Foundational Training in Dialogue Therapy in Two Sessions

Taught by Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D.
with Jean Pieniadz, Ph.D.
The Rowe Center, Rowe, Massachusetts

 Session One: October 6–11, 2019
Session Two: March 6–11, 2020
81.5 Continuing Education Credits (CEs)

Program Fee before September 12, 2019: $1,250 per session
After September 12, 2019: $1,500 per session

Course Description: Foundational Training in Dialogue Therapy

Intimate partnerships in the 21st century—with unique demands for equality, reciprocity and accurate emotional witnessing—require skills and knowledge that go beyond a secure attachment bond and “better communication.” As couples move from romance into disillusionment and power struggle, they must remain open to using mindful inquiry and self-reflection, even in the midst of destructive impulses and emotional activation. The requirements for negotiating differences of desires, style, and preferences in an atmosphere of reciprocity and equity far exceed what popular psychologies of love prescribe for an enduring intimate relationship.

Dialogue Therapy is a time-limited, short term couple therapy that may be done by co-therapists or a single therapist. Drawing on psychoanalysis, mindfulness, and techniques of psychodrama, Dialogue Therapy is designed to address emotional entanglement, active and passive aggression, and hostile and destructive by-products of unconscious affective communication (e.g., projective identification). The goal of Dialogue Therapy is increased differentiation and intimacy between partners who suffer from repetitive, unresolved conflicts and emotional alienation. Dialogue Therapy utilizes techniques that train couples to engage in dialogue, self-regulation, and empathy. Dialogue Therapy helps couples to gain insight into and then change their troubling, repetitive emotional patterns and harmful destructive enactments, especially related to eliminating the cycle of humiliation/rage that undermines trust and eventually makes problem-solving impossible.

The Foundational Training in Dialogue Therapy provides participants with a comprehensive approach to working with couples that integrates empirically supported principles of therapeutic change (Castonquay & Beutler, 2006) and specific methods derived from relational psychoanalytic couple therapy, mindfulness-based psychotherapy, and psychodrama. This integrative treatment approach is grounded in research and scholarship in the fields of psychodynamic psychotherapy (Ringstrom, 2014; Shedler, 2010; Siegel, 2015; Young-Eisendrath,1993; Young-Eisendrath, in press), mindfulness-based psychotherapy (Davis & Hayes, 2011; Laurent, Hertz, Nelson & Laurent, 2016), and psychodrama (Jennings & Holmwood, 2016). It also directly integrates research on implicit bias (Banaji & Greenwald, 2016). All of the lines of research that Dialogue Therapy draws on have significant evidence base.

The Foundational Training in Dialogue Therapy will introduce participants to the history, theory and method of Dialogue Therapy. Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D. the originator of Dialogue Therapy (and the author of three books about it; 1984, 1993 and 2019) will be joined by her co-therapist, Jean Pieniadz, Ph.D., for portions of the training that involve teaching and demonstrating the co-therapist model of treatment.

The two-part training will include a full explanation of the theoretical underpinnings of the approach and a session-by-session description of the methods employed in Dialogue Therapy treatment, along with detailed considerations of assessment and evaluation of a couples’ appropriateness for treatment, including the limitations and potential risks of this approach. The training is augmented by video demonstration illustrating aspects of the treatment, live demonstration, dyadic and mindfulness exercises, and opportunities for Q&A.

Session One provides an in-depth introduction and overview of the theory and practice of Dialogue Therapy with active skills training in the core competencies of this approach, including an overview and history of the conceptual framework and rationale for Dialogue Therapy, along with video and live demonstrations of key components of the initial stages of the therapy. There will be an opportunity for participants to begin to practice with a demonstration couple, and to work with each other in developing their knowledge and skills. It also presents the solo-therapist model of Dialogue Therapy.

Session Two of Foundations in Dialogue Therapy builds on what was introduced and practiced in the first session with opportunities to apply and practice methods and skills. Participants are expected to read the materials presented and to practice the Evaluation method before returning to the second session of training.

Participants are required to read Love Between Equals: Relationship as a Spiritual Path the 2019 by Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D.

