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Externalization is a powerful tool in therapy. Externalizations helps the client(s) to see the problem-saturated description as external to or separate from them, thereby allowing them to talk about the problem In a non-blaming, nonjudgmental manner and to unite and struggle together against a common enemy.

In A Roadmap for the Journey, a new Gottman couples workshop for couples embracing recovery, workshop designer Dr. Bob Navarra does a brilliant externalizing dramatization of the effects of alcohol abuse on a relationship and of how a couple affected by substance abuse can dialogue about the effects on their relationship in a non-blaming, nonjudgmental manner. He plays the role of alcohol and what he suggests is that the couples talk about the substance and the addiction as a third person. Therefore, rather than pointing at or blaming the partner with the substance abuse problem, the injured partner can talk about the effects of the partner’s substance abuse on him or her in a non-blaming, nonjudgmental manner. This enables the partner with the substance to listen without becoming defensive, which is critically important for the healing and recovery process in the relationship. Similarly, the partner with the substance abuse problem can talk to the injured partner about the effects that substance abuse have had on him or her without shaming him- or herself.

© 2024 Michael Brown, MSC, LMFT, dba Happy Couples Healthy Communities