Level 1 Training in Pragmatic/Experiential Therapy for Couples (PET-C):

PET-C Foundations and the Mutual Disarmament Phase

Click Here to Register for Level 1

Most people who are in distressed relationships believe that their partners are more to blame, but studies suggest that partners tend to engage in unhealthy relationship behaviors at approximately the same rates.   Studies further suggest that mistaken beliefs about overall blame are no small matter.  They fuel contempt – the single most powerful predictor of relationship dissolution that has been found by researchers to date.  In Level I training, Dr. Atkinson will demonstrate how you can go straight to the heart of the matter, helping clients realize that they can’t have it both ways (i.e., they can’t hold on to the belief that their partners are more to blame and also expect that their partners will be able to give them heartfelt understanding and caring responses).  You will learn methods for validating each client’s need for his/her partner to understand and care about the hurts that s/he has caused, while emphasizing that it’s almost impossible for this to happen as long as the client believes that his/her partner is the more culpable party in the story of their relationship.  Throughout the training, Dr. Atkinson will demonstrate how to talk to clients about their personal habits in ways that diffuse shame and defensiveness and generate excitement about the prospect of learning more effective ways of eliciting respectfulness and caring from their partners.

PET-C Level 1 Training Format:

As a PET-C training participant, you will watch videos of Dr. Atkinson teaching every step and nuance of the Mutual Disarmament component of Pragmatic/Experiential Therapy for Couples. These teaching videos draw on live presentations Dr. Atkinson has given along with studio recordings and recordings of Dr. Atkinson’s therapy sessions in which he demonstrates specific PET-C methods and interventions. Every week you will be assigned videos to watch at whatever times are convenient for you (The total length of viewing time every two weeks will average between 2 and 4 hours). At the end of each week you will meet live with Dr. Atkinson via Zoom in order to ask questions, seek clarification, and interact with Dr. Atkinson as he summarizes the most important things he hopes that you are taking away from the teaching videos.  Each live discussion will be recorded so that if a participant is unable to attend, they can watch later. Here are the dates of the Level 1 live discussions with Dr. Atkinson in the next Level 1 training (Live discussions will occur from 11 AM – 12:30 PM Central time each day):

  • September 8, 2023
  • September 15, 2023
  • September 22, 2023
  • September 29, 2023
  • October 13, 2023
  • October 20, 2023
  • October 27, 2023

After each training, you will be given the opportunity to enroll in a PET-C supervision group with Dr. Atkinson or another senior PET-C supervisor to facilitate your ongoing PET-C skill development.

(Note: You don’t need to wait to begin viewing the PET-C training videos until the next scheduled PET-C training. You will have access to all of the training videos for each Level as soon as you register for that level.)

PET-C Level 1 Content  (Approximately 26 hours of instruction and live interaction with Dr. Atkinson)

 The Secrets of Successful Partners

  • How scientists predict relationship fates with over 90% accuracy.
  • The abilities of people who are good at getting others to treat them well.
  • The habits of people who are destined for relationship trouble.
  • Why the most important relationship skills are not communication skills.
  • Watershed moments: How people react when they feel offended or mistreated.
  • Why people continue with self-defeating relationship habits even though they don’t work.

Working with Differences in Nervous System Wiring

  • How to recognize differences in nervous system wiring that most often lead to judgment and criticism.
  • Five core differences in nervous system wiring.
  • How successful partners navigate these differences.

 A Step-by-Step Blueprint for Helping Partners Get More Respect, Cooperation and Understanding from Their Mates

  • Six abilities that are not optional.
  • Reacting effectively when you don’t like the way your partner is thinking or acting.
  • Reacting effectively when your partner doesn’t like the way you are thinking or acting.
  • How to stop partners from “arguing about the previous argument.”

Helping Your Clients Stand Up for Themselves without Putting Their Partners Down

  • How effective partners require that they be treated with respect while making it easy for their mates to do so.
  • Stand up for yourself:  Why timing is everything.
  • Showing your clients how to use the six steps required for standing up effectively.
  • Common pitfalls in the standing up process.
  • Refusing to continue business as usual.
  • Why “getting on the high horse” weakens your client’s influence.
  • Why Having a Bottom Line saves relationships.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Standing Up Process

  • “What about when the other person has done something that is clearly wrong or harmful?”
  • “What is the difference between issuing an ultimatum and ‘Refusing to Continue Business as Usual?’”
  • “Shouldn’t your client take the high road…be the bigger person?”
  • “What if one partner stands up for himself effectively but his/her mate still continues to treat him/her badly?”