Certification and Continuing Education Credit

The completion of Sessions One and Two, as well as two hours of supervision by a Certified Dialogue Therapist, leads to certification as a Dialogue Therapist for licensed professionals.

81.5 Continuing Education Credits are provided by Commonwealth Educational Seminars for the following professions: Psychologists, Licensed Professional Counselors/Licensed Mental Health Counselors, Social Workers and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists. It is the participant's responsibility to check with their individual state boards to verify CE requirements for their state.

The program is open to anyone who would like to learn how to use Dialogue Therapy. Non-licensed professionals completing the Real Dialogue Specialist training will receive a "completion of training" document for the hours they have attended.

Participants are strongly encouraged to take both sessions in order. Continuing Education Credits will be awarded after each session, however certification to practice as a Dialogue Therapist will be given to licensed professionals only after the completion of the the entire program.

Foundational Training in Dialogue Therapy is appropriate for beginning and intermediate level practitioners.


Commonwealth Educational Seminars is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Commonwealth Educational Seminars maintains responsibility for these programs and their content.

Licensed Professional Counselors/Licensed Mental Health Counselors

Commonwealth Educational Seminars (CES) is entitled to award continuing education credit for Licensed Professional Counselors/Licensed Mental Health Counselors. Please visit CES CE CREDIT to see all states that are covered for LPCs/LMHCs. CES maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

Social Workers

Commonwealth Educational Seminars (CES) is entitled to award continuing education credit for Social Workers. Please visit CES CE CREDIT to see all states that are covered for Social Workers. CES maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

If applicable: Social Workers – New York State Commonwealth Educational Seminars is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers. #SW-0444.

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists

Commonwealth Educational Seminars (CES) is entitled to award continuing education credit for Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists. Please visit CES CE CREDIT to see all states that are covered for LMFTs. CES maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D.

Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D., is a Jungian analyst, psychologist, and psychotherapist in private practice. She is the Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont and the founder and director of the Institute for Dialogue Therapy. She is past president of the Vermont Association for Psychoanalytic Studies and a founding member of the Vermont Institute for the Psychotherapies. Polly is also the chairperson of Enlightening Conversations, a series of conversational conferences which bring together participants from the front lines of Buddhism and psychoanalysis. Polly has published sixteen books, as well as many chapters and articles that have been translated into more than twenty languages, including The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-Importance and Love Between Equals: Relationship as a Spiritual Path.

Jean Pieniadz, Ph.D.

Jean Pieniadz, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice at Mansfield Psychotherapy Associates in Burlington, VT. She is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychiatry resident supervisor at the University of Vermont.  She is Past President of the Vermont Association for Psychoanalytic Studies, past Representative on the APA Council of Representatives, and is a founding and current faculty member on the board of the Vermont Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies. She has been trained in Dialogue Therapy with couples, and currently conducts couples Dialogue Therapy alternately with her partner, Joel Shapiro, and with Dr. Polly Young-Eisendrath. Her research and publications have been in the areas of developmental psychology, neuropsychology, feminist pedagogy, and ethics.

Program Fees, Deadlines and Cancellation Policy:

Program Fee before September 12, 2019: $1,250 per session
After September 12, 2019: $1,500 per session

Cancellation Policy:

8 weeks or longer $150
5 to 8 weeks $250
3 to 5 weeks $350
2 to 3 weeks $450
Less than 2 week or no notice: Loss of deposit

Grievance Policy:

Commonwealth Educational Seminars (CES) seeks to ensure equitable treatment of every person and to make every attempt to resolve grievances in a fair manner. Please submit a written grievance to Paula Emery at or 601-506-9966. Grievances would receive, to the best of our ability, corrective action in order to prevent further problems.

Accommodations for the Differently Abled

The Rowe Center’s facilities are handicap accessible. Individuals needing special accommodations, please contact Paula Emery at:

Learning Objectives and Schedule

Session One

  1. Describe the basic intent and distinctive features of Dialogue Therapy.

  2. Describe the basic structure of sessions in the co-therapist and solo therapist models.

  3. Assess the major differences between Dialogue Therapy and other forms of couple therapy, such as Emotionally Focused Therapy, Imago, and the Gottman model.

