Collaborative Marriage Skills
Instructor Training Institute
Sherod Miller, PhD & Phyllis Miller, PhD

This 2-day workshop equips you to teach the revised Couple
Communication I & II programs plus CORE for singles. for creating
Collaborative Marriages. Learn to coach 11 classic talking &
listening skills, an effective collaborative conflict-resolving process, and
practical anger management strategies -- using powerful skills mats.
Introduces THRIVE, the Collaborative Marriage Sphere/Inventory. Marketing

The programs help couples and singles build Collaborative Marriages as they
learn to communicate positively, make satisfying decisions, resolve
conflicts, and manage differences and anger effectively. The institute
includes presentations, live and video demonstrations, practice coaching on
real issues using engaging skills mats to accelerate and reinforce learning,
assessments, and exercises for active learning. The content is integrated
with relevant theory and research.

The COUPLE COMMUNICATION and CORE programs have a long history. Over 700,000
couples have participated since the creation of the programs at the
University of Minnesota Family Study Center. The programs have been taught
successfully to people in all socio-economic levels and in various ethnic
groups. (See "Report on Working with Low-Income Couples" below.)

Program Content:
Recognizing the 7 Ingredients of a Collaborative Marriage - a healthy
relationship -  optional use of THRIVE pre-/post-Collaborative Marriage
Choosing Communication Styles - Identify ineffective and effective ways of
talking and listening
Using the Awareness Wheel - a tool to apply 6 talking skills to connect in a
clear and constructive way
Applying the Listening Cycle - a guide to use 5 productive listening skills
Mapping Issues - a 9-step process that combines the talking and listening
skills for making decisions and resolving conflicts collaboratively
Coaching the skills using Skills Mats
Gaining learning commitment and attending to various learning styles
Using CORE COMMUNICATION for individuals -- variations
The Relationship Map - a framework for understanding your relationship
better and appreciating it more
Collaborative Communication - an approach for initiating and responding
effectively to change and increasing capacity for handling important
Managing My Anger - with guides for creating a personalized strategy for
putting anger to work constructively
Reponding to My Partner's Anger - with cues for de-escalating tension and
acting in positive ways for your relationship
Phases of Relationship - with a map for aligning your values, goals, and
Teaching Designs for Your Setting
Marketing Ideas and Ingredients for Successful Implementation

Program Formats:
COUPLE COMMUNICATION (Collaborative Marriage Skills) may be taught as a
healthy marriage education seminar in groups of up to 12 couples or may be
taught to one couple privately.
Five teaching designs are described, including once-a-week segments or
weekend retreat formats.
CORE COMMUNICATION is used for relationship development classes.

Training Objectives:
Participants will:
1. Gain a systemic set of skills and tools to help couples and individuals
talk, listen, resolve conflicts, and manage anger more effectively (goal).
2. Identify/experience competencies for coaching communication skills and
processes with couples and individuals.
3. Define major frameworks underlyng the communication skills and processes.
4. Practice and apply communication skills, processes, and coaching methods
in an interaction (using skills mats as tools).
5. Identify the major theories supporting the skills, processes, and methods
for teaching.
6. Experience the major exercises of COUPLE COMMUNICATION I & II and CORE.
7. Choose a course design for working with couples and individuals in a
particular setting
8. Identify guidelines for making learning agreements with prospective
participant couples.

What you will receive:
- 1 CCI Couple Packet (regularly $39.95) Includes: 2 Collaborative Marriage
Skills Workbooks (145 pp. ea.), 1 Awareness Wheel Skills Floor Mat, 1
Listening Cycle Skills Floor Mat, 2 Awareness Wheel Pads, 2 Pocket Card Sets
- 1 CCII Couple Packet (regularly $37.00) Includes: 2 Thriving Together
Workbooks (182 pp. ea.), 2 Awareness Wheel Pads, 2 Skills Lap Mats
- 1 CORE COMMUNICATION Skills and Processes Workbook (160 pp., regularly
- 1 COUPLE COMMUNICATION I Instructor Manual (325 pp., regularly $65.00)

Digital Interactive CDs, Instructor transparencies, Agenda for COUPLE
COMMUNICATION II, posters, and couple brochures may be purchased for an
additional fee directly from Interpersonal Communication Programs, Inc.

Institute Leaders:
Phyllis Miller, PhD and Sherod Miller, PhD
The Millers are co-developers of COUPLE COMMUNICATION I & II, CORE
COMMUNICATION, and THRIVE, the Collaborative Marriage Sphere/Inventory. As
principals of Interpersonal Communication Programs, Inc. ICP), they combine
their backgrounds in education and training, marriage and family enrichment,
and therapy to produce interpersonal communication and conflict resolution
programs for couples, work groups, and individuals. Married over 40 years,
the Millers have two grown children and live in Colorado. They bring a
wealth of practical experience, as well as an engaging and pleasant teaching

Instructor Certification:
This workshop is a step toward instructor certification. Other steps include
studying the Instructor Manual and Workbook, teaching 20 couples (using
Couple Packet materials), being evaluated by self and couples, passing a
written exam, and signing a set of ethical expectations. ICP supports
instructors in completing certification and teaching the program.

- Certified instructors who wish to be and who remain active, are listed
on the ICP National Referral directory on our web site at no charge.

