CONJOINT WORK WITH
COUPLES AND FAMILIES
1. Acknowledge/validate each person's feelings and points of view
without closing down the possibilities for change.
2. Move the discussion from complaints about things the couple or
family hasn't liked in the past to what they would like to have happen in the future.
3. Get people to translate blame (attributions of bad intentions/bad
character), vague, mind-reading, invalidating or characterizing (attributions of
unchangeable and determining personality traits) statements/questions into
4. Identify mutually agreeable goals and plans in
5. Gather video descriptions of patterns of interaction involved in
or around the complaint and get any person in the relationship to change their part of the
*Change the location, time, nonverbals, etc.
*If it works, don't fix it; if it doesn't, do something different
*Identify and encourage solution patterns
6. Help to determine clear (videotalk) boundaries/limits for
acceptable and unacceptable actions.
*Coach the person whose boundaries are violated to give consequences
when boundaries are violated.
*Coach the person who has violated the boundaries to acknowledge and
be accountable for the violation, reestablish trust and make amends.
*If appropriate, help the couple or individual design and carry out
a healing ritual.
7. Co-design with clients task assignments to help translate
in-session changes to the couples' life. Give clients an idea of the kind of tasks you
think would be helpful and elicit their collaboration in designing their specific task.
Elicit any objections or barriers to carrying out the task(s) before it is finalized and
agreed to. Write down the task and keep a copy. Follow up by asking about the task at the
beginning of the next interview.
8. Use humor to help the couple or family lighten up and see the
possibilities for change.
9. Do individual work when an individual within a couple or family
has something they want to work on that would be relevant to achieving the goal(s) of the
conjoint work. Make sure that you don't imply that the person you are doing individual
work with has the "real" relationship problem.