Expired Last Chance Couple Therapy: Bringing Couples Back from the Brink

This lecture is part of the Ackerman Distinguished Family Therapy Lecture Series, designed to contribute to conversations on advancements and opportunities in family therapy training. Lectures are free and open to the public.

Program Description:

Therapy with couples on the brink of dissolving the relationship presents unique challenges for couple therapists in developing a therapeutic alliance and a mutually-agreeable plan for change efforts.  These partners typically present with high levels of conflict, anger, contempt, and discouragement, low levels of pleasurable connection, major differences in their life goals, relational trauma, and little patience, good will, or hope.  One or both spouses may be highly ambivalent about trying to improve things, and may be reluctant to engage in the therapy process lest they be stuck in an unhappy relationship.   Often, couples come to us having tried therapy without lasting success, and announce that “this is our last chance.” However, with an approach that honors partners’ ambivalence, it’s possible to turn even the most hopeless relationships around. In this workshop, we’ll explore how to engage reluctant partners in therapy without making them feel trapped in an unhappy future. You’ll learn how to: 

  • Restore hope when couples seem about to give up 
  • Carry out an engaging and nonthreatening first session  
  • Introduce fresh perspectives on problems and engage clients in trying changes that they’re emotionally unprepared for and that feel irrational to do given their level of discouragement
  • Offer strategies for safeguarding communication and restarting passion and pleasure 

Although we’ll focus on four major types of Last Chance Couples, the approach applies to couples at any level of distress.   


Peter Fraenkel, PhD is associate professor of psychology at the City College of New York, former faculty and director of the Center for Work and Family at Ackerman Institute for the Family; and is in private practice in New York City.  In 2012, he received AFTA’s award for Innovative Contributions to Family Therapy.  He lectures internationally, and is the author of numerous articles and chapters; the book Sync Your Relationship, Save Your Marriage: Four Steps to Getting Back on Track, and two forthcoming books, Last Chance Couple Therapy: Bringing Couples Back from the Brink, and The Complete Guide to Couple Therapy: From Happy to Last Chance Couples. 

Return to Ackerman Distinguished Family Therapy Lecture Series

  • October 27, 2022
    6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Peter Fraenkel, PhD

CE contact hours are not offered for this series.

Location:   Online Event


A link will be emailed to you one day before the event. Online events are held in Eastern Standard Time (ET).

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