Couples’ and Group Therapy: A Universal Therapeutic Skill, Part 3

In the first post of this series, we looked at the idea of fishing and metaskills. In the second post, we explored the idea of fishing in the context of individual therapy. In today’s post, we’ll look at this idea of fishing in the context of couples’ therapy and group therapy.


Couples’ therapy. In couples’ therapy, the therapist may help each person in the relationship hear what the other person is saying. It could be easy for the therapist to get lost in the words of what is being said to her or him during the therapy session. However, if the therapist is sitting with unhurried attention, while listening to what the couple is saying, the therapist will be much more likely to hear the fish. According to Doss, Thum, Sevier, Atkins, and Christensen (2005), “When couple therapies target specific aspects of the relationship, they are typically able to achieve the desired change” (p. 624). When the fish presents itself, the therapist must catch that fish in order to help facilitate and achieve a desired change within the relationship. Working with the fish in couples’ therapy can be trickier because the two people present may be bickering with each other. The therapist must remain centered within himself or herself to notice the fish when it presents itself. Even if the therapist misses the fish, the fish may present itself again in a different way (Mindell, 1995). With all of the possible commotion happening, the therapist could miss the fish that is presented, but because the fish will present itself again, it is not catastrophic if the therapist missed the first fish. So long as the therapist notices one of the fish and then follows it, the therapist will help to achieve the desired change.

An example of fishing in couples’ therapy could be the husband of the couple talking about his wife asking him to do chores around the house and during his speech about the chores, the husband has a somatic reaction. The therapist notices this somatic reaction and sees it as a fish, so the therapist follows it. As the therapist follows this fish, the therapist uncovers the root of the problem, which is really that the husband does not feel like his wife is listening to him. In following this fish, the therapist achieved a desired change for the couple because they wanted an improvement in their relationship. There have been examples of how fishing is present in individual therapy and couples’ therapy. In the next section, there will be examples of how fishing is present in group therapy.

Group therapy. Some people consider group therapy easier than couples’ therapy and some consider it more difficult. Two foundations to group therapy are universality and cohesiveness (Yalom & Leszcz, 2005). Universality is the principle that all human experiences are potentially shared. That is, it is highly unlikely that a single person’s experience is unique. Cohesiveness is when all of the members of the group feel a sense of belonging. Once the group has the sense of universality and cohesiveness to it, the therapist usually has an easier time conducting group therapy. It is possible for the therapist to use the technique of fishing during the opening stages of forming the group, even before the group therapist gets to what some might call therapy. Beginning stages of group therapy can be anxiety producing for some people and because of this, it is possible that they would show all kinds of ‘fish’ to the therapist. As the therapist is scanning the group, he or she may notice that one client is particularly troubled. Because of this, the therapist may want to pose a question to the troubled group member to see if this will lead anywhere. According to Mindell’s fish theory, the group member will then give the therapist feedback to let the therapist know if there is a fish.

This section has defined therapy and outlined some of the things that happen in therapy. There has been an explanation of individual therapy, couples’ therapy, and group therapy, along with examples of how fishing is present in all of the stated therapies. In the following section, there will be possibilities discussed for how research can be conducted on fishing in conjunction with mindfulness, transpersonal psychology, and massage therapy.


Check back tomorrow for some implications for future research and the conclusion.


Published by Jeremiah Stanghini

Jeremiah's primary aim is to provide readers with a new perspective. In the same vein as the "Blind Men and the Elephant," it can be difficult to know when one is looking at the big picture or if one is simply looking at a 'tusk' or a 'leg.' He writes on a variety of topics: psychology, business, science, entertainment, politics, history, etc.

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  1. The lack of communicating problems leads to the problems in the marital life for the most f the cases. The information shared in this page is really helpful for us to knew about the marriage counseling.


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