A 3 weekend residential course


  Who should attend?
This course is designed as a first step or initial training for couples who wish to support other couples with relationship development or relationship difficulties using skills informed by relevant theories.
It will be a 3 week-end residential course once a month - September until November 2019. Course starts Friday evening until early Sunday afternoon.

Entry requirements
Entry level communication skills, availably to attend sessions, being in a relationship where both parties want to support another couple. You will also need to have been recommended by an organisation that will provide ongoing support and supervision for any work engaged in. People on the course also need to have been in a stable relationship for around 5 years. Couples will also need to attend an informal interview prior to acceptance onto the course.

Full attendance at the 3 weekends is required to receive accreditation from Open College Network. 

Supporting theories
The Foundation Skills in Couple Support is not a counselling course (please see the Foundation in Counselling Skills) although it uses basic theories and skills to equip the ‘couple supporters’. We will particularly explore relationship dynamics and transference, Drama Triangles, Transactional Analysis, CBT, and family systems theories.

Skills practice
There will be a strong emphasis on self-awareness and using skills within the participant’s own relationship and being willing to both practice and be supported in regular observed skills practice. This will not be role play and will require a willingness to bring their own relevant material to another couple in a boundaried and confidential environment.  This will be formatively assessed on an ongoing basis and by the end of the course both parties of the couple need to have demonstrated the skills in order to pass the practical element of the course.

Portfolio and Assessed work
There will be a portfolio of work to produce, per couple, which will contain elements of work from both parties and some joint submissions. Provisionally this might look like:

  • 4 observation sheets (from skills practice) representing at least 4 observed skills practice sessions with written feedback from the couple they have been supporting. The observation sheets will show all the skills required and over time all these (as far as is possible) must be reached to pass the course.  (Jointly)  
  • An essay from each individual showing understanding of their own strengths and challenges in relationships, their own values and how these could impact on their work as a couple supporter. They should explore the impact of the course on their own relationship and their personal learning. (individual)
  • Answer short questions on ethical dilemmas to cover safeguarding and diversity (jointly)
  • A written example of a conflict they have had as a couple and how it was resolved (jointly)
  • Choose from a list of topics commonly effecting couples, research and present a 15-minute presentation to the rest of the group (jointly)
  • A learning statement to be written and read out to the group on the last day of the course (individual)

Session 1:

  • Course intro, Group introductions, Group agreement, confidentiality, Course principles, and Portfolio requirements and building advice- individual couple agreement

Session 2:

  • How is supporting different from counselling? Boundaries, referring on, ethics, safeguarding, when to use self-disclosure

Session 3:

  • Power and dynamics, transference, the couple focus and keeping everyone engaged - Drama Triangles (rescuing, persecuting and being a victim)

Session 4:

  • The games people play – Transactional analysis. Spot the adult, parent and child roles and support adult to adult engagement – conflict resolution skills and intimacy exercise.

Session 5:

  • Practical skills, setting the boundaries, stages of engagement, circular questions, stopping an escalation, setting home work for couples and looking at blocks to homework.

Session 6:

  • Teaching people how to communicate - find the difference that makes a difference and CBT for relationships

Session 7:

  • Family Systems theory - looking at how the system interacts and what effects the system (Gender, roles, culture, family stories)

Session 8:

  • Personal reflection on own family history and impacts on own marriage – genograms (the unspoken influences from our past)

Session 9:

  • Couples present a session to the rest of the group on a topic of their own choosing from a list including: parenting, finances, extended families, blended families, intra relational cultural differences, spirituality in relationships, illness

Session 10:

  • Domestic violence, abuse, ethics, boundaries, child protection, checking in and accountability. Perpetrators and victims   

Session 11:

  • Sex – (language we use or don’t use) sexual history and experience. Dealing with porn in a relational context

Session 12

  • Personal learning statements, Reflection, Portfolio building – couple commitments for ongoing work between the couple and in ongoing supervision.

Skills practice
There will be a skills practice session during each weekend. This will involve either 2 couples working together or a triad of couples depending on numbers. In the case of a triad one couple will act as observers and offer helpful feedback – when there are 2 couples the course leaders will offer observations and feedback after the event or be present in the session. Essentially participants must be willing to develop a supportive relationship from both sides – giving support to another couple and receiving support from another couple. This will require the use of personal material to avoid the rather less meaningful activity of role play. Although possibly more personally challenging we believe this is the best learning experience. Of course, this will be carefully set up and boundaried to make the space as safe as possible.

Course Principles
We are working on the premise of peer support; therefore, the course is for couples delivered by couples. We recognise the need and validity for couple counselling which is often with an individual therapist and this is one way we differentiate the type and level of support we are offering. We want people to be actively working on their own relationship and not to approach this with the attitude that they have a perfect relationship themselves. At the same time, we are encouraging a heightened self-awareness of their own developmental needs and challenges individually and as a couple.

We are not taking a pathological stance – we are not just working with the broken relationships we are aiming to support the coping and the thriving ones too. All participants are there to learn and develop – as such we strive towards offering each person respect, honesty, inclusion and support. People on the course need to have been in a stable relationship for around 5 years. Producing some joint work will be a useful setting to highlight the couple dynamics - successful completion of the joint portfolio and presentation will demonstrate some level of team work essential for a couple wanting to support another couple.

This course is accredited with Open College Network West Midlands (OCNWMR) – a national awarding organisation. On successful completion of the course students will be awarding with a Level 3 Unit entitled ‘Foundation skills in couple support’ gaining 6 credits.

Dates and times
The 12 session with be delivered over the 3 weekends, some sessions such as skills practice will be undertaken across multiple weekends.

Venue tbc. north Carlisle. Details available on application.

The course costs £325 per couple for tuition fees and refreshments + £25 Accreditation fees with Open College Network West Midlands. Accommodation is paid for separately through Airbnb and, depending on the actual room booked, averages around £100 per weekend. Total cost is approx. £600 for the 3 weekends. Instalments available on request.

 If you are interested in attending, or have a number of couples who you would like to be trained, contact Nathan Laxton in the first instance - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.