“We-Stories”: How Couples Can Tell Stories to Strengthen Their Connection

Released: 2-Apr-2014 4:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Family Institute at Northwestern University
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Newswise — Evanston, IL – Reclaiming positive stories can help couples that have become distant, strained and stressed find ways to connect and strengthen their relationships. Dr. Karen Skerrett, a staff clinician and faculty member at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, explores this concept in her co-authored book, Positive Couple Therapy: Using We-Stories to Enhance Resilience (Routledge, 2014).

Using the authors’ combined years of psychological expertise, the book teaches couples and therapists unique methods for uncovering positive potential within a relationship, and focuses on “We-stories”: shared stories between the members of a couple that define and guide their relationship. The book defines and illustrates in concrete ways what is meant by the “we” — an element increasingly found in research to be a key dimension for couple resilience.

“We-stories serve four vital positive functions for couples,” says Dr. Skerrett. “They help shape the couple’s mutual identity; provide meaning and purpose in the couple’s life; serve as guides for current interaction and future growth; and are positive repositories of the couple’s wisdom and a means of transmitting their legacy to others in their lives.”

The book demonstrate these “we-stories,” and how they help couples connect. Couples that are able to find their stories, share them with each other, and then carry them forward to family, friends and a larger community are more likely to preserve a sense of mutuality that will thrive over a lifetime of partnership.

“The book arose from a joint passion to rebalance the negative emphasis in the field of couple treatment,” says Dr. Skerrett. It is filled with vivid couple stories, and case examples of couples from a diverse perspective such as LGBT and military couples. It contains exercises for partners and couples, and illustrates opportunities and challenges for couple growth at various stages across the life cycle.

“The key ideas can be applied in therapy by assisting partners to discover significant memories that can form their we-story,” says Dr. Skerrett. “The memorable image or metaphor that emerges can become a couple touchstone and positive symbol of the relationship, and used as an anchor during challenging times.”

Dr. Karen Skerrett is a licensed clinical psychologist, Advanced Practice Registers Nurse and faculty member at The Family Institute at Northwestern University. Dr. Skerrett maintains a clinical and consulting practice specializing in the treatment of couples and families, particularly those challenged by illness and disability. She also teaches in the Counseling program and is a clinical supervisor for the postdoctoral fellows.

To get in touch with Dr. Skerrett, or to learn more about The Family Institute, contact Colleen O’Connor at 312-609-5300 ext. 485 or coconnor@family-institute.org.

ABOUT THE FAMILY INSTITUTE AT NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY – For 45 years, The Family Institute at Northwestern University (www.family-institute.org) has been committed to strengthening and healing families from all walks of life through clinical service, education and research. An affiliate of Northwestern University, The Family Institute is a unique, innovative not-for-profit organization, governed by its own independent Board of Directors and responsible for its own funding. The Institute offers a wide range of high quality mental health counseling through our staff practice and our sliding-fee scale Bette D. Harris Family and Child Clinic, where we are committed to serving at-risk, under-resourced communities. The Family Institute also operates two nationally-renowned graduate programs in marriage and family therapy and counseling psychology in affiliation with Northwestern University, and conducts cutting edge research projects that lead to a better understanding and treatment of mental health issues.


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