Effectiveness Under Hostile Fire

  • A 7-step protocol for helping partners get into the right frame of mind under duress.
  • Reactions to being criticized that never work.
  • How to reduce your partner’s tendency to find fault with you.
  • Why “taking the high road” doesn’t work (and what does work instead).
  • When fighting fire with fire is necessary, and how to add the secret ingredient.
  • How successful partners give each other critical feedback without the other person feeling criticized.

Cutting Through the Blame Game

  • The relationship between overall blame and contempt.
  • Why overall blame is the kiss of death to a relationship.
  • Helping each partner see why it is in his/her own best interest to understand his/her role in contributing to the weakened condition of their relationship.
  • A step-by-step exercise enabling each partner to lay down the weapon of overall blame and release the other from the role of relationship villain.
  • Helping clients understand that the key to getting more respect and cooperation lies in their own hands.
  • 14 methods for cultivating client receptivity.
  • What to do when one partner is trying and the other isn’t.

Welcoming and Neutralizing Resistance

  • Five reasons why your clients will resist developing new relationship habits.
  • How to give your clients critical feedback without them feeling criticized.
  • Five methods for cultivating receptivity in your clients.
  • How to avoid getting into arguments with your clients.

Resolving Resentment (The Greatest Obstacle to Relationship Transformation)           

  • Why your client’s belief that his/her partner is more to blame is self-defeating (and why it is almost always not true!)
  • How to undermine the belief structure that fuels resentment.
  • Three common reasons partners mistakenly believe their partners are more to blame.

Creating Internal Shifts during Couples Therapy Sessions

  • Advantages of conjoint sessions.
  • Putting mirror neurons to work: The Stunt Double Method.
  • How to prevent partners from getting into each other’s business.
  • Why session breaks are needed and how to know when it’s time for a break.
  • The three-step method for getting internal shifts during session breaks (a.k.a., The GAS Method).
  • How to intervene firmly without criticizing or shaming.

Learning Objectives for PET-C Level 1 Training:

In Level I training, you will learn how to:

  • Tune in to the hurt and/or frustration each partner has experienced in the relationship, and convey understanding and empathy in a way that results in the client believing, “My therapist really understands what it’s like to be me in this relationship.”
  • Ask specialized questions that elicit detailed information about each partner’s problematic relationship habits along with an abundance of examples that can be used to help the clients understand the changes they need to make.
  • Summarize the most essential findings from landmark relationship studies and explain how they provide a road map for relationship success.
  • Help clients understand that they are trying to get more responsiveness from their partners in ways that are highly predictive of partner non-responsiveness.
  • Help each partner develop a clear picture of the abilities that need to be strengthened in order to elicit more responsiveness from his/her mate.
  • Talk to each client directly about his/her self-defeating habits in ways that help him/her avoid feeling shame and/or defensiveness, and help him/her feel excited about the prospect of learning more effective ways of relating to his/her partner.
  • Present a compelling case to each partner for a) why his/her own attitude and conduct over time has contributed just as powerfully to the depleted condition of the relationship as has his/her partner’s, and b) why it is in his/her own best interest to assume mutual responsibility.
  • Help each partner thoughtfully prepare and then 1) talk to his/her mate about past hurts in a non-blaming, non-accusatory way, 2) listen in a non-defensive, caring way as his/her mate discusses past hurts, and 3) express genuine regret and/or remorse about his/her past actions that triggered pain in his/her mate.
  • Help partners shift from critical and defensive internal states to receptive state during disagreements by using the GAS (“Getting a Shift”) method.
  • Master the Session Break and Stunt Double methods for helping partners interact more effectively as disagreements arise.
  • Refrain from helping partners get what they want and need from their mates when they are going about getting it in ways that are clearly predictive of poor relationship outcomes.
  • Motivate and teach clients to use a powerful set of exercises, protocols and audio resources to resolve conflicts that arise between sessions.
  • Use a 12-step formula for helping partners become proactive, come to terms with their differences, cut their losses, and get on the same page with a game plan for handling perpetual differences in ways that involve compromise on both of their parts.
  • Increase and extend the effectiveness of sessions by learning how and when to assign specific readings and exercises from the client manual, Developing Habits for Relationship Success.