Marriage Encounter/Therapy Can be Dangerous/Top 10 - 11/03
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Tue Nov 18 10:43:53 EST 2003
subject: Marriage Encounter/Therapy Can be Dangerous/Top 10 - 11/03
from: Smart Marriages[R]
- MARRIAGE ENCOUNTER PROGRAM CAN HELP FAN THE FLAME IN A MARRIAGE
- THERAPY CAN BE DANGEROUS TO MARRIAGE
- TOP 10 WAYS TO GUARANTEE A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE
- MARRIAGE ENCOUNTER PROGRAM CAN HELP FAN THE FLAME IN A MARRIAGE
Dennis and Sue Amtmann
By Monique Balas
This great article makes so many good points about the advantages of
SKILLS MAKE MARRIAGE STRONGER OVER THE YEARS:
> The couple said the skills they learned at their first Marriage Encounter
> session in February 1990 has carried them through the past 13 years. In
> 1993, they decided to become a "team couple," which provide examples from
> their own experiences to participants.
> They have built on the skills they've learned so that, over the years, their
> marriage has grown even stronger.
AND, WHY IT'S SO IMPORTANT TO CREATE GUERILLA DIVORCE BUSTERS IN THE
COMMUNITY - FRIENDS TELL FRIENDS:
> They first heard about the program through a longtime friend, whom they knew
> well before they ever heard of Marriage Encounter.
> "Quite frankly, if it weren't for them, we probably wouldn't have
> (participated)," said Dennis Amtmann, who owns Amtmann Insurance Agency Inc.
IT'S NOT THEAAPY, IT'S EDUCATION. MEN LIKE IT:
> He was skeptical at first, but they trusted their friends' judgment and
> decided to try it for themselves.
> "Guys normally say, 'There's no way.' I was worried I would have to talk
> about our relationship in front of a group, I was worried I would have to
> stand up. They basically assured me that it was not the case."
THERE ARE TICKLE DOWN BENEFITS, YOU USE THE SKILLS WITH YOUR KIDS:
> The skills they learned helped them to not only communicate with each other
> better, but also with their three children, who were in their teens during
> the Amtmanns' own Marriage Encounter.
After 24 years of being married, the course of only one
weekend was able to help Sue and Dennis Amtmann fan the flame.
The two had what they described as a good marriage even before the weekend,
but it helped them to open doors of communication they didn't realize were
Thirteen years after their first experience with the program, they try to
help other couples realize what a difference those two days can make.
"Before we went to Marriage Encounter, there were a lot of things that
concerned me that she didn't know about," said Dennis Amtmann.
Marriage Encounter is an international, spiritually-based program that
originated in Barcelona, Spain, in the early 1960s. The retreat-style
weekend offers presentations by married couple "teams" and a clergy member
on topics such as listening skills and communication. It's designed to help
couples with relatively stable, good marriages deepen their union and
promote more intimacy.
After each presentation, each spouse will take about 20 minutes for
introspective writing sessions, which are presented privately to each
"They write down their obstacles to communication and we (as a team couple)
give examples, person examples, from our own experiences," Sue Amtmann said.
The couple said the skills they learned at their first Marriage Encounter
session in February 1990 has carried them through the past 13 years. In
1993, they decided to become a "team couple," which provide examples from
their own experiences to participants.
They have built on the skills they've learned so that, over the years, their
marriage has grown even stronger.
"We basically, over time, we start removing some of the barriers that we've
built up so we've become more open with one another," Sue Amtmann said. "You
learn the process of communication and can continue living it out. It's kind
of a lifelong process.
I think the reason it might carry over is couples are actually, on the
weekends, doing this communication, so they can go home and try it," she
They first heard about the program through a longtime friend, whom they knew
well before they ever heard of Marriage Encounter.
"Quite frankly, if it weren't for them, we probably wouldn't have
(participated)," said Dennis Amtmann, who owns Amtmann Insurance Agency Inc.
He was skeptical at first, but they trusted their friends' judgment and
decided to try it for themselves.
"Guys normally say, 'There's no way.' I was worried I would have to talk
about our relationship in front of a group, I was worried I would have to
stand up. They basically assured me that it was not the case."
The skills they learned helped them to not only communicate with each other
better, but also with their three children, who were in their teens during
the Amtmanns' own Marriage Encounter.
"It gave us a greater sense of just us as a couple," said Sue Amtmann,
principal at St. Philip the Apostle School. "It strengthened us as a
And it's given them a stronger sense of their spirituality, not only as
individuals but within their relationship with each other.
"You continue to work at it, but it shows you the way. We have continued,
now that it's 13 years ago. It meant that much to us," Sue Amtmann said.
For his part, her husband said he learned to be a better listener by
avoiding making judgments.
Do they have any advice for couples who are curious but hesitant?
"I would say, 'Go for it,'" Sue Amtmann said.
But her husband went further.
"Don't be afraid. Coming from a guy's point of view, don't be afraid
somebody's going to get inside your head and analyze you," Dennis Amtmann
said. "Generally, you're not going to see any radios, televisions or
newspapers, all the distraction's taken away so they can concentrate on
themselves and their marriages."
