​​Monthly Masters Series in Couple Therapy: Seven More Approaches to Interviewing

  • This course is facilitated by Carol Becker, PhD with monthly guest presenters.
  • Dates: We meet from 6:45 pm to 9:30 pm EST one Wednesday evening per month from November 2022 to May 2023
  • NOTE: Times are Eastern Time
Planning to be on Zoom allowed us to invite guest speakers from all over the U.S.:

Overview of Course:


  • ​November 2, 2022, Michele Scheinkman: The Vulnerability Cycle: Helping Couples Move from Impasse to Intimacy
  • December 7, 2022, Mona Fishbane: “The Magic Question”: The Impact of Intergenerational Wounds on Couple Vulnerability Cycles


  • January 4, 2023, Robin Deutsch: Working with High Conflict Couples When the Kids Say No
  • February 1, 2023, Jean Malpas: From Otherness to Alliance: Exploring Internal and Couples Systems in Gender Transition
  • March 1, 2023, Kaethe Weingarten: The Solace of an Uncertain Future: Helping Couples Navigate Illness
  • April 12, 2023** note: second Wednesday, Patricia Papernow Meeting the Big! Challenges of “Blended Families”: What Works and What Doesn't
  • May 3, 2023, Sue Hallowell: Working with Couples in Which One or Both Partners have ADHD


The event will be held live on Zoom.

Statement of Need

Doing couple therapy well is a complex task. The work is energizing, challenging and rewarding. Whether you are a veteran couple therapist or just putting your toe in, work with relationships brings unique challenges that requires specific and ongoing training. This course will deepen your learning, thinking, and practice through a focus on many styles of interviewing couples among diverse populations and presenting problems. The learning will also support individual work with people who bring in relational dilemmas.

About the Course

The ninth year (2022-2023) year of this course will provide participants with the opportunity to learn from lecture, observation, and dialogue with seven senior couple therapists about the complex task of doing couple therapy well. Couple therapy is energizing, challenging, and rewarding work. Whether you are a veteran of the work or just starting to work with couples, this course will enhance your skills, thinking and practice through the unusual opportunity to see expert couple therapists interview couples in different contexts, with different foci. The learning will also support individual work with people who bring in relational dilemmas.

Invited guest faculty will present critical ideas that are foundational to their approach, do a live interview with a role play couple, and answer questions from participants. Course members will be encouraged to note opportunities for learning and questions that arise as they watch the moment to moment unfolding of the role play interviews. After the demonstration interview there will be a discussion, facilitated by Carol Becker, PhD, focusing on questions and reflections related to the couple therapy demonstration. Participants will learn by seeing and reflecting on the similarities and differences in the approaches presented which will enrich their own approach to couple work. Some class members will have the opportunity to learn experientially from playing the role of a member of a demonstration couple. The evening will include an opportunity for participants to discuss skills learned in small groups.

The topics of this year's series include: description of the use of the vulnerability cycle; working with intergenerational wounds; assisting high conflict couples with parenting issues; working with couples in gender transition; helping couples navigate illness; supporting couples in creating blended families; assisting couples when one or more member has ADHD.

Carol Becker, PhD, the course director and facilitator, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in couple and family therapy with high conflict situations, including divorce. She has taught family and couple therapy in the Intensive Certificate Program in Family Systems Therapy and the Masters Series in Couple Therapy. She has been involved in training Fellows in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard Medical School, since 2009, co-teaching the first year Family Therapy seminar 2009-2017, and the Inpatient Family Therapy seminar, 2017-2022. She supervises and consults to therapists in these programs and privately. She has been active in AFTA as a board member, secretary, and program chair. She worked with the Public Conversations Project, 1992-2016, which became Essential Partners 2016-2022. She was a consultant in the Interpersonal Skills Exercise at the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation, 1992-2017. Carol's original training as a couple and family therapist was at the Ackerman Institute in NYC.

It has been such a pleasure to be a part of the Master Series. The presentations have been outstanding and invigorating. And even on Zoom, the role plays have been helpful in demonstrating theory while also conveying the emotional power of the work. I have also appreciated getting to know the members of the group. Thank you for an excellent year.