  4. Assess the clinical effects of focusing the couple therapy on improving the attachment style of the couple (as in some models of couple therapy) as compared to focusing on differentiation and untangling complex projective identifications, as in Dialogue Therapy.

  5. Assess the difference between “true love” and “cherishing.”

  6. Describe the change in the couple relationship (the aim of the therapy) in terms of “increased differentiation” as it leads to “increased intimacy.”

  7. Demonstrate an understanding of the contraindications for Dialogue Therapy as assessed through the Evaluation.

  8. Explain the rationale and use of psychodrama techniques of doubling, or alter ego, and role reversal.

  9. Describe the meaning of and skills of Mindfulness (concentration, equanimity and clarity of perception) in relation to partners’ capacity to use effective dialogue when emotionally activated.

  10. Explain the challenge of our subjective enclosure (“snow globe” psychology) of individuality in relation to the Three Skills of Real Dialogue, and demonstrate the skills of Speaking for Yourself, Paraphrasing, Responding.

  11. Identify and describe the differences between idealization and true love in close relationships.

  12. Explain the important distinctions between idealization and enduring love in couples.

  13. Analyze the advantages and disadvantages of the co-therapist set-up for Dialogue Therapy.

  14. Describe the set-up in the room and explain how it relates to the interaction between co-therapists.

  15. Explain some aspects of psychoanalytic research on relational concerns of projective-identification, especially in regard to idealization/splitting in infant-mother couples and adult pair-bonded couples.

  16. Analyze projective-identification as it is communicated in the demonstration couples on video and live.

  17. Describe and analyze the effects of passive and active aggression in the couple in the demonstration video why/how active and passive aggression undermine intimacy and trust.

  18. Describe and explain the components of the Empathy Interview as they occur in the co-therapy model (e.g. set-up, handling of interviews with each partner, note-taking, and reflecting team).

  19. Describe and explain the uses of Unblocking (when therapist switches chairs with the partner) through empathy interviews during the course of Dialogue Therapy.

  20. Describe and analyze issues of time management and therapeutic intervention in the co-therapist model (e.g. managing the Evaluation).

  21. Describe and analyze the “repetition compulsions” as seen on the demonstration video and in couples in therapy.

  22. Demonstrate comprehension of the use of anger, not aggression (neither active nor passive aggression), in solving problems and setting boundaries in respectful conflict.

  23. Discuss implications of attachment style research in relation to differentiation and intimacy.

  24. Describe the distinctive features of differentiation of individual affective meaning between partners in therapy in relation to their ability to become empathic witnesses to each other.

Session Two Learning Objectives

  1. Describe the structure and function of each session in the 13-14 session treatment in the solo model.

  2. Explain the core components of the Evaluation (set up, introduction, Six Questions Exercise, and Empathy Interview) with special considerations for conducting the Evaluation in the solo model.

  3. Create a plan for an optimal setting for effective couples work in the physical set up and create ground rules for the Evaluation Session and subsequent sessions.

  4. Discuss the scope and parameters of the end of the Evaluation Session wrap up.

  5. Evaluate the role of the Empathy Interview in the Evaluation process through a clinical demonstration.

  6. Identify projective identification in the Evaluation Session of a live demonstration interview and predict how the dynamic will play out in subsequent sessions.

  7. Demonstrate the core competencies of Rephrasing and Coaching while working as an alter ego.

  8. Explain the connection between Doubling and objective empathy.

  9. Identify when to initiate an Unblocking technique based on the couples’ communication while working on a conflict.

  10. Demonstrate Doubling as a method of offering language to implied meaning in couple communication.

  11. Demonstrate strategies for establishing equanimity in the face of couple distress.

  12. Describe the role of the therapist’s personal mindfulness practice in conducting Dialogue Therapy.

  13. Discuss the role of supervision in the solo model and participate in a live consultation.

  14. Explain the meaning of psychological and spiritual development in Dialogue Therapy.

  15. Describe the process of relational individuation as the necessary precondition for true love; specifically, explain the role of the Three C’s: Commitment, Containment, and Constraint in true love.

  16. Explain the three skills needed to establish Real Dialogue.

  17. Explain how the mindset established through Dialogue Therapy becomes part of the ongoing couple development at the conclusion of therapy.

