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Fostering New Relational Experience

Clinical Process in Couple Psychotherapy


One of the most critical goals for couple psychotherapy is to foster a new relational experience in the session where the couple feels safe enough to reveal more vulnerable emotions and to explore their defensive withdrawal, aggressive attacking, or blaming. The lived intimate experience in the session offers the couple an opportunity to gain integrative insight into their feelings, expectations, and behaviors that ultimately hinder intimacy. The clinical processes that are necessary include empathizing with the couple and facilitating safety within the session, looking for opportunities to explore emotions, ruptures, and unconscious motivations that maintain distance in the relationship, and creating a new relational experience in the session that has the potential to engender integrative insight. These clinical processes will be presented with empirical support. Experts from a session will be used to highlight how these processes influence the couple and promote increased intimacy.

Keywords: couples, marital therapy, psychotherapy process, empathy

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Cheri L. Marmarosh, PhD, is a full-time associate professor of professional psychology at the George Washington University and a licensed psychologist. She has published numerous empirical and theoretical articles that focus on how group and individual therapy facilitate change and is the lead author of two books- Attachment in Group Psychotherapy and Group: Facilitating a Culture of Change. She is an associate editor of Psychotherapy and on the editorial boards of Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice and the International Journal of Group Psychotherapy. Dr. Marmarosh is a Fellow of the American Psychology Association, Division 29 (Psychotherapy) and Division 49 (Group Psychotherapy). She has a private practice in Washington, DC. Dr. Marmarosh’s research applies attachment theory to understand the development of the psychotherapy relationship, and she has focused on how client and therapist attachments influence both the process and outcome of psychotherapy.

Cite This Article

Marmarosh, C. L. (2014). Fostering new relational experience: Clinical process in couple psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, 51(1), 1-6. doi: 10.1037/a0032710



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