Video | 1:59:00

Experiential Therapy

by Augustus Y. Napier
Gus Napier demonstrates Experiential Therapy with a couple whose problems have escalated to a matter of life and death. Watch this master therapist and learn how to authentically engage couples in the here-and-now with interventions that really make a difference.

Part of the 6-video series: Couples Therapy with the Experts


Experiential Therapy
Napier believes that therapists can use their own personal experiences to connect with clients and that their frank feedback within the session can stimulate change, even with couples entrenched in disabling conflict.

In this video, Napier works with one such couple, Bill and Pat. Bill’s recent heart attack has sent this couple into crisis mode—Bill doesn’t want Pat involved with his health, which triggers Pat’s deep-seated rage to boil over, leading Bill to shut down, which in turn further infuriates Pat. Napier provocatively warns them that this spiral may result in Bill having another heart attack, thereby solving both their problems. He highlights the behaviors that they each need to change, then secures a commitment from them both to begin regular couples therapy in order to end the dangerous cycle.

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Napier's very active approach with this couple is sure to divide audiences, making this video a particularly interesting conversation-starter for professors teaching a couples therapy courses. On the one hand, his approach more directly challenges Pat, giving the impression that his approach is one-sided. On the other hand, the transformation in Bill in just one therapy session from completely shut-down to lively participant suggests such an aggressive approach may have been necessary to prevent a catastrophic health outcome. It is a perfect example to jumpstart a discussion about the optimal level of emotional involvement between therapists and their clients.

By watching this video, you will:

• Learn how to help clients break down their problems in the here-and-now of the session, and offer them new, healthier ways of communicating with each other.
• Gain insight into Napier’s therapy style of remaining active and interruptive in the first session with couples, then more quiet and observant in the next few.
• Develop new ways of relating to your clients that are honest and open, and that model relational aspects your clients are currently missing.
Length of video: 1:59:00
Number of Discs: 1
English subtitles available on: Stream, DVD
This DVD plays in All Regions
Individual ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-192-5
Individual ISBN-13 #: 978-1-60124-192-4
Group ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-191-7
Group ISBN-13 #: 978-1-60124-191-7
Augustus Y. NapierAugustus Y. Napier is director of The Family Workshop, a family therapy training institute in Atlanta, Georgia. He studied family therapy with Dr. Carl Whitaker, which formed the basis of his work and books. He later served on the faculties of the Psychiatry Department and the Child and Family Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin. He is the author of The Fragile Bond and The Family Crucible.


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CE credits: 3.5
Learning objectives:

  • Describe key aspects of the Symbolic Experiential Family Therapy approach, including its origins, the ways in which family members may symbolize each other, and the role of emotional experience in the therapy.
  • Assess the rationale behind Napier’s style of alternating between confrontation and observation, and how this style helps clients recognize and break down their problems in the here-and-now of the session.
  • Explain why Symbolic Experiential Family therapists may re-parent their clients.