Bill O'Hanlon, M.S., Possibilities,;

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 "videotalk."

*Action complaints

*Action requests

*Action praise


4. Identify mutually agreeable goals and plans in "videotalk."


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 pattern.

*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.

This page is designed by Gary Schultheis. Yours could be too.
Revised: November 11, 2023 --- Copyright © 1997 Bill O'Hanlon