A similar process exists for CORE COMMUNICATION. Certified CORE
COMMUNICATION instructors who wish to be, are included on the CORE National
Referral List on the web site:


Dear Diane:
Two Federally funded grants were awarded to agencies in Texas for increasing
their capacity to teach couples (including low-income couples) effective
communication skills.

After attending the COUPLE COMMUNICATION Instructor training sponsored by
one of the agencies, Orlando and Jo Ann Reyes, ministers at the Church Without
Walls in “the Hood” (a low income neighborhood in Ft. Worth), taught
their first group. The eight Hispanic couples used CC materials
translated into Spanish. (A second group is already enrolled.) Jo Ann
says, “People can understand it — the mats make it concrete, specific,
and in depth. It has been hard to get the couples to go home at the end
of the evenings because they are so involved and excited.”

The agencies chose the COUPLE COMMUNICATION program in part because of its
unique methodology — the use of the Skills Mats. (Skills Mats are 30X30 inch
canvas squares placed on the floor. Each of the mats has a "map" printed on
it that includes: The Awareness Wheel which represents the structure of an
issue and provides foundation for the 6 talking skills, and the Listening
Cycle which organizes 5 listening skills for creating understanding.
Participants step around on different skill zones on the mats as they
actively learn new ways to talk and listen to each other, make decisions,
and resolve conflicts about important matters.)

Jo Ann gives several reasons why she thinks the skill mats work so well as
teaching tools with these couples:
• Many Hispanic women find it hard to speak up and talk to their
husbands about things of importance to them.
• On the talking mat, they can be relaxed and not panic or be
• The tool helps them organize what they want to say and not be
scattered. They can stay on track and not go off on rabbit trails.
• Partners can talk in a rational and respectful way about emotional
things. One woman commented, “All of a sudden, my story’s respected!”
• The Listening Cycle lets you be free to talk. It prevents
“butting-in” and interrupting. Your partner hears you out.
• Both partners can tell their story (for example, how they handle
money) and be heard.

As they physically step around the Awareness Wheel, they can freely talk
about each piece (data, thoughts, feelings, wants, actions) to cover
the issue. One woman said, “Speaking for self on the mat helps me say
how things affect me without blaming.”

Jo Ann says, “When someone slips into blaming while standing on the
mat, we simply have them step off of the mat. The person has moved out
of The Skills Zone. The mats also represent a “safe zone” where we can
respectfully talk and listen to each other. Disrespectful communication
takes you out of The Skills Zone. Leaving the mats creates active,
physical learning so the person can experience the difference between
skilled and unskilled communication. You don’t have to be Einstein to
get it.”

The Skills Mats are particularly useful for coaching. Couples have fun
observing and coaching each other in the use of skills. The mats
provide focus for coaching from the instructor, as well.

Tina Jenkins, a social worker and the Family Life Education Manager at
The Parenting Center in Fort Worth, has worked directly with low income
families for over 20 years. She first attended COUPLE COMMUNICATION
Instructor Training at the Smart Marriages Conference in 2004. Tina
says, “I love the mats! Here’s why”:

• The tools are not intimidating. The interaction on the mats engages
• It’s good to have the workbook for participants to read, but the
mats particularly involve individuals at all socio-economic and
academic levels.
• The mats are particularly useful with learning disabled and other
slow learners.
• Actively stepping around the Awareness Wheel engages folks with
attention deficit disorder and other challenges to speak at their own
pace. They provide focus and organization for people who are “all over
the place.”
• The mats are culturally and diversity neutral. Everyone has unique
experiences to share. The mats give permission to communicate feelings
and wants assertively instead of being shy and not speaking up.
• The listening mat shows how to listen for understanding, especially
when an important point has not been heard.

According to Tina, the skills mats are integrative. The problems of
many low income individuals and couples are multifaceted and some of
the interconnections are overlooked. Working on the mats, participants
begin to figure out (interconnect) the roots of a situation, the
underlying currents and reoccurring themes that get and keep them
stuck. For example, “Unskilled communication -- symbolically ‘off of
the mats’ -- loses jobs and then the basic survival thing impacts their

Tina also says, “The mats force common courtesy and respect. The only
thing some people have heard while they were growing up is name-calling
and arguing. They don’t know there is an effective alternative.
(Watching Jerry Springer doesn’t help!) And the skills mats impact how
they communicate with their children.”

The main thing is people are learning with the immediate and specific
constructive feedback. “Mat time” provides practical learning for use
in situations when the mats aren't around.

Sheila Boone, Director of Married for Life Program at 1st Choice
Pregnancy Resource Center, Texarkana, TX and her husband John, who
volunteers at the Center, teach COUPLE COMMUNICATION together. They have
finished teaching two groups with staff and community volunteers. Now they
have begun their first low-income classes with a mix of African-American,
Caucasian, and Hispanic couples.

“Our groups are going great.” Sheila says, “Men like the mats. I have
never seen them open up like this before. With another guy observing
and coaching the skills, they learn fast. No one is judging.”

The program can be taught to one couple at a time or in group. Sheila
has already begun conducting home visits where she teaches COUPLE
COMMUNICATION to a couple privately. When kids see their parents on the
mats, they want to take their turn and talk too. The mats impact the
whole family.

Additional Information
For additional background information on Couple Communication as well as
Instructor training and materials, visit

This institute is part of the week-long Smart Marriages conference.

Conference Details: download a conference brochure, Register ONLINE, hotel & travel information & discounts, etc.

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