Dan Wile & Collaborative Couple Therapy

In September I participated in a two day intensive training in "Collaborative Couple Therapy” with its originator, Dan Wile, Ph.D. I had heard a lot of positive things about Dan, although I had never read any of his books. I was so impressed by the experience that I flew down to Oakland, California, Dan's home, to participate in a therapist consultation he conducts. These monthly three hour meetings are an opportunity for therapists to refine their skills employing Dan's methodology for helping couples.

There are many therapeutic perspectives that help couples navigate difficulties in relationship. All of these perspectives are imperfect from the standpoint that people and their intimate relationships are unique. Many of these differing perspectives have shared beliefs and assumptions, however. Differences are often about where the therapist's attention and emphasis are primarily placed. The structure that any particular therapist uses has much to do with his own psychological perspective.

From my perspective, Dan Wile’s Collaborative Couple Therapy deeply resonates with me. I look forward to writing more about Dan's view in subsequent articles as I further my understanding. For now I'd like to give a very small taste of the content from the November consultation.

"Doubling" is one of Dan's concepts that supports "intimate conversations" between partners during a therapy session. When a therapist doubles she literally speaks for each member of the couple as a way to better clarify and understand the emotion each is feeling. In Dan's own words,
I "speak as if I were that person talking to the other partner. I translate that person's angry, defensive, or avoidant comment into a collaborative, confiding one.”* This structure can quickly build confidence in a client that the therapist understands his perspective while simultaneously modeling behavior that invites each member of the couple to better understand himself and other. Fundamentally, Dan's perspective is compassionate and particularly attentive to not "rebuking" clients in even the smallest way. More on all of this in future blogs. --Doug