Ellen Safier, LCSW, Adjunct Faculty at Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, Houston, TX

Read more words from past participants →

​Outline for Each Meeting of the Course ~ 6:45 pm to 9:30 pm EST

  • Guest presenter will talk about critical ideas and practices that they use in working with couples - 6:45 pm to 7:15 pm (30 min)
  • Guest presenter will do a live demonstration of couple therapy with a role play couple - 7:15 pm to 7:55 pm (40 min)
  • Carol Becker will facilitate a discussion about what participants are learning, questions they have- 7:55 pm to 8:25 pm (30 min)
  • Break - 8:25 to 8:40 pm (15 min)
  • Participants will participate in small group practice exercises or discussion- 8:40 to 9:10 pm (30 min)
  • Final comments with large group to wrap up the learning: review of exercise and any remaining questions/comments to solidify the evening's learning - 9:10 to 9:30 pm (20 min)

​Learning Objectives for the Course

  • Describe two interviewing skills learned in each evening of the course.
  • Compare interviewing skills demonstrated by senior couple therapists and discern when to use what approaches.
  • List four techniques for preventing or working with conflict.
  • Explain three different approaches for increasing connection and empathy in couples.
  • Identify two similarities among the approaches to couple therapy presented.
  • Identify two differences among the approaches to couple therapy presented.
  • Discuss how to ameliorate risks in treatment when there are presenting issues related to intergenerational trauma, high conflict divorce or separation, gender transition, blended families, and couples affected by illness or ADHD.

Detailed Description for Each Class

The Vulnerability Cycle: Helping Couples Move from Impasse to Intimacy

November 2, 2022 with Michele Scheinkman,LCSW


This learning will focus on the concept of the Vulnerability Cycle (VC) as a conceptual model to understand and transform couples most entrenched impasses. Participants will learn to ask questions to help them map the cycle and identify critical relational elements keeping the cycle going. They will learn how to intervene in order to interrupt escalations and promote constructive dialogue. We will consider the broad multicultural concept of intimacies that allows for individual and cultural differences yet help to give direction to the process of therapy.

The VC is a visual map, like the genogram, that anchors the therapeutic work. It helps the therapist know where to start the therapeutic process and how to proceed in order to promote de-escalations, increased self -awareness, dialogue and behavioral changes towards connection and intimacy.

S Michele Scheinkman, LCSW, is Faculty member and Director of the Couples and Intimacies Project at the Ackerman Institute for the Family. Her articles about couples therapy and workshops in the US, Europe, Latin America and Asia are highly regarded for her integrative multicultural perspective, theoretical clarity, and conceptualizations of complex couples' dilemmas in situations of infidelity, jealousy, intimacy and sexuality. Her relevant Family Process Articles for this presentation include: The Vulnerability Cycle: Working with Impasses in couples therapy (2004), in co-authorship with Mona Fishbane; The Multi-Level Approach: A Road Map for Couples therapy (2008); and Intimacies: An Integrative Framework for Couple therapy (2019). Her most recent article on Sexual Intimacy and Aging is the featured article in the June 2022 Family Process edition. Michele is the 2018 American Family Therapy Academy Award for Innovative Contribution to Couples therapy.

Learning Objectives

Attendees will learn to:

  1. Map couples' vulnerability cycles associated with the couples' presenting problems
  2. Identify and intervene with vulnerabilities and defensive positions that are keeping the couple stuck in stalemates

Outline of topics:

  1. Tracking interactional cycles
  2. Identifying and labeling vulnerabilities and survival strategies
  3. Locating vulnerabilities and survival strategies in couples’ ongoing social context, cultural and gender premises, personal histories and intergenerational patterns

"The Magic Question": The Impact of Intergenerational Wounds on Couple Vulnerability Cycles

December 7, 2022 with Mona Fishbane, PhD


Couples in distress often become caught up in cycles of emotional reactivity that undermine their relationship satisfaction, each blaming the other and feeling like a victim. When clients feel like victims of their parents, resentful and disempowered, they often re-enact this position with their intimate partner. This presentation will help clinicians empower clients to heal old wounds, calm their own reactivity, and “reach for their best self” with their partner.

