The online course, Escaping Blame: Helping Couples Develop Account-ability with Larry Zucker, LCSW is now in active development, and scheduled to begin in September 2016! This course is organized into six lessons exploring therapeutic conversations that are possible when Accountability emerges as practice distinct from Blame, and what we can do as therapists to nurture that distinction. The course builds on a number of materials including video clips from Larry’s June, 2015 Vermont Workshop, Escaping Blame: Helping couples develop account-ability; simulated interviews, exercises, transcript review and live webinars.  We will apply for 12 APA approved credits. For course objectives, see below.

Larry Zucker has been practicing therapy and training therapists for over 30 years.  His background in social work and community organizing led him to see people in context, and to focus on strength and resiliency.  He is committed to escaping blaming frames of reference in a field that encourage therapists to see people and relationships as problematic.  He prefers seeing people as embedded in normal problems of living, full of untapped skill and knowledge for creating the lives and relationships they want, despite difficulties encountered, and to seeing therapy as a relationship that helps bring forth that knowledge. To learn more about Larry, click here.

Watch our Introduction!

We recently recorded this brief course introduction by Larry Zucker.

Course Description


Many couples appear in our offices to debate the causes of their unhappiness, appealing to us as would-be judges, mediators, or referees. We listen as they subtly or egregiously assign blame, each to the other, for the relationship’s struggles and its members’ unhappiness. We’d like to help them leave blame behind, but often we merely spread it around: They come in blaming each other, and they leave blaming the families who raised them, the neurobiology they were born with, their own alleged lack of relational skills, or the therapists who were unhelpful to them. And then, when it’s out turn to be unhelpful, we blame them in turn.

What would it look like if we could truly escape blame as a way of talking about our lives? What sort of conversation would take its place? And to what end? Blame is an individual skill that allows us each—therapists included—to allege and assign causes for the unhappy present. Account-ability is a relationship skill that allows us to come to a shared understanding of what future we might prefer, and what stands in the way of that future. This course is about the conversations that are possible when Accountability emerges as practice distinct from Blame, and what we can do as therapists to nurture that distinction.

Course Objectives

Participants will:

  1. Gain perspective on how narrative practice with couples stands in relation to other models
  2. Learn to clearly distinguish blame from accountability and debate from conversation
  3. Develop skill at interrupting debate and inviting rich conversation
  4. Practice eliciting couples’ knowledge about problematic practices in their relationships, and about the effects of those practices
  5. Unpack prior training that encourages therapists to take positions vis-à-vis the problem, and develop skill at inviting couples to do so instead
  6. Practice drawing out the couples’ wisdom about who and what supports the problematic practices in their relationship instead of supporting them
  7. Explore a line of inquiry that helps couples reconnect to their dreamed-of relationship, clarify what their relationship is for, and helps them reclaim, borrow, and invent relational practices that support these purposes
  8. Develop conversations that connect or reconnect couples to the people and ideas that DO line up with their relational intentions.

Lesson Descriptions

Lesson One: Getting Situated

No_NTInAction_01Lesson Description:We begin by introducing Larry,  the course and course registrants. We explore how do our beliefs shape our job description: the irresistible invitations into the roles for therapists that are embedded in traditional models.  We then map how our prior training can invite us into educative, manipulative, or paternalistic positions, when as narrative therapists we’d prefer collaborative ones. We identify the beliefs and assumptions of narrative therapy that can help us maintain our preferred positions.

Lesson Two: Influencing the conversation

No_NTInAction_02Lesson Description: We explore how couples themselves often invite us into judging, refereeing, evaluative or other “truth determining” positions when we would prefer to be hosting conversations that they find useful and generative. We develop practices that help us all move towards such conversation. How do we negotiate permission to interrupt? What can we do while waiting for therapy to begin? How might we talk about the relationship, and have conversations about conversation?

Lesson Three: Developing a relational vocabulary

No_NTInAction_03Lesson Description: Couples come to us needing to make new sense of profoundly complicated or painful experiences. Blame is a thin account of causal responsibility, assigned by each person as an act of individual power. (As therapist we do this as much as more as our clients.) Account-ability, hyphen intended, is our emerging ability to develop a rich, shared account of complex, inter-subjective experience. We often lack easily accessible knowledge of the difference between the two, and we hunker down in defensive positions. We will focus on how to listen for and draw out the desire for a richer shared accounting that is seems absent, but is implicit in the rejection of blame.

Lesson Four: Couples as Experts on Problems

No_NTInAction_04Lesson Description:Once our conversations have moved past “the other as the problem,” we begin to discover just how knowledgeable our clients are about their relationship problems by focusing on their understanding—rather than ours—of how their problems emerge and operate, of what methods their problems use, and of what resources their problems depend upon to sustain themselves. Guided by Larry Zucker.

Lesson Five: Couples as Expert Dreamers

No_NTInAction_05 Lesson Description:We explore the value of losing interest in behavior, as it is a poor indicator of what people want. Instead, we practice developing conversations that revolve around intention. We discover how, when asked the right questions, people are amazingly clear about their hopes and dreams for the relationship, about what they would want it to provide them at this point in their lives, about what it needs from them to do so, about how their relational needs have changed over the course of this or prior relationships, or even about how what is relationally possible has changed across generations and/or cultural contexts.

Lesson Six: Couples as activists for their preferred relationship

LessoNo_NTInAction_06n Description: Previously, we focused on the couples’ expertise about how problems sustain themselves. We practiced asking questions that bring forth people’s hopes and dreams for the relationship.  Now we draw on their knowledge of preferred relationships found in the world around them, and on how to draw support from the people who surround them, preceded them, might follow them, and have inspired them. And we help them come to see themselves as a source of support for others with similar hopes and dreams.

Contact us!

A lot is going on behind- the-scenes to develop this course. We welcome your comments below or to  contact us for more information. Help us spread the news! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter (here).