  18. Demonstrate competency in the therapeutic methods of doubling, coaching, inquiry, and unblocking in practice sessions.

  19. Evaluate the clinical implications of the pacing, intensity, and repetition of interventions in the ongoing evaluation of the progress of the treatment.

  20. Participate in and evaluate a Live Demo session utilizing expert feedback.

  21. Utilize appropriate strategies for addressing difficult couple issues such as infidelity, individual psychopathology, and violence.

  22. Identify and explain when couples should separate and other contraindications for Dialogue Therapy.

  23. Identify and explain pitfalls couples experience in applying Dialogue Therapy methods outside the consulting room and strategies for addressing these problems.

  24. Evaluate when to extend the time limits of Dialogue Therapy to address specific clinical issues.

  25. Recite the five psychological principles to convey to couples in order to help them achieve and maintain Real Dialogue post-termination.

  26. Identify what to look for in the follow-up session to confirm therapy has been successful.

Session One: Introduction and Overview of the Theory and Methods of Dialogue Therapy & The Co-Therapist Model of Dialogue Therapy

Sunday, October 6

Introductory Evening Session: 7:30–9:00

Didactic: Introduction

  • What is Dialogue Therapy?

  • What is couple therapy?

  • Overview of Dialogue Therapy: “Love Between Equals” (PowerPoint) and the Seven Sessions of Dialogue Therapy (co-therapist model, handout and PowerPoint)

  • Overview of the two models: co-therapist and solo

  • Pitfalls and short-comings of contemporary couple therapy models

  • Ideals of equality in the 21st century

  • The nature of “personal love”


Monday, October 7

Morning Session: 9:00–12:30 (with a 15 minute break)
Didactic: Introduction to the Theory and Methods of Dialogue Therapy

  • Challenges of equality, reciprocity, mutuality in personal love

  • Enemy-making factors in personal love (projection/projective identification)

  • From disillusionment to intimacy: Witnessing and Minding the Gap

  • How personal love differs from pair-bonding, romance, idealization or desire

Lunch – 12:30-1:30

Afternoon Session: 1:30–6:00

Didactic: Introduction to the Theory and Methods of Dialogue Therapy Continued: The Meaning of Love and Witnessing

  • Development of personal love into true love

  • True love: Love on a two-way street

  • Cherishing: Love on a one-way street

  • Witnessing: Whole self to Whole self

  • Methods and theories: Psychoanalysis, psychodrama, mindfulness

  • Psychodrama technique: Alter ego or doubling

  • Psychodrama technique: Role reversal

Evening Session: 7:30-9:00

Didactic: The Evaluation Session – Method and Video Demonstration

  • Evaluation of couple in the Co-therapist Model

  • The Six Questions of the Evaluation

  • Video Demonstration of Evaluation Session

  • Question/Answer and Discussion

Tuesday, October 8

Morning Session: 9:00-12:30 (with a 15 minute break)

Didactic: Completing the Evaluation – Empathy and History

  • Empathy Interview for Relational History

  • How to do the Relational History

  • Managing time limits

Lunch: 12:30-1:30

Afternoon Session – 1:30-6:00 (with 15 minute break)

Didactic: The Skills of Dialogue

  • Dialogue: Speaking for yourself, paraphrasing, responding, being curious, expanding the story

  • Working on a conflict: Video demonstration

  • Question/Answer and Discussion

  • Learning to do the Empathy Interview with a partner

  • Using the Six Questions of the Evaluation

Didactic and Experiential: The Role of Mindfulness Practice in Dialogue Therapy

  • What is the role of mindfulness practice in Dialogue Therapy?