Dr. Fishbane will teach ways of identifying couple vulnerability cycles, including each partner's vulnerabilities and survival strategies. She will describe the neurobiology underlying the distressed couple's dance of reactivity. In addition, she will offer ways to help clients identify their own vulnerabilities and survival strategies; speak from vulnerability; and “grow up” their survival strategies. Dr. Fishbane will help clinicians explore the context of old wounds or unfinished business from the family of origin that is getting activated in each partner now. She will show how working with these old intergenerational wounds and resolving them can empower partners to co-create a more loving and satisfying relationship with each other. Skills include identifying issues from the past (family of origin); helping couple members understand their parents in more adult ways, facilitating compassion; and increasing choice rather than reactivity in each partner and in their relationship.

Mona will challenge values of the dominant U.S. culture that emphasize individualism and blame parents for adults'problems. Her work builds on research from psychology and interpersonal neurobiology that points to a healthy interdependence throughout life.

Mona D. Fishbane, Ph.D., clinical psychologist in New Jersey and Illinois, is senior faculty and former Director of Couple Therapy Training, Chicago Center for Family Health. Mona is on the Advisory Board of the journal Family Process and has served as an AAMFT Approved Supervisor and Board member of the American Family Therapy Academy. Mona lectures nationally and internationally. Mona has published numerous articles on couple therapy and neurobiology as well as on intergenerational relationships. She has been the recipient of honors and fellowships, including a grant from the Templeton Foundation, and the 2017 Family Psychologist of the Year Award from The American Psychological Association (Society for Couple & Family Psychology). Mona's book, Loving with the Brain in Mind: Neurobiology & Couple Therapy (2013), is part of the Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology. Mona's website: www.monafishbane.com

Learning Objectives

Attendees will learn to:

  1. Identify couple vulnerability cycles and trace each partner's vulnerabilities and survival strategies to experiences in the family of origin and/or larger culture.
  2. Help clients develop a more complex and compassionate understanding of their parents, freeing them to be more compassionate and empowered within the couple relationship.

Outline of topics:

  1. Identifying & mapping with couple their vulnerability cycle, including each partner's vulnerabilities & survival strategies
  2. Identifying historical roots in the family of origin (and/or cultural context) of each partner's vulnerabilities & survival strategies
  3. Locating vulnerabilities and survHelping clients develop a more nuanced & compassionate view of parents, seeing them on their own life journey, with their own challenges & strengths
  4. Empowering clients for less reactivity, greater choice, and compassion in their own relationship with partner; facilitating emotion regulation.

Working with High Conflict Couples When the Kids Say No

January 4, 2023 with Robin Deutsch, PhD:


Families around the world are faced with the challenge of their children who resist or refuse contact with one of their parents. Sometimes it is the result of a traumatic experience such as maltreatment or witnessing intimate partner violence; or it may be in response to a parent with untreated substance misuse or mental illness; or in some cases it is the result of the child exposed to negative behaviors and attitudes by one of their parents. In this talk we will discuss identification, screening and differentiation of parent-child contact problems, and clinical interventions that address these problems based on severity and the specific needs of the family.

The learning will focus on working with couples on skills to reduce conflict and promote cooperation between parents to overcome the impasse that is interfering with a parent-child relationship. Skills include promoting effective parenting and coparenting skills; addressing cognitive distortions, minimizing perceptual errors and failures in perspective-taking; and building empathy and compassion. The evening will increase therapist's understanding of the multiple hypotheses that may result in children resisting or refusing access to a parent and build skills for working with coparents when the resistance/refusal is not realistic estrangement.

Dr. Robin Deutsch, PhD is board certified in Couple and Family Psychology and provides consultation, mediation, parenting coordination and expert witness services. She has published extensively on issues related to attachment, co-parenting after divorce, high conflict divorce, parenting plans, parenting coordination, parent-child contact problems, and has presented nationally and internationally on these topics. She is co-editor with Abigail Judge of the book Overcoming Parent-Child Contact Problems: Family-Based Interventions for Resistance, Rejection, Alienation (Oxford, 2016). She is a former president of AFCC (2008-2009), former chair of the APA Ethics Committee (2007-2008) and is currently the Chair of the APA working group to Review Scientific Literature Regarding High Conflict Family Relationships with Child Involvement.

