Short-Term Couple Therapy

Edited by: James M Donovan, PhD

Course Outline

This unique guide brings together representatives of the major family therapy approaches to demonstrate the nuts and bolts of their brief work with couples. The time- and cost-effective models discussed are explicitly short-term — not long-term on fast forward — and detailed case excerpts and clinical examples highlight how each form of therapy is actually conducted. Noted contributors include Susan Johnson, Philip Guerin, Michael Nichols and Salvador Minuchin, Simon Budman, Andrew Christensen and Neil Jacobson, James Keim, and many others.

About Authors

James M. Donovan, PhD, has served as staff psychologist at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates for over 25 years. Dr. Donovan is founder and codirector of the Mental Healthy Fellowship at Harvard Vanguard and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry in Psychology at Harvard Medical School.

Learning Objectives

  1. Identify and discuss 6 principles of brief therapy.
  2. Discuss the attachment theory and the emotionally focused couple therapy perspective on marital distress and adult intimacy.
  3. List nine steps of emotionally focused couple therapy.
  4. Plan the EFT treatment, build an alliance with the couple and provide core interventions.
  5. Describe the triangle of conflict and explain its application in couple therapy.
  6. List 7 key steps in short-term couples group psychotherapy.
  7. Identify criteria for patient selection for successful short-term couples group therapy.
  8. Describe 7 stages of group process and corresponding therapist activity.
  9. Identify three crucial skills required of therapists in short-term couples group therapy.
  10. Explain Control Mastery theory and the role played by pathogenic beliefs in denying a partner in a marriage the right to happiness while others are in need.
  11. Describe survivor guilt and explain how it can have a destructive effect on a marriage.
  12. Distinguish between “transference” and “passive-into-active” testing of the therapist.
  13. Describe the importance of attending to family-of-origin dynamics in the treatment of couples who are experiencing marital difficulties.
  14. Discuss six reasons why triangles are important factors in producing and maintaining marital dysfunction, and in making marital therapy more complex.
  15. Describe the clinical management of relationship triangles using the five-step method.
  16. Explain the need for a structural understanding of couples in therapy.
  17. Describe brief structural therapy in 9 distinguishable steps.
  18. Prescribe four alternatives therapists can offer for a successful relationship.
  19. Describe the conceptual approach that combines psychoanalysis and systems theory into a short-term couple therapy.
  20. List 7 central tasks of marriage as described by Wallerstein.
  21. Discuss how attack, avoid, or confide reactions result into adversarial, alienated or collaborative couple system.
  22. Describe how a therapist can help couples move from fighting and withdrawing mode to a collaborative couple therapy.
  23. Compare and contrast collaborative couple therapy to other approaches.
  24. Describe how the integrative couple therapy modifies the traditional behavioral therapy to bring about superior results.
  25. Explain session-by-session integrative couple therapy.
  26. Describe a formalized negotiating technique with 14 points.
  27. Describe the brief strategic marital therapy approach taught at the Washington School.
  28. Describe the code of ethics that a strategic therapist should adhere to.
  29. List 12 assumptions which when translated into five major processes define a time-effective, competency-based therapy.
  30. Describe the process of time-effective; solution-focused approach to couple’s therapy.
  31. Identify the logic behind asking pivotal questions.
  32. Outline 10 useful steps for achieving time-effective outcomes in solution-focused couple therapy.
  33. Describe the narrative approach to brief couple therapy listing six phases of the work.

Course Contents

  1. Short-Term Couple Therapy and the Principles of Brief Treatment
    James M. Donovan


  1. Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy: Straight to the Heart
    Susan M. Johnson
  2. Short-Term Couples Group Psychotherapy: A Tale of Four Fights
    James M. Donovan
  3. A Control Mastery Approach to Short-Term Couple Therapy
    Richard Vogel


  1. Brief Marital Therapy: The Story of the Triangles
    Philip J. Guerin, Jr., Leo F. Fay, Thomas F. Fogarty, and Judith G. Kautto
  2. Short-Term Structural Family Therapy with Couples
    Michael P. Nichols and Salvador Minuchin
  3. Psychoanalytically Informed Short- Term Couple Therapy
    Phyllis Cohen
  4. Time-Effective Couple Therapy
    Simon H. Budman


  1. Collaborative Couple Therapy
    Daniel B. Wile
  2. Integrative Couple Therapy: The Dyadic Relationship of Acceptance and Change
    Erika Lawrence, Kathleen Eldridge, Andrew Christensen, and Neil S. Jacobson


  1. Brief Strategic Martial Therapy
    James Keim
  2. Narrative Solutions in Brief Couple Therapy
    Joseph B. Eron and Thomas W. Lund
  3. A Time-Effective, Solution- Focused Approach to Couple Therapy
    Steven Friedman and Eve Lipchik
  4. Couples, Culture, and Discourse: A Narrative Approach
    John H. Neal, Jeffrey L. Zimmerman, and Victoria C. Dickerson
  5. Short-Term Couple Therapy: The Present and the Future
    James M. Donovan

Customer Comments

“This course material will be useful in my practice.”

– P.B., LPC, NJ

“Very good! A lot of useful info!”

– T.L.M., LPC, AL & FL