Counselling West Bridgford


Reflections on a year of Couples Institute Training

Today I received my certificate from the Couples Institute, confirming completion of my year-long training in The Developmental Model for Couples’ Therapy.

I’ve experienced a few emotions this past couple of weeks, as I completed the last 2 lessons (of 24) and passed the final test (90%!).  I’m very pleased with the achievement, and I’m glad I won’t be paying my monthly fee!  But there’s also feelings of disappointment that it’s over.  I must have attended over 40 live webinars, and listened to countless recordings of training calls from earlier cohorts (my certificate says 35 hours, but it really has been so much more than that!).  There are templates and guides to support me and my clients as we get stuck into the tricky work of Couples Therapy.

Until a year ago, my couples therapy work had been focussed on helping clients to have specific conversations about difficult decisions they faced, and I would never take on clients who would have heated arguments.

Over the course of the training, I quickly learned to be in the room with couples with all different kinds of struggles, and very little would be “off my radar” now.

About the training

The Couples Institute provides therapists with the tools needed to work with any presentation of clients.  And although on the face of it the work is focussed on heterosexual married couples, I didn’t have to scratch much below the surface to find the model applies to any couples of any sexuality, gender or marital status.  There were specific webinars on the experience of homosexual couples and I was able to deepen my knowledge of their experience.

Through written lessons, teaching webinars underpinned by case studies and role play, bonus calls about specific topics which included problems related to sexual intimacy, divorce, motivation in couples, neuroscience, the Vulnerability Cycle to name just a few.

Key Learnings

There were 2 main learning for me, autonomous goals and the initiator-inquirer process.

Autonomous Goals

The Developmental Model approach focuses on each individual partner in their own autonomous goals.  It seems counter intuitive on initial inspection that a couple would enter Couples Therapy and NOT work directly on their relationship.  However it soon becomes obvious that if they work on making improvements to themselves and healing their own wounds then the consequence of that will be an improved relationship.

Initiator-Inquirer Process

The initiator-inquirer process underpins most appointments with my couples.  It sets each partner to take either the role of listener or speaker, and they are not allowed to switch.  Sounds easy?  Imagine a conversation with your partner when they say something you don’t agree with or where you think you know what they’re going to say, but you are forced to keep listening.  It does require the listener to ask questions, but they can’t be leading – it’s more that you’re an investigative journalist trying to get to the root of your partner’s feelings.  Equally, if you’re talking about a difficult topic and you have the spotlight on you, and no idea if your partner agrees with you or worried they will start an argument – would you be comfortable with that? It helps clients become both better listeners and better speakers, and very often they are surprised with how much room for improvement there is!

My role in the process is to coach each partner in their role.  Sometimes, I may take over as Inquirer and do direct work if the Inquirer struggling too much or the topic is particularly difficult.  As the weeks and months progress, I will be intervening and coaching less and less.  This is a signal that we are getting close to ending our work – the couple still have work to do, but don’t need me their as their coach.


The biggest benefit of the training for me personally was the growth in confidence to work as a couples therapist, and to advertise myself as such!  Until this year, my couples work was “under the radar” and I was very selective about the couples I’ll take on.

Now I’m equipped to work with pretty much any presentation, and now label myself as a couples therapist!

It does seem a little incredible that I find myself here.  An ex-colleague of mine commented on LinkedIn about how different life is now to when we worked together, and I responded “if you’d told me I would be a couples therapists, I’d have choked on my coffee!”.

What’s next?

All I can say is that I’m open for business!  If you’d like to find out more, please to get in touch and we can explore how I might be able to help.

As the weeks and months progress I’ll be writing more about the process and what it’s like to help couples progress their relationship.  I’m also considering developing a programme for couples perhaps moving in together or about to get married for example, to help them have the best chance of success in the future.

But for now, I’m just getting stuck in to the work!

Go to my page on Couples Therapy to find out more or go to the online booking page to arrange your free initial consultation.

Couples Institute Certificate of Completion for Michelle Briggs
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