Learning Objectives

Attendees will learn to:

  1. Differentiate multiple reasons children resist refuse contact with a parent.
  2. Support coparenting when a child resists or refuses contact with a parent.

Outline of topics:

  1. Differentiation of resist/refuse dynamics
  2. Focus on coparenting
  3. Building empathy and accurate information processing

From Otherness to Alliance: Exploring Internal and Couples Systems in Gender Transition

February 1, 2023 with Jean Malpas. LMHC, LMFT


Couple therapists need to understand and learn to handle complex couples’ which include gender and sexual diversity. While many therapists are adequately trained to work with individuals and couples, often they lack expertise created by the intersection of couples’ dynamics, cultural factors, gender and sexual diversity.

Participants will learn to utilize and integrate several elements of couple therapy models and methods including these frameworks: Vulnerability Cycle, Internal Family System (IFS), Systems-Centered Therapy (SCT) and the Gender Affirmative Model (GAM). Jean will discuss how he uses these models to engage multiple levels of analysis, observation, hypothesizing and interventions when working with couples in the intra-individual, interpersonal, familial, contextual, and cultural realms. His approach to couples therapy utilizes these frameworks to address couples' impasses and conflicts and to support changes that are needed at the individual, relational and contextual levels.

The learning will support clinicians trying to integrate multiple schools of thoughts. It will also provide a unique opportunity to learn the challenges, resources and specific clinical issues arising in couples exploring gender fluidity and transition together.

Jean Malpas is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Mental Health Counselor based in NYC. Jean is a graduate and former faculty of the Ackerman Institute for the Family where he taught couples and family therapy for nearly 15 years. Jean has taught couple and family therapy nationally and internationally, highlighting working with LGBTQ+ couples, families and youth. Jean's work has been recognized by several awards and media coverage. He is the author of several chapters, as well articles published in peer-reviewed English, French and Portuguese-speaking journals.

Learning Objectives

Attendees will learn to:

  1. Identify and utilize concepts and methods from multiple schools of thoughts in couple therapy
  2. Differentiate and apply concepts pertaining to gender and sexual identity as they relate to couple development.

Outline of topics:

  1. Gender and sexual identity
  2. Couples identity development
  3. Internal family systems

The Solace of an Uncertain Future: Helping Couples Navigate Illness

March 1, 2023, Kaethe Weingarten, PhD


Very few clinicians have experience-near understanding of the impact on couples of acute or chronic illness over the life cycle, at particular stages in the life cycle, and at stages in the life cycle of long-term relationships. This presentation makes visible factors that clinicians need to be aware of in order to deliver competent, compassionate care to couples who are experiencing the chronic sorrow associated with the self and other-loss that is a consequence of illness, whether acute, chronic, remedial, or terminal.

Concepts presented will include: the witnessing model as a method for intervention; chronic sorrow; self and other-loss; characteristics of the couple that impact how they cope with illness as well as the phase of illness as a factor that influences how a couple copes with illness.

Kaethe (pronounced Kay-tah) Weingarten, PhD, directs the Witness to Witness Program, a project of Migrant Clinicians Network, affiliated with and endorsed by the American Family Therapy Academy. Dr. Weingarten was an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology in the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry from 1981-2017 and a faculty member of the Family Institute of Cambridge where she founded and directed the Program in Families, Trauma and Resilience. She has published six books and over 100 articles and essays. Her book Common Shock: Witnessing Violence Every Day - How we are harmed, how we can heal won the 2004 Nautilus Award for Social Change. In 2002, she was awarded the highest honor of the American Family Therapy Academy, the award for Distinguished Contribution to Family Theory and Practice. Kaethe has been teaching, doing clinical practice, presenting, and publishing on the subject of this presentation for forty years. She has multiple publications on this topic, including articles in peer-reviewed journals, essays in medical journals, and blog postings.

