Q. Are there possibilities for follow-up with you after the groups?
Yes. After a workshop, for a period of two weeks we will try our best to be available to discuss issues raised in the workshop. Doug is available for paid phone consultations for those who would like to follow up after that period. We also have trained a number of helpers in our approach who are available to assist with follow-up work for a very reasonable cost.
Q. As an individual [a couple] coming to your groups, wouldn't I be somewhat out of place with couples (individuals)?
No, not at all. Most of our groups include individuals and couples, and we find that it works very well that way. Individuals get to learn more about couples' issues than they normally would. It can also be a real advantage for couples as well and here's the reason why. Couples' growth work essentially has two components: there's the personal exploration that each individual has to do as part of his or her own personal evolution, and then there is the relating skills part that both partners have to learn together. In most couples-only groups the tendency is to focus primarily on the relating skills part. In our groups, because individual's issues get attention by the nature of the group (and because Naomi and I have strong skills in both areas), there is a lot more opportunity for both types of exploration.
Unlike many therapy groups, we consistently have a balance between genders - in fact we frequently attract more men than women.
Q. Can you recommend a therapist who does your type of work but who lives closer to us?
Most people who ask this question are looking for local therapists - hoping to spare themselves the effort and expense of taking a full week away from regular activities plus the travel costs that go with it. Since it is likely that most local therapists work in the hourly session format, that question is a bit like asking whether you can get the same experience from a teacher who will see you once a week for an hour as from a teachers who live with you for a week in one of the most stimulating and challenging environments you will ever experience. We realize, of course, that many excellent psychotherapists are in practice across the continent but the truth is there are things you can do in a retreat format that you can't do in the more traditional settings. We also have an orientation towards feelings-training that is very effective but not easily accomplished in office settings. [See Group Work page for a more complete discussion of the merits of each approach.]
We also believe that part of the power of our work comes from the two of us working together as a husband/wife team. Having both the masculine and feminine viewpoints available at all times from the leaders in a group therapeutic process is a rare luxury in the personal growth field, and is not something that can be easily found. Naomi is one of the most skilled teachers of the emotional body available today; she can help anybody get down to their emotions. But without Doug right there to bring forward the mental/rational aspects at any given moment, she wouldn't be able to go as far with people as she does. There is a fair sampling of larger group, week-end events run by couples but not many settings where you can really dig in for a week of intense personalized exploration with a husband/wife team.
Q. How do you work inside the group?
We, as a couple, work with all the participants in a circle. Everyone witnesses everyone else's exploration. Initially, most people experience some nervousness about entering a group (see "Group Work" ), but after that passes, they discover that this is a very exciting way to go. First, you get concentrated attention from two very experienced helpers pretty much when you need it. Then you get to learn from everyone else's situation - and you will learn a lot! Next you get to see that you are not alone. And nothing is quite so enlightening as witnessing a person who is clearly stuck earnestly voicing your very own lines. During the entire time, you get to practice speaking and hearing personal truth - in ways that are rare in our society, but so needed.
In general terms, we begin by identifying an issue that is problematic -either in an individual's life or in a couple's situation. We start off by exploring the surface appearances of that issue (usually something that has been done many times by the participants before they arrive here). This time, instead of hashing through the problem using the intellect only, participants begin -with our help- to uncover the feelings that exist underneath the issue. Getting to these feelings helps to get to deeper levels of understanding, deeper than the rational mind alone is capable of. New realizations invariably emerge. As we explore the problem in deeper ways, we also begin to engage in feelings training, which is about learning how to locate, how to express, and (just as importantly for those who want to experience deeper intimate relating), how to receive feelings.
If individuals have a desire to get to the roots of an ongoing, unnourishing pattern, we use our accumulated experience with human dynamics to go deeper yet. Many times as the roots become more evident, we discover some unfinished business with families of origin. We have a unique way of working with families of origin, and it has nothing to do with blame or with vilifying anyone-in fact, quite the opposite. We call it "harvesting our families of origin," and we believe it is work that must be done if we want to come to our fullest maturity and capacities as adults.
If you want to get a better idea of what our work is like, a read through our first book, The Shadow Side of Intimate Relationships: What's Going on , will give you a good idea about our approach. Our second book, Making Your Second Marriage a First Class Success, will give you an even better idea. (Don't be misled by the "Second Marriage" title -the majority of the material is pertinent to all marriages.) Our third book, Feelings First!, goes into more depth about why and how to work with feelings, with particular emphasis on locating, expressing and receiving them.
Q. I have done a lot of growth work but my partner hasn't. Will we gain by being in a group together?
What many people call having "done a lot of work" often translates as having gained many mental insights, read a lot of books, attended large group seminars, or shared deeply with like-gender friends. All these experiences are valuable, but they usually don't incorporate much of an emotionally experiential component. And none of this "work" puts you face-to-face, under emotional guidance, with your most intimate partner at the time when the most difficult issues between you are up.
