Boulder Psychotherapy Institute

Advanced Training in Applied Existential Psychotherapy (AEP) — since 1989

An Experiential Psychodynamic Gestalt Approach   •   Boulder, Colorado

Module II: AEP Relational Training

Betty Cannon, Ph.D. and Robyn Chauvin, M.A.,L.P.C.


Couples Issues that AEP Addresses:

Being Yourself While Being With a Partner

Choice of Relationship Style

Relating More Authentically and Spontaneously

Family of Origin Issues as They Impact the Relationship in the Here and Now

Cherishing Each Other's Freedom While Being in a Committed Relationship

Being in Relationship in Community (including extended family and blended families)

Sexual Issues and Their Meaning in This Relationship

The Training: Research shows that couples and relationship counseling is the least effective form of therapy. We offer an approach, based in a profound philosophy, that avoids some of the pitfalls of other therapies. Applied Existential Psychotherapy supports and elaborates the conclusion that John Gottman came to through longitudinal research with couples: Facilitation and support for individual and mutual meaning-creation is (or ought to be) at the heart of relational therapy.

Using Jean-Paul Sartre's existential phenomenology, we teach you to invite clients to explore the twin poles of human existence: freedom and facticity (the circumstances of our lives) as these impact our relationships and ourselves.

If we deny or overemphasize one or the other pole we may fall into 'bad faith' or inauthentic relating. If we try to over-emphasize facticity or try to control our own or our partner's freedom, we may end up with security at the expense of aliveness, spontaneity and desire. But if we overemphasize freedom, we may find it difficult to commit ourselves to a relationship or we may fail to care for our partner's needs and desires.

Many couples approaches overemphasize either togetherness or differentiation. Applied Existential Psychotherapy takes both into account as the avenue to creating a more spontaneous, fulfilling, and intimate relationship style in which partners come to support each other's deepest desires and to create shared meaning in their relationship.

You will learn to work with perennial relational issues in the context of an overarching philosophical framework. This larger framework is critical to therapy. It provides structure, meaning, and direction to all the techniques, methods, or interventions that the therapist may have at their disposal. Since existential phenomenology insists that all experience is bodily-lived experience, you will learn body-oriented as well as verbal interventions. You will also learn to explore family of origin issues as they impact current difficulties and collisions over relational meaning.

Together we will explore practical issues relating to conflict, avoidance, sexuality, the death of desire, real or imagined betrayal, communication, and other matters--including life transitions, relationship stages, alternative lifestyles, and more. The overarching umbrella for these explorations will be Applied Existential Psychotherapy, the approach that we have developed and taught at the Boulder Psychotherapy Institute for the past 30 years. We call this class 'Relational Training' rather than 'Couples Training' because the principles we teach apply to all relationships, and even to individual work, not just to couples work. Individual, couples, family, and group therapists will find this material useful.

Tentative Start Date: Spring 2027

Certification Hours: 60

The Trainers: Betty Cannon, Ph.D., Boulder Psychotherapy Institute President and AEP founder, is a licensed psychologist and certified Gestalt therapist. She has worked with individuals, couples and groups in Boulder for over 40 years and trained and supervised psychotherapists for over 30 years. She is professor emerita of the Colorado School of Mines and Senior Adjunct Faculty at Naropa University. Betty is a member of the editorial boards of three professional journals: Sartre Studies International, Existential Analysis, and Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry. She is an internationally known author, lecturer, and workshop presenter. She is the author of many journal articles and book chapters on existential psychotherapy. Her book, Sartre and Psychoanalysis, is often considered a classic in existential psychology.

Robyn Chauvin, M.A., L.P.C., is BPI's most Senior Trainer. She is a music therapist and musician as well as a Gestalt Therapist and AEP therapist and trainer. She has been working in private practice in Boulder and Longmont since 2008. Her previous work was in in-patient psychiatric contexts and hospice, and she brings a wealth of insight and examples from those contexts as well as private practice to her teaching. Robyn offers supervision/consultation, practice, and process groups as well as trainings at BPI. A prominent member of the LBGTQ community, she is currently writing about gender identity, developmental issues, and the practice of psychotherapy. She is well-known in the BPI community for her humor and wit as well as her Dream Process Groups and the Dream Training Module she teaches at BPI. She has taught and co-taught (with Betty) many other training modules at BPI.


Existential Issues in Couples Therapy
Approaching the Issues: Putting Them on the Table
Working with Communication: I-Thou versus I-It
Bad Faith Versus Authenticity
Verbal Interventions
Body-Oriented Interventions
Family of Origin Issues in Couples Therapy
Cultural Issues in Couples Therapy
Reclaiming Projections
Play Versus Seriousness
Cultivating Genuine Reciprocity
Transference in Couples Work
Countertransference in Couples Work
Working with Defenses with Couples
Moving between the Interpersonal and the Intrapsychic
Working with the Romantic and the Erotic
Sexuality: Body and Meaning
Alternative Relationship Styles: Same Sex Couples, Bisexuality, Transexuality, Swinging, Polyamory

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