Learning Objectives

Attendees will learn to:

  1. Apply the four different witness positions to working with couples affected by illness
  2. Describe the interplay of self-loss, other-loss in the context of the illness experience of couples

Outline of topics:

  1. The four witnessing positions
  2. Chronic sorrow
  3. Self-loss, other-loss
  4. Phases of illness for couples

EdD Meeting the Big! Challenges of "Blended Families": What Works and What Doesn't

April 12, 2023** note: second Wednesday, Patricia Papernow


The phrase “blended families,” hides the fact that stepfamilies often pose intense challenges to parents, stepparents, children and to their relationships with each other. Stepfamilies are defined as a family unit in which at least one parent-child relationship precedes the adult couple relationship. The couple may be married or cohabiting and not married. If they are married, it may be a first marriage for one or both. They may be living together or Living Apart Together. They may have children under 18, or adult children with kids of their own.

What works, and what doesn't, to meet the challenges of these complicated family units is often quite different from a first-partner family. Indeed, using a first-time family map can not only be misleading but can even be destructive. The good news is that we have over four decades of research and clinical practice that provides evidence-based guidance for this work. The bad news is that although over 40% of Americans have a close stepfamily relationship, few mental health professionals receive any training at all in working with their challenges.

What works, and what doesn't, to meet the challenges of these complicated family units is often quite different from a first-partner family. Indeed, using a first-time family map can not only be misleading but can even be destructive. The good news is that we have over four decades of research and clinical practice that provides evidence-based guidance for this work. The bad news is that although over 40% of Americans have a close stepfamily relationship, few mental health professionals receive any training at all in working with their challenges.

Whether you work with families, couples, or individuals, with adults or children, you will receive concrete, practical strategies for meeting challenges in family relationships that occur after a significant partnership ends. We'll look at some “easy wrong turns” for family members and clinicians. You will learn to recognize the dynamics of five major blended family challenges. Dr. Papernow will provide a clinical framework that integrates the research with a wide variety of therapeutic modalities: psychoeducational, interpersonal, intrapsychic and family-of-origin.

Dr. Patricia Papernow is an internationally recognized expert on stepfamilies. She integrates a deep understanding of the research with four decades of clinical practice using a wide variety of therapeutic modalities. The recipient of the award for Distinguished Contribution to Family Psychology from the APA Couple and Family Division, Dr. Papernow is the author of one of the classic books in the field, Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships: What Works and What Doesn't, and, with Karen Bonnell, The Stepfamily Handbook: From Dating to Getting Serious to Forming a "Blended Family", as well as dozens of articles and book chapters. Dr. Papernow is a psychologist in private practice in Hudson, MA, and Director of the Institute for Stepfamily Education.

Learning Objectives

Attendees will learn to:

  1. Apply the four different witness positions to working with couples affected by illness
  2. Describe the interplay of self-loss, other-loss in the context of the illness experience of couples

Outline of topics:

  1. The four witnessing positions
  2. Chronic sorrow
  3. Self-loss, other-loss
  4. Phases of illness for couples

Working with Couples in Which One or Both Partners have ADHD

May 3, 2023 with Sue Hallowell, LICSW


In work with couples where one or both have ADHD it is important to look at the couple through several lens at once to fully understand and treat the couple effectively. Couple therapists can make the mistake of only seeing the couple through the ADHD lens. This can lead to over focusing on the neurobiology and ignoring other factors. Another error is seeing the couple only through a dynamic lens while ignoring the role ADHD plays. It is also easy to try on “fix” the ADHD by over focusing on “coaching” or not understanding that is ADHD coaching can be part of the role of couples' therapists with these cases. When one person in the couple is diagnosed with ADHD it is important to understand the role they are playing in the couple challenges separate from ADHD. The symptoms of ADHD can be so blatant that other things are missed. Sue will discuss the following:

  1. Helping the couple understand how the lens they look through impacts the relationship.
  2. Helping couples understand intention and impact.
  3. Helping people take responsibility for their behavior in the context of the couple rather than blaming others or circumstances.
  4. Helping the couple rethink roles and expectations in the relationship.
  5. How to manage conflict.
  6. The importance of each member of the couple understanding the perspective of the other person as opposed to making their own point heard.