Over the years we have talked with many women who said they felt much more emotionally advanced than their partners, but when they are in an experiential situation where they actually have to express their feelings cleanly and clearly, we find they are not as on top of it as they thought they were. We have also heard from many men who believe they, themselves, have covered most of the therapeutic spectrum. But, these men, when it really comes down to it, may have very little capacity to be with their emotional selves, especially when they are under the pressure of a difficult situation with their most intimate partner. Over the years we have discovered that only rare souls have much skill in consistently receiving feelings in their intimate relationships - a skill that is absolutely fundamental for those who have a desire to sustain passion in their relationships. This is not to say that emotional work is all that needs to be done. But our point is that people who operate primarily out of their intellectual aspects don't realize that their "thinking" often holds a much larger defensive component than they are aware of.
On occasion, one partner from a couple comes alone to a group of ours. That's fine-once or twice. However our experience has been that participating in more than one group alone, without the partner present, can lead to problems. A lot is gained in a group; much is learned that would be much more difficult to take in any other way. But these are the kinds of lessons that are difficult to teach to a partner without some third-party assistance. Considering the tools and awarenesses and understanding and new language we give people in our groups, what works best is for both partners to be learning together at the same time.
Q. I would like to come to one of your trainings but I don't think my partner would ever agree. Can you help me?
It's very difficult being in a relationship where you see problems and your partner essentially refuses to see them or to deal with them. People who push away from counseling (and often, correspondingly, immerse themselves in their vocational work) really, at the heart of it all, feel huge fear about becoming personally vulnerable. Unfortunately, this very same fear (a fear that is usually buried, denied or otherwise unacknowledged) is part of what contributes to difficulties in their intimate lives. And the worst part is that partners in this situation will likely have difficulty ever truly seeing themselves and how they come across to their intimate others if they don't get some kind of outside help - the very help they refuse to seek!
Sadly, it often takes a crisis of sorts to break into this defended territory. And sometimes a starving marital partner has to be the one who creates the crisis. In truth, it is up to you to change things, and some real risk and an expression of some real 'will' by you may be required to get your partner to seek help with you. The situation may come down to a choice between work-advancement and saving your marriage. The situation may come to considering the costs of seeking help versus the costs of divorce (both financial and emotional). The situation may even come down to ultimately having to face rejection and/or abandonment.
We can tell you that if the love between you is really there in your relationship, your partner will come through his or her resistance - if you learn how to express yourself with clarity, determination, and directness. You may be able to see some troubles your partner is having in the relationship, but right now, part of the problem in your relationship likely has to do with you not finding your voice. Speaking up about your need to seek outside help (and finding a way to be heard about it) is the first healing for you. Things will be significantly different after your partner has passed through her/his resistance but you have to find your voice before that can happen. Once your partner has learned new skills and experienced the rewards of having more feelings-awareness in your relationship, the whole issue of seeking counseling will have a different light around it. But getting over that first hurdle will not be easy in part because this lack of voice with your intimate partner has likely been part of your issue for a long time.
We obviously can't tell you there is no risk as you begin to make more of an effort to speak up for what you need but keep in mind that not speaking up and not being heard probably means that your marriage is dead-if not already, then it will be when the point arrives that your problems become undeniable and quite possibly insurmountable. So what do you have to lose by working diligently to find your true voice now? No one ever claimed that growing up and developing a real self was going to be easy.
Q. In a week-long retreat, what does a typical day look like?
Our workshops usually begin after supper on the first day. This evening session is an introduction to our work and to each other. We begin to identify the issues that need to be worked with during the week. The subsequent days start at 7:30 a.m. This early morning session focuses on our physical being and how to be more present in our bodies (as opposed to being so much in our heads). No two sessions are the same and a lot depends on the group. Some teaching is involved and some direct experience, perhaps through movement. The goal is to help individuals to increase their inner awareness and develop inner boundaries.
After a breakfast, the main morning session takes place with the full group, in a circle, to around 1:30 p.m. During this time we focus on learning how to work with the emotional body. We work with issues and problems that individuals and couples present to the group. We work with unfinished business from the past. We work with clearing out emotions and resentments that have been blocked or denied. We learn about our defense systems and how to open up more when we want to. It's the most intense part of the day.
During the afternoon session, activities are matched to the needs of the group. Sometimes the focus continues to be on emotional-skills training. Sometimes Naomi teaches how to do self-exploration through creativity. Sometimes we'll do something outdoors. The activities vary from day to day, but they always add important pieces to awareness and personal growth.
