Unilateral and hidden decision of separation (benediction of the expert)
Homeostasis: everythins is the same but we are in therapy
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