Relationship Experts featured in Oprah’s Magazine Come to Kenai

Posted: Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Relationship Experts who were featured in a recent issue of The Oprah Magazine will soon be coming to Kenai to conduct seminars. Dr. Brent Atkinson, co-founder of the Couples Research Institute in Geneva, Illinois, is at the forefront of a group of therapist/educators who are translating new findings about the brain into practical methods for improving relationships. In his article, “The Love Breakthrough” Atkinson illustrates how one couple used his methods to transform their relationship. Oprah Magazine editors claim that Atkinson’s approach “will turn your relationship around,” and describe his methods as “completely counterintuitive and wonderfully effective.”

Atkinson explains that recent studies in neurobiology have provided new answers to age-old questions, like, “Why do people continue to do self-defeating things, even when they know better?” He explains, “Old habits die hard because when we get upset, our brains kick into special response states that can dramatically influence how we interpret our partners’ actions. For the most part, we don’t volunteer for these response states, we simply find ourselves under their influence, and when any one of them is activated, we may lose the freedom to choose our thoughts and actions freely. It’s as if, at that moment, someone else is in charge. This explains why people in relationships often find it extremely difficult if not impossible to change their communication. No matter how much they want to change, their conditioned reactions propel them into the same old patterns.”

Over the past decade, Atkinson and his colleagues at the Couples Clinic have been pioneering methods for remedying this problem. They’ve developed a step-by-step approach that facilitates relationship change by helping each partner re-wire their brains for more flexibility. In this therapy (called Pragmatic/Experiential Therapy for Couples), partners learn to identify automatically-activated mood states that propel them into destructive interactions. Once identified, clients are then assisted in the developing the ability to shift into alternate mood states that support new avenues for thought and action. Oprah sums it up in the January issue of her magazine: “Brent Atkinson explains how you can transform the way you view and react to your partner. Our self protective impulses can block the love we crave - but we don’t have to let them.”

Oprah isn’t the only one recognizing the importance of these methods. They’ve also been featured this year in articles in The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine and The Complete Woman magazine. In addition to helping couples, Atkinson and his colleagues are heavily involved in training other therapists to use the methods they’ve developed. Atkinson has recently given keynote addresses at 11 professional psychotherapy conferences. In the past year, he has trained therapists in Montreal, Vancouver, Washington DC, Anchorage, St. Louis, and Denver. Two books describing and illustrating the methods developed by Atkinson and his colleagues were published in 2005: Emotional Intelligence in Couples Therapy: Advances from Neurobiology and the Science of Intimate Relationships, and Developing Habits for Relationship Success (both published by W.W. Norton).

Atkinson believes that his team’s methods are effective because they are scientifically-based, drawing form remarkable new discoveries in neurobiology and the science of intimate relationships. Atkinson explains, “Thanks to some very compelling studies, we’re no longer shooting from the hip when it comes to questions about what makes relationships work and how people change. There are solid empirical answers to these questions.

Dr. Atkinson and his colleague, Paul Weiss, will be discussing these empirically-proven answers to relationship dilemmas when they visit the Kenai area, February 23rd though Feb 26th. On Thursday, February 23rd, they’ll give a day-long seminar open to the general public, called “Ten Habits of Successful Intimate Partners. This seminar is open to anyone interested in the latest scientific information about what it takes to make a relationship work, and methods that are most effective in improving relationships. Atkinson and Weiss will also conduct a weekend relationship enrichment retreat exclusively for couples February 24th - 26th (Friday evening through Sunday morning). This retreat is ideal for couples who want to learn how to communicate better, and have a chance to re-connect in a relaxed atmosphere. Atkinson and Weiss are known as engaging and entertaining speakers, who have the ability to translate complex scientific findings into easy-to-understand language and practical methods.

For information about the seminar and retreat, contact Tina Lagoutaris (details...). You can find out more about the speakers and content of the seminars, visit

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