On the last day of the group, our usual format is a wrap-up group session in the morning, following by a closing brunch together.
As we outline in the last chapter of our "Second Marriage" book, we believe in the importance of building what we call an inner "container." By that we mean learning to come inside oneself -as opposed to living through reactivity to events and people outside of ourselves (which is how most of us tend to go through life until we begin to train ourselves otherwise). Each day's activity is designed to assist in developing skill at building this container. As the group progresses we add skills that are designed to help carry what has been learned out into the everyday world after the group is completed.
Q. Is it OK to smoke in your house?
The effects of smoking on feelings
What do people get out of smoking? It is a complicated question that has created challenges for researchers. Some smokers use cigarettes to stimulate themselves, in particular their mental processes. Others use them to calm themselves, and many individuals use cigarettes for both purposes at various times. Which way it is it then: are cigarettes a stimulant or a depressant?
Naomi and I believe this particular paradox of cigarette smoking can be explained if you recognize that cigarettes are feeling inhibitors. Feel fear or powerless deep down? Smoke a cigarette and cut those feelings. With those feelings temporarily less accessible, a smoker is more ready to go out and face the world (stimulant). Feel angry? Smoke a cigarette, mask the feeling of anger, and it's easier to cope (calming effect).
Stop smoking altogether? All the feelings that have been masked come welling up, particularly the most uncomfortable ones. Easier to grab another cigarette and push them down again. If people want to interfere with their inner being in this way, that is totally up to them. But there is an element of counterproductivity involved in trying to get more in touch with feelings (becoming more alive) and continuing to smoke (a deadening process). It's one foot on the gas with the other foot on the brake. We believe a similar process occurs with other many other addictive substances.
We've had a number of smokers come to our workshops who have had benefited from what we teach about feelings (if they are willing to quit while they are here). But the real truth is that unless there is some hope of quitting smoking altogether, the effort made to learn about deeper feelings largely goes up into smoke after the group is over. Our belief is: if you are resolved about continuing to smoke, you're essentially wasting your time and money coming to us to learn about feelings and passion.
Q. Of all the Relationship Counselors, Coaches, Teachers, and Therapists on the Internet why would I want to choose you to seek help from?
Good question! If you study this entire website, you will discover an uncommon amount of content to examine, content that should help you to discover if there is a match between your needs and our work. To help you make up your mind one way or the other, we also recommend that you read at least one of our books. They get right to the point, and are designed to give you a clear idea about who we are and what we do.
We get a lot of excitement and satisfaction from our work and have no interest in working with people who would not fit well with our approach, so we urge you to become familiar with it. Naomi and I also understand that people usually want to contact us directly before signing up for a group. We ourselves wouldn't want to make this kind of commitment if we couldn't directly connect with the facilitators first. For those reasons, we make every effort to be available via e-mail and the telephone. If you are serious about seeking help (and let's face it, we all need help at certain times), feel free to contact us. Together we'll discover if what Naomi and I provide is a good match for what you need.
Q. What kind of people aren't well served by your approach?
Individuals who are at the stage of exploration at which they only want a feel-good, uplifting type of approach would do better with other helpers. We believe this type of empowerment work is important at earlier stages in growth work (especially for those who have been profoundly wounded in their younger years). However, for those who have a desire to go deeper into intimacy and deeper into life, we believe the truth of what is is much more important to work with than attempting only to build up feelings of personal efficacy.
Those who feel like they are victims in their world or in their relationships, and are not ready to shift radically from that position, ought to seek an approach different from ours.
Q. What types of people are attracted to your approach?
We attract individuals and couples who have tried other approaches and are ready to go deeper than they have before. We also attract mature individuals who haven't done any therapeutic work but are determined to take on inner exploration and don't want to waste time. Not infrequently, these individuals are being propelled by a crisis in their relationship or in their personal sense of well-being.
We attract individuals (and couples) who have enough ego-strength to be able to incorporate their shadow aspects; that is, they are ready to take more responsibility for who they are and what they contribute to their intimate relationships.
We attract individuals who have a good cognitive understanding of who they are but find they have difficulty tapping into their deeper feelings. We specialize in working with people who, even though they may be successful in their outer world, have a desire to explore their inner lives in ways they haven't before.
We attract individuals of all age groups (mid-thirties to sixties mainly, but a fair number outside of those ranges) and in all economic brackets. We work with couples at every stage, from those in the early commitment phase to veterans of forty-year marriage. We work with individuals who are not getting enough of what they want out of their personal lives. Some individuals who come to us aren't currently in a relationship and want to be. Some individuals have been in too many relationships and want to learn how to keep one going. Many people are in a crisis of sorts, and a few very wise souls are taking on some training while their personal lives and relationships are in top condition, because they have a sense of what it takes to keep it that way.