  • Practicing Mindfulness

Evening Session: 7:30-9:00

Didactic: Methods of Coaching and Alter Ego in Relation to Chronic Projective Identification

  • Coaching and Alter Ego as Analysis and Interpretation

  • Projective identification in relationships and in therapy


Wednesday, October 9

Morning Session: 9:00-12:30 (with 15 minute break)

Experiential: Mindfulness Practice – Concentration, Equanimity and Clarity of Perception
Didactic: Charting the Co-Therapist Model – Strengths, Benefits, and Issues

  • Note-taking and use of notes with co-therapist in sessions and in de-briefing

  • Advantages and disadvantages of having a co-therapist

  • Choosing a co-therapist

  • Working with your own partner as a co-therapist

  • De-briefing your session

  • Wrap-up with co-therapist

  • Scheduling and payment

  • Learning and development with your co-therapist

  • Clinical discussion of differences and decisions

  • Other therapeutic issues with co-therapist model

Afternoon Session: 1:30-6:00 (with 15 minute break)

Didactic: Co-therapists Working Together in the Evaluation Session (Live Demo)

  • Rules of Conduct: when you are watching a live demonstration, please remain quiet, reflective, and respectful of the couple and therapists; do not call out or express any obvious reactions to what you are witnessing; when you speak about the live demonstration during a break or after the session, do so as though you were speaking of any clinical material – with deepest respect and confidentiality (e.g. do not speak about the demonstration, with identifiers, to those who are not in the training)

  • Introduction of participants in live demonstration: professional practice and why you are here

  • Live demonstration of the Evaluation Session

Experiential: Practicing the Six Questions in Dyads

Evening Session: 7:30-9:00

Didactic: Co-Therapists and Couple De-briefing of Evaluation Session

  • Debriefing, understanding and analyzing the process of Evaluation with live dyad

  • Review of all positions and interactions of therapists - reflecting team, note-taking, wrap-up etc.

  • Review of unconscious communication (how do therapists pick up on it)

  • Repetition compulsions or complexes in couple interactions (evaluation)

  • Anger versus active or passive aggression

  • Comparison/contrast of Live Demo and video demonstration of Evaluation: what did you observe?

Thursday, October 10

Morning Session: 9:00–12:30 (with a 15-minute break)

Didactic: Co-Therapists Working Together

  • Alter-ego and coaching with co-therapists

  • Projective identification in couples and how the co-therapist team handles it

  • Co-therapists as role models for communication of anger – not aggression, and differentiation – not merging

Didactic: Live Demo of Co-therapists “Working Through a Conflict”

  • Practicing Dialogue Therapy in the first session of Working Through a Conflict

  • Coaching and Alter Ego

  • Reflecting team

  • Unblocking (when therapist switches chair with partner)

  • Keeping no secrets

  • Wrap-up


Lunch: 12:30–1:30

Afternoon Session: 1:30-6:00 (with a 15-minute break)

Didactic: Co-Therapists in Role Reversal (video)

  • Paraphrasing and stepping into someone else’s shoes: developmental issues

  • Empathy, sympathy, pity

  • Self-conscious emotions

  • Review of all co-therapist methods and techniques in Evaluation and Working Through a Conflict

Evening Session: 7:00-9:00

Didactic: Dialogue Therapy and Other Models of Couple Therapy

  • Comparing Dialogue Therapy with Emotionally Focused Therapy, Imago Therapy and the Gottman Method

  • Interpretation and analysis of co-therapist model of Dialogue Therapy


Friday, October 11

½ Day

Morning Session (Only): 9:00–12:30 (with a 15-minute break)


  • Mindfulness Practice – Concentration, Equanimity, Clarity of Perception

  • Practicing in co-therapist teams: Evaluation, Role Reversal or Alter Ego and Coaching


  • Feedback and processing of weekend

  • Preparation for Session Two

Session Two: The Solo Therapist Model of Dialogue Therapy
Clinical and Diagnostic Principles of Dialogue Therapy

Friday, March 6

Evening Session: 7:30-9:00

Didactic: Overview of Psychological Development from Personal Love into True Love

  • What do we mean by “psychological development” in Dialogue Therapy?

  • What do we mean by “spiritual development”?

  • Dialogue Therapy as individuation in partners

  • True love and the individuation process

  • How is mindfulness a part of ongoing couple development after the end of Dialogue Therapy?


