By Diana Ballon
Dalton Associates offers first responders two online courses — one on improving your relationship with a partner or spouse, and the other to support solutions for anger. Course material is provided through video, exercises, quizzes, checklists and written text that you can use on your own time, and be assured of complete confidentiality.
Couples course: Moving towards a stronger relationship
This course offers ways you can work to improve your relationship with your partner or spouse. The course consists of seven modules, and provides everything from practical examples to tips to consider when communicating with your partner, to ways to reconsider the value of your relationships. Modules are interspersed with short video clips and exercises to make the learning lively and engaging. The course will take about two hours to complete but doesn’t have to be taken all at once.
A key suggestion repeated throughout this course is to take a step back from what you normally do “in relationship,” and consider new ways to be in your relationship. The goal is to learn from what doesn’t work, and get practice applying some techniques you learn in these modules to confront challenges with your partner and build better foundations in your relationship.
After the Introduction, Module 2 discusses the relationship between Thoughts, Emotions and Behaviours.
Module 3 then looks at Communication. You are given the opportunity to fill in a Communication Styles Checklist which will tell whether your communication style is to be passive aggressive, aggressive, assertive or passive.
Module 4 describes Negative Cycles that we can find ourselves facing with our partner, and how past relationships affect how we trust and experience our current relationship.
Module 5 focuses on Building Trust, Bonds and Attachment in Relationships and encourages you to reflect on the value of trust, and develop tactics to build trust in your own relationship. It includes a “Love Quiz” to give you some insight into your “trust metric.”
Module 6 then discusses Conflict. Research shows that it’s how we manage conflict with our partner that predicts the success or failure of the relationship, rather than whether or not we HAVE conflict. This module gives scenarios of couples in conflict, and describes behaviours that contribute to harmful conflict in a relationship.
Finally, Module 7 provides advice on practising Forgiveness and discusses Acceptance, and how to move forward after there has been conflict.
Anger Solutions offers an alternative approach to traditional anger management programs by addressing anger not simply as related to behaviours, but as an emotion that must first be examined before looking at strategies to solve the problem.
There are eight steps to this program, which are each explored through written text, as well as through brief videos, activities and exercises, and a step summary at the end.
Step 1 on the Art of Definition looks at how you define anger, which includes exploring both what it is and what it isn’t.
Step 2 looks at the range of Emotions we experience and about 10 different styles for expressing anger.
Step 3 examines how Anger Develops, and what causes it.
Step 4 describes the four main styles of communicating anger — assertive, aggressive, passive aggressive and passive — and the benefits of being Assertive.
Step 5 examines how we can use effective Listening Skills to help resolve anger-solving problems, while exploring styles of listening that are not helpful, such as giving advice.
Step 6 is called Accept and Forgive, and is about letting go so we don’t relive old hurts.
Step 7 talks about releasing Residual Anger; in other words, letting go of