Sue Hallowell, LICSW, is the Clinical Director for the Hallowell Center in New York City, and additionally runs a private social work practice in Cambridge, MA. A highly experienced social worker of 35 years, Sue uses psychodynamic therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and mindfulness training in her work. Sue has a special expertise in working with couples, especially where ADHD is an issue. When she started working with these couples there was no clinical understanding of the similarities and differences with couples who do not face this issue. She also does a significant amount of work with parents whose children are struggling with attention issues or other mental health concerns, as well as college students and adults.

Sue's previous positions include Director of Inpatient Social Work at Massachusetts Mental Health Center and Associate Professor at Simmons Graduate School of Social Work (adjunct). She graduated from the University of Virginia and Boston College Graduate School of Social Work. Sue is married to Ned Hallowell and co-authored Married To Distraction with him. Together they have appeared on numerous TV and radio shows to discuss relationships and ADHD, and Sue often presents at conferences on her successful model of support and therapy for couples.

Attendees will learn to:

  1. Identify three or more lenses they need to look through when working with couples with ADHD and how to apply that knowledge.
  2. List two common themes that emerge in working with couples affected by ADHD and describe how they can address them in the work.

Outline of topics:

  1. What is similar and different in working with couples with ADHD from other couples therapy including the pitfalls therapists can fall into with this population.
  2. The importance of understanding the individual lens clinicians use with ADHD and how to broaden understanding of the issue as it impacts relationships.
  3. The importance of intention and impact.

Target Audience

This course is designed for helping professionals interested in the principles and practices of couple therapy, including, but not limited to, social workers, psychologists, mental health counselors and marriage & family therapists. The program serves the needs of beginning and intermediate clinicians with little to a moderate amount of formal couple therapy training who are or would like to work with couples and families. We also prepare advanced practitioners who take the course to deepen their knowledge, enhancing capacities for supervision, teaching, training, and administrative roles.


  • Registration: The cost for individual registration $775. Early registration available until for individuals is $750.
  • September 14, 2022 is the early registration deadline. Payment plans are available.
  • CEs: additional cost of $40 for CEs for the professions who are eligible and people who would like to access those. CE infomation below.
  • Black Therapists Rock, National Assn. of Black Counselors, NEAFAST Members and anyone else may contact us for an equity rate of $700
  • Please note: you must register for the course as a whole. Attendance at individual sessions of the course is not allowed to maintain the integrity of the learning group. Contact us for more information.

Registration Instructions

Please note the online system allows you to register and pay: using your Paypal account, using Paypal as a conduit to your credit card or provides instructions to mail a check. Please complete the online registration form at the link below even if you will be mailing a check for payment. Your space is not secure until payment is received.

Available CEs

ACEP Logo Participants MUST attend 100% of the program to earn the 18 CEs approved for eligible professions.

  • Therapy Training Boston is approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6707 for Mental Health Counselors. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. Therapy Training Boston is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.
  • This program is certified by the New England Association for Family and Systemic Therapy (NEAFAST) on behalf of the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health & Human Services Professions for LMFT professional continuing education.
  • Application for social work continuing education credits have been submitted. Please contact us for the status of social work CE accreditation.
  • Application is being made for psychology CE credit approval with our new APA approved CE co-sponsor.
  • The web page will be updated when we receive notifications from CE approving bodies.
  • Read detailed information about CEs.

Cancellations and Refunds

No refunds are available for cancellations by participants regardless of the reason or time frame. If participants cancel 30 days or more prior to the event beginning, they may apply the fee to a future program. Workshops and courses may be cancelled by Therapy Training Boston if minimum enrollment requirements are not met or in the case of other unexpected circumstances. If this occurs, a full refund will be provided.

Additional Information

This course will provide important information for clinicians who are at an introductory or intermediate level of knowledge about working with couples. Advanced practitioners are welcome to attend to deepen their knowledge of the subject for practice, supervision, teaching, and administrative roles.

Target Audience: This offering is relevant to all helping professionals including but not limited to social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, marriage & family therapists.

Commercial support and conflicts of interest: There is no commercial support for this program.


For all event policies read this, detailed CE information here.