FYI: To participate in a Marriage Encounter weekend, call Dennis and Sue
Amtmann ast 920-866-9730. The next weekend will be Jan. 10-11 in Appleton.
Registration is $25 and a freewill donation, but no one will be turned away
for lack of finds. Food will be provided.
- THERAPY CAN BE DANGEROUS TO MARRIAGE
This article continues from the watershed Smart Marriages keynote Bill
Doherty presented in 1999 - "How Therapy Can Be Hazardous to Your Marital
Health" - the most requested speech at Smart Marriages. So much so, that
it's still posted on the Smart Marriages home page if you'd like to read it.
It's also an incredible video tape - a great discussion starter and teaching
tape - one of those over-the-top, standing ovation speeches. Order at
800-241-7785 - ask for tape #759-P6. And, by the way,
that's also the number to call to order the tape "Learning Sobriety
Together" that I endorsed yesterday. Tape #753-307. Sorry to leave that
info off, but all Smart Marriages tapes are ordered through that number
which info I'm going to add to the signature (can't remember to add it each
time.) - diane
Therapy can be Dangerous to Marriage
November 14, 2003
- LOU MARANO
United Press International
WASHINGTON, Nov 14, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) --
Psychotherapy -- even couples' counseling -- can be dangerous to your
"Let the buyer beware," said William J. Doherty, director of the University
of Minnesota's Marriage and Family Therapy Program. "A dirty little secret"
is that couples therapy may be the hardest form of therapy, and most
therapists are not very good at it. But most discussions of marital problems
occur in individual psychotherapy, "where a lot of the damage to marriage
UPI spoke to Doherty by phone from his St. Paul office, and he supplied
copies of three of his articles, which form the basis of this story. Except
where there is abuse or danger, Doherty tries to advocate for the marriage
and support the possibility that a couple can salvage it. And he does not
consider ordinary marital conflict "abuse."
He points out that working with couples inherently involves value judgments
in ways that treating depression or anxiety do not. Not to have a moral
framework is to have an unacknowledged one, and in mainstream American
culture, that will probably be individualistic rather than relational or
Doherty believes that divorce, unfortunately, is sometimes necessary. But it
should be avoided if at all possible because it brings about permanent
disability, especially when children are involved. If divorce were a medical
procedure, it would be like amputating a limb -- not like cosmetic surgery -
a drastic measure justified only in the most hopeless circumstances.
The therapist's attitude is important, but technique can also be crucial. "A
laid-back or timid therapist can doom a marriage that requires quick CPR,"
Doherty writes. "If couples therapy were a sport, it would resemble
wrestling, not baseball -- because it can be over in a flash if you don't
have your wits about you."
A therapist's skills in joining with individuals can backfire in a second
when one partner thinks he is a genius and the other thinks he is clueless
or, worse, allied with the enemy.
Doherty's "How Therapists Harm Marriages and What We Can Do About It"
appeared in Vol. 1, 2002, of the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy.
In it he says two dangers face married people who seek therapy either as
individuals or as couples. The first is therapists trained to deal with
individuals who are incompetent in working with couples. (This despite
surveys showing that about 80 percent of therapists in private practice do
couples therapy.) The second danger is therapists, whether competent or not,
whose individualistic value system leads them to undermine marital
commitment when the marriage causes distress for the individual.
As recently as the 1950s, a tremendous amount of social stigma was attached
to divorce, and therapists often saw it as a treatment failure. But with the
rise of the culture of individualism in the 1960s and 1970s, the social
conception of marriage changed from one based on duty to personal happiness.
The therapeutic profession moved from disapproval of divorce to
"neutrality." Many therapists, especially in the context of the treatment of
individuals, moved beyond neutrality, seeing themselves as "liberationists"
who help people out of unhappy marriages and other commitments in their
lives. "If you describe your marriage as painful for you, the therapist
wants to liberate you from this toxic influence." If the client raises
concern about the fate of their children, such therapists will say the kids
will do fine if their parents do what they need to do for themselves.
The culture of consumerism prevailed. "And consumers are inherently
disloyal." People are getting married with the idea that they can get a
divorce if it doesn't work out -- like a job or a house.
Doherty found that therapists -- in clinical consultations, talk shows and
self-help books -- were saying such things as, "The marriage wasn't working
anymore." The implication: If it's not working, get another one.
"You deserve better," is a consumerist expression that both friends and
therapists say to someone who is having trouble with a spouse. This
market-oriented language is not balanced with the client's responsibilities.
Doherty writes that if therapists and marriage educators don't counter the
prevailing culture, they will have hardly any influence. "Marital therapy
and marriage education has to be based on moral principles about commitment,
not just based on ideas about enriching your marriage and reaching your
But Doherty does not want to reduce the divorce rate simply to increase
number of truly miserable couples by a similar margin. "We can do both: we
can reduce the divorce rate, and we can increase the percentage of people
who are working out successful marriages."
Therapists undermine marital commitment in four ways, he writes: by
incompetence, by being "neutral," by pathologizing the partner or the
relationship, and by overtly undermining the union.
