If couples therapy is your thing, then you may be seeking post-graduate training in this specialty. There are a variety of certifications and professional trainings available for deepening your couple therapy skills that are based on well-developed theories. This variety requires a thoughtful search for a program that fits with your worldview as well as your beliefs about therapy and relationships. In this post, I'll summarize some of the most popular certifications, as well as a few Christian, faith-based training programs.
Imago Relationship Therapy
Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT) helps couples move from “blame and reactivity” to “understanding and empathy” by utilizing "Imago dialogue." IRT is based on the belief that early childhood relationship experiences are repeated in adult relationship and become “core issue” in the life of the person. Through IRT, these core issues are addressed through a dialogical, relational approach.
Certification in Imago Relationship Therapy
The IRT certification process is divided in two parts:
- A 96 hour (12 day) training program centered on teaching the theory, as well as learning and practicing Imago dialogical skills essential to the approach.
- A six month program of supervised practice.
Learn more about the approach, as well as the certification process at http://imagorelationships.org
The Gottman Institute
The Gottman Institute offers one of the most popular couple therapy certifications, based on John Gottman’s research. The certification involves three levels of training. Level 1 is a two day training; Level 2 is a three day training. Levels 1 and 2 are offered live/in-person, online, or via DVD. Level 3 is a three day practicum workshop offered only in person.
Once clinicians have completed Level 3, they are able to apply for the certification track, which involves at least eight hours of individual or twelve hours of group supervision with a Senior Certified Gottman Therapist.
In addition to the three levels of training, the following are required for certification:
- A minimum of 1000 hours of postgraduate therapy experience
- Licensure or certification in a mental health related field
- Malpractice Insurance (1M/3M)
Additional details on certification can be found here: https://www.gottman.com/professionals/training/certification/
The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy
Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) practitioners believe that “the key issue in marital conflict is the security of the emotional bond," and that bonds can be developed and restored through “emotional engagement” (Johnson, 2004, p. 51).
Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy Certification
Certification in EFT requires:
- four two-day "Core Skills" live trainings
- a four day EFT live externship
- eight hours of supervision with a "Certified EFT supervisor, trainer, or supervisor candidate."
In addition, the following are pre-requisites of certification:
- A post graduate degree in a relevant discipline / mental health field such as Social Work, Psychology, Education, Counseling, Marital and Family Therapy, and Pastoral Care.
- Membership in a recognized professional association, such as AAMFT.
- Current clinical therapy practice (must include some couples and/or families).
- License to practise psychotherapy in the state / province in which the applicant resides.
- Proof of malpractice insurance.
- Completion of at least one graduate course on the practice of couples / family therapy at a registered institution or equivalent.
- Membership in ICEEFT
Learn more about Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy:
- Sue Johnson, The Practice of Emotionally Focused Therapy: Creating Connection.
- EFT certification and training details: http://www.iceeft.com/index.php/therapist-training
Relational Life Therapy
Terry Real (2007) details his comprehensive approach to couple closeness--the Relational Life Model--in The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work. Real offers a training program for clinicians interested in specializing in this model.
Competency Program In Practicing Relational Life Therapy
Training in Relational Life Therapy involves three levels, 2 days each, with an optional master class and coaching groups beyond the three levels. Certification includes 15-22 hours of coaching (by phone), or a year of in-person seminar groups with Terry Real.
Learn more about the training program at https://www.terryreal.com/training/.
A Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT)
"Developed by Dr. Stan Tatkin, [PACT] is a fusion of attachment theory, developmental neuroscience, and arousal regulation. PACT has a reputation for effectively treating the most challenging couples" (Pact Institute, Overview, 2017).
PACT training incorporates three levels of training over a three year period: Level 1 (beginner), Level 2 (advanced), and Level 3 (practicum). The training is extensive; Level 1 alone is approved for fifty four continuing education credits. Level 3 is for clinicians choosing the certification track.
Learn more about PACT training: https://thepactinstitute.com/pact-overview/
Christian, Faith-based Couple Therapy Training
The Safe Haven Model
Dr. Sharon May has integrated Christian faith into Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy; this approach is named the Safe Haven Model. Professional specialization in the Safe Haven Model involves a two day training with an optional day of case consultation. If you'd like to meet Dr. May, and witness her passion for this work, as well as her expertise, she is a regular speaker at American Association of Christian Counselors world conferences.
Learn more about her approach, as well as her training program:
"Restoration Therapy is a relatively new model of psychotherapy developed with the desire to utilize an efficient combination of attachment, emotional regulation and mindfulness practices." (Restoration Therapy Training, History, 2017)
While Restoration Therapy is not marketed as a Christian, faith-based approach, it’s principle founder, Terry Hargrave, is a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. The approach incorporates intergenerational ideas from Contextual Therapy (Boszormenyi-Nagy) as well as additional relational concepts, including forgiveness, for restoring couple relationships. Restoration Therapy is an approach for working with both couples and families, as well as intergenerationally.
Currently, two levels of training in Restoration Therapy are offered. Level 1 is a two day in-person training on the model and its key concepts. Level 2 training includes three phases that involve four days of small group case consultation, as well as an independent review of video taped sessions (phase 2).
Review information about the approach, as well as training details, at http://www.restorationtherapytraining.com
Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling
Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling, developed by Everett L. Worthington, Jr., PhD, is a brief marital therapy approach incorporating hope and forgiveness as foundational relationship processes that lead to relationship enhancement and repair.
The Hope Couples Project currently offers a certification in Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling. The program is concise and low-cost, which is consistent with Dr. Worthington's mission and service to couples.
View certification requirements, here: http://hopecouples.com/Professional-Certificate.php
Learn more about the Hope-Focused approach:
Everett Worthington, Jr.: Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling: A Guide to Brief Therapy
Jennifer Ripley, Everett Worthington, Jr.: Couple Therapy: A New Hope-Focused Approach
Quotes and other information, unless otherwise noted, were taken from each program's website, as cited.
I've added a Cheat Sheet, with each program's certification details, to the free resource library. If you're not yet registered, learn more, or sign up here:
- Which approach appeals to you, and why?
- If you've specialized in couples therapy, what approach do you use?