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 our 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.