Incompetent therapists mistake working with couples as an extension of
individual psychotherapy, where a leisurely, clarifying approach can be
taken. "If you have a warring couple in your office, and you do not create a
structure for that session, they will overwhelm you. They will repeat in the
office that which they do at home."
Therapists used to dealing with individuals also focus on the problems and
contributions of one partner. A man more comfortable with thoughts than
feelings might find himself stigmatized. And a depressed wife who reads a
lot of self-help books might find that the therapist and her husband have
teamed up to treat her.
Therapists who can't handle the hot conflict of couples therapy assume that
there is a lot of individual pathology going on. "So they turf the spouses
off to their individual therapist colleague, or keep one of the spouses in
individual therapy and send the other to a colleague. I have seen a lot of
unnecessary divorces because of this scenario," Doherty writes.
Neutrality is not neutral. A consumerist cost-benefit analysis ("What's in
it for you to stay? What's in it for you to leave?") masquerades as
neutrality but in fact undermines the marriage. "Neutrality when somebody
has promised before their community, and perhaps before their God, to be
married to this person until death do them part ... is an undermining
stance, not a neutral stance. And it often sides with the more self-oriented
spouse." If the therapist and a client share the language of individual
self-interest rather than moral commitment, it results in an alliance
between the reluctant, distancing spouse and the therapist.
Doherty considers pathologizing by therapists to be particularly insidious.
A client in individual therapy who complains about a spouse may be told he
or she is married to someone with a narcissistic personality disorder. This
leads to hopelessness. "Sometimes the therapist pathologizes the reasons you
got married. For almost any marriage, we therapists can figure out what
pathology fed its inception."
An individual or a couple can be made to feel that theirs is a sick
relationship and anyone who would stay in it is in questionable mental
health. "Let's say you see an individual therapist after your spouse has an
affair, and you're thinking of taking your spouse back. You may be
pathologized for your very commitment to keep trying."
And in a consumer culture, "boring" is the new pathology. "I've seen
therapists get very exercised about how awful it would be to be in a boring
marriage, and be quite sympathetic to why these spouses have affairs and
move on to new partners."
Overt undermining takes the form of such questions as: "If you are not
happy, why do you stay?" Such questions imply that the couple is
fundamentally incompatible, but Doherty believes they actually reveal the
therapist's fundamental inability to help. Some therapists say, "For your
own health, you need to move out."
In the November/December, 2002, issue of Psychotherapy Networker, Doherty
wrote: "Like attorneys who automatically fight their client's opponents,
some therapists encourage clients to rid themselves of currently toxic
spouses, rather than work hard to see what can be salvaged and restored.
This approach may be wrongheaded, even when it comes to individual
well-being. Recent research by sociologist Linda Waite has found that the
great majority of unhappy spouses who persevere in their (non-violent)
marriages for five years report marked improvements in their marriages, and
that divorce, on average, does not make people in unhappy marriages any
better off in personal well-being."
Doherty encourages couples to ask therapists to declare their value
positions regarding marital commitment and avoid those whose values differ
from their own.
Copyright 2003 by United Press International.
- TOP 10 WAYS TO GUARANTEE A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE
1. Forget about getting your needs met.
Getting your needs met is a failed concept for couples. Focus on your spouse
and what you can do for them. This is the best way to bring out the best in
both of you.
2. Keep some meaningful rituals in your relationship.
Whether it's having a dinner conversation after work every night or taking a
long walk, have something in place that allows you to stay in touch with
each others' lives.
3. Have a five-to-one ratio of positive to negative interactions.
There should be five hugs, compliments, or squeezes of the arm for every
roll of the eyes, every criticism, or every episode of blaming.
4. Be relentless in your pursuit of self-improvement and trying to be a
Healthy marriages tend to grow and change. This means that you must be
willing to try on new behaviors and to take some risks.
5. Make your marriage full of special surprises.
Marriages are more alive and exciting when there are surprises sprinkled in
to them. Surprise your spouse with a vacation, a special date night,
flowers, candy, or anything else that excites them.
6. Take great self care.
If you're all stressed out and unhappy, you're going to be a bear to be
around! Make sure that you follow a program of self care that allows you to
give energy to the relationship.
7. Develop a common interest that you can share together.
You're going to be spending a lot of time together. It's nice to have an
activity to share that helps you to enjoy that time together. Whether it's
golfing, traveling, or shopping, find your common interests and turn them
into pleasurable experiences.
8. Focus on being kind and not on being right.
It's easy to spend time showing your spouse that you're right. Focus on
being kind instead and you'll argue less and enjoy each other more.
9. When things do get heated, commit to a plan that works.
Don't say things in the heat of the moment that may do damage to your
relationship. Have a plan in place that may include: walking away,
continuing the discussion at a later date, or some sort of relaxation
10. Develop a great network of support around you.
Whether it's friends or family, have a group of people that you spend time
with whom you can confide in and share times with. It always helps to know
that others are going through the same things you are.
About the Submitter:
This piece was submitted by Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, Certified personal
coach, Masters Degree in counseling psychology, author of Fix Your Wife in
30 Days or Less (And Improve Yourself at the Same Time), Certified Personal
Coach, mark at markbrandenburg.com.
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