From Reactivity to Empowerment in Couple Therapy: Insights from Interpersonal Neurobiology

This Alumni Lecture is presented by the Ackerman Alumni Association. Alumni Lectures are open to all mental health professionals. Alumni Association members with dues in good standing may attend free of charge. Admission includes a light dinner reception.


Couples in distress often get caught up in cycles of emotional reactivity, each blaming the other and seeing self as victim—a linear view. This lecture explores ways to identify and diagram the couple’s dance using the Vulnerability Cycle Diagram first described by Mona Fishbane and Michele Scheinkman in 2004. The therapist helps the couple understand the circular nature of their impasse, and the ways in which both are victims of and the (inadvertent) co-creators of the cycle. We will explore ways to identify and work with each partner’s vulnerabilities and survival strategies, including their origin in the family of origin. The discussion will be informed by the latest research from interpersonal neurobiology, including the dynamics of emotion dysregulation, techniques for emotion regulation, and the tension between habits and change. Dr. Fishbane’s approach enhances partners’ relational empowerment, including self-regulation, choice, living according to one’s higher goals and values, and reaching for one’s “best self.”

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify couples’ cycles of reactivity, and the neurobiology underlying them: The Vulnerability Cycle Diagram
  • Identify intergenerational and larger cultural factors fueling partners’ reactivity
  • Facilitate relational empowerment, emotion regulation, and generosity in the couple


Mona D. Fishbane, PhD, is Faculty and Former Director of Couple Therapy Training at the Chicago Center for Family Health. She is a clinical psychologist in New Jersey and Illinois. She is also the author of numerous articles and the book, Loving with the Brain in Mind: Neurobiology & Couple Therapy (Norton, 2013). She is the 2012 grant recipient of The Templeton Foundation. She was recognized by the American Psychological Association (Society for Couple & Family Psychology) with the 2017 Family Psychologist of the Year award.

Date / Time:

Thursday, November 7, 2019
6:00–6:30 pm | Dinner Reception
6:30–8:30 pm | Lecture

Continuing Education:

2 CE Contact Hours

Register Online:

Details Price Qty
Alumni$0.00 (USD)  
Alumni w/ CE Contact Hours$45.00 (USD)  
General Admission$50.00 (USD)  
General Admission w/ CE Contact Hours$70.00 (USD)  
Ackerman Trainee$30.00 (USD)  
Ackerman Trainee w/ CE Contact Hours$55.00 (USD)  

Alumni must have dues in good standing to attend.

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