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Transforming Challenging Couples:

Empowering the Therapeutic Relationship to Tame Chaos and Ease Rigidity (T2)

by Travis Atkinson & Poul Perris

How do you use the schema therapy model to work effectively with your couples? In this one-day workshop, Travis Atkinson and Poul Perris will be exploring ways to help therapists apply the schema therapy model, with a focus on the therapeutic relationship, to effectively treat some of the most challenging mode cycles, from the extremes of chaos to the confinements of rigidity. Schema Couples Therapy can help distressed, unstable couples shift into satisfying, secure connections that can endure.

Schema therapy, designed as an antidote for deeply engrained personality disorders resistant to standard therapy, provides answers through an expansive approach that targets chronic, negative beliefs and maladaptive coping modes that often reinforce distress in love relationships.

While many couple therapy models offer solutions to help couples, only a few have shown promising, lasting results, without addressing a dynamic when one or both partners are experiencing a personality disorder. With severe mode cycles, how can a couple's therapist help partners shift from intense, negative modes involving rigidity or chaos?

Aims of the Workshop:

1. Identify core destructive cycles in couple dynamics, linking past and present associations with each partner's modes and schemas. Set therapeutic goals as antidotes based on schemas and mode cycles

2. Effectively restructure negative cycles of a couple to address schemas and create new beliefs reinforced through new patterns of emotional connection

3. Solidify safety and security through continued reinforcement of the healthy cycle in a couple to heal injuries and schemas


Join us during this skill and intervention-focused workshop that starts with a brief introduction of how the schema therapy model uses mode work in love relationships to improve outcomes for even the most challenging dynamics within a couple.

Assessment: examining the essentials of schemas, modes, chemistry, mode cycle concept, and mode cycle clash cards;

Interventions: core therapeutic skills in couples work, including imagery imagery, connection dialogues, and chair work

Consolidation: key skills and interventions in the final phase with the couple, including a value road map, dreams of the couple, and how to solidify a secure connection

Each section includes clear illustrations, relevant video demonstrations of real couples, and practical role-plays to help you apply the interventions effectively with your couples. 

Learning Objectives:

1. Assess schemas and modes of each partner and the love relationship

2. Apply effective interventions to de-escalate maladaptive mode cycles and to create and reinforce adaptive schemas and modes

3. Consolidate new modes of interaction within the couple, and solidify adaptive schemas in relation to the self, the love relationship, and the world

The workshop is intended for: Beginners through advanced level

Certification Credit: this workshop provides 6 hours of the Couples ST certification program for those who qualify or 6 hours of Continuing education credits in ST, which are required for all Certified Schema Therapists.

Suggested Readings:

Arntz, A. & Jacob, G. (2012). Schema Therapy in Practice: An Introductory Guide to the Schema Mode Approach. John Wiley & Sons.

Atkinson, T. (2012). Schema Therapy for Couples: Healing Partners in a Relationship in Vreeswijk v.M., Nadort M, Broersen J, (eds.) The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Schema Therapy. New York: Wiley, p. 323-336.

DiFrancesco C, Roediger E, Stevens B (2016). Schema Therapy for Couples: a practitioner's guide to healing relationships. New York: Wiley.

About the Presenters:

Travis Atkinson, LCSW, is the Director of the Schema Therapy Training Center of New YorkSTTCNY. He is an Individual and Couples Advanced Certified Schema Therapist, Supervisor and Trainer. Travis trained with Jeff Young, the founder of Schema Therapy, starting in 1995, and worked as a staff member of Jeff Young's Cognitive Therapy Center of New York for many years. He helped Jeff Young create the Schema Therapy Institute of New York, and served as faculty member for several years. Travis is also certified as an Emotionally Focused Therapist and Supervisor, training for many years with Sue Johnson, the founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy. He also completed an extensive program at the Gottman Institute in Seattle, Washington, earning his certification as a Gottman Method Couples Therapist. In addition, Travis completed extensive training in group therapy, and is a Certified Group Psychotherapist.
Since 2014, Travis has served as Media Coordinator on the Executive Board of the International Society of Schema Therapy (ISST), and was the chair of ISST's Schema Couples Therapy Special Interest Group (2014 - 2017) and chair of the Committee (2016 - 2017). He has trained therapists internationally for more than 15 years, and is the author of “Healing Partners in a Relationship” in the Handbook of Schema Therapy (Wiley: 2012). Travis is the Director of the Loving at Your Best Program, running a couples center in Midtown Manhattan focused on Schema Therapy.

Poul Perris, MD, is the Director of the Swedish Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Schema Therapy. He is trained in both individual and couples therapy. Poul is a certified in both Individual and Couples Therapy as a Schema Therapist, Supervisor, and Trainer. He has  served on the Schema Couples Therapy Committee since 2014.

​Poul is the Founding President of the International Society of Schema Therapy (ISST), and served on the ISST Executive Board from 2008 to 2010. He also served as President of the Swedish Association for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (SACBT), from 2010 to 2016. Poul has trained therapists nationally and internationally for over 10 years, and is the co-author of "Schematerapi en clinkers handbook & terapiberattelse," currently available in Swedish. 

Why Schema Therapy?

Schema therapy has been extensively researched to effectively treat a wide variety of typically treatment resistant conditions, including Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Read our summary of the latest research comparing the dramatic results of schema therapy compared to other standard models of psychotherapy.

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