Saturday, March 7

Morning Session: 9:00–12:30 (with a 15-minute break)

Didactic: Overview of the Solo Therapy Model of Dialogue Therapy

  • Solo model: 13 -14 sessions: how it works

  • Therapeutic setup and note-taking

  • Advantages and disadvantages of solo

  • Issues about Evaluation (how many sessions and how to schedule) in solo model

Experiential: Mindfulness Practice – Concentration, Equanimity, Clarity


Lunch: 12:30–1:30

Afternoon Session: 1:30-6:00 (with a 15-minute break)

Didactic: First Evaluation Session with Live Demo Couples (two couples)

  • Clinical issues of handling projective identification in opening sequence of Evaluation

  • First Evaluation Session with Live Demo (couple one)

  • Debriefing

  • First Evaluation Session with Live Demo (couple two)

  • Debriefing

Didactic: Second Evaluation Session with Live Demonstration Couple

  • Second Evaluation Session with Live Demo (couple one)

  • Debriefing

  • Second Evaluation Session with Live Demo (couple two)

  • Debriefing

Evening Session: 7:30-9:00


  • Practicing the Evaluation Session in Dyads – with Observation and Feedback in the Solo Therapist Model

  • Practicing the Six Questions and Opening of Evaluation in Dyads in the Solo Therapist Model


Sunday, March 8

Morning Session: 9:00-12:30 (with a 15-minute break)

Experiential: Mindfulness Practice – See, Hear, Feel

Didactic: Live Practice with Coaching

  • Reviewing the components of Dialogue and the role of therapist in coaching and doubling

  • Evaluation Session with participants working in the therapist seat with coaching from Polly

Didactic: Working Through a Conflict Demonstration Video


Lunch: 12:30–1:30

Afternoon Session: 1:30-6:00 (with a 15-minute break)

Didactic: Live Practice with Coaching

  • Working Through a Conflict with Live Demo (couple one)

  • Debriefing

  • Working Through a Conflict with Live Demo (couple two)

  • Debriefing

  • Continue Live Demo in Working Through a Conflict (either couple) with participants  coming up to sit in the therapist seat, Polly coaching

  • Debriefing and discussion of techniques and content

Evening Session


  • Sharing of videos and/or other accounts of participants’ work using Dialogue Therapy in Evaluation and Working Through a Conflict.

  • Discussion and debriefing of participant work


Monday, March 9

Morning Session: 9:00–12:30 (with a 15-minute break)

Didactic: Role Reversal

  • Demonstration Video

  • Role Reversal Live Demonstration

  • Debrief

Lunch: 12:30–1:30

Afternoon Session: 1:30-6:00 (with a 15-minute break)

Didactic: Presentations

  • Presentations by participants of their own practice in Dialogue Therapy

  • Discussion and debriefing of presentations


  • Mindfulness Practice: See, Hear, Feel

Evening Session: 7:30-9:00


  • Dyads working together in practicing the skills of solo Dialogue Therapy


Tuesday, March 10

Morning Session: 9:00-12:30 (with a 15-minute break)

Didactic and Experiential: Participant Presentations

  • Presentations by participants of their own practice in Dialogue Therapy

  • Discussion and debriefing of presentations


Lunch: 12:30–1:30PM

Afternoon Session: 1:30-6:00 (with a 15-minute break)

Didactic: Clinical Issues in Dialogue Therapy

  • Empathy and development in couple relationship

  • Commitment, Constraint and Containment

  • Defenses

  • Questions about how to work with limits, separation, violence etc.

Didactic: The Wrap up Session and The Follow-up Session

  • What happens in the Wrap-Up before the sixth month break?

  • What happens in the Follow-up and the Wrap-Up after the break?

  • When and why should you add more sessions of Dialogue Therapy?

  • Diagnostics in the follow-up: What are you looking for?


  • Mindfulness Practice: See, Hear, Feel

Evening Session: 7:30-9:00

  • Practicing Dialogue within dyads

Wednesday, March 11

½ Day

Morning Session (only): 9:00–12:30 (with a 15-minute break)


  • Remaining clinical issues review with time for question/answer

  • Feedback and processing of the training

  • Questions about Advanced Training in Dialogue Therapy

  • Integrating Dialogue Therapy into your practice

  • Next steps in obtaining the Certificates of Completion in Foundational Training in Dialogue Therapy. Discussion of completion of two supervisory hours. If you are not a licensed professional, you will receive a Real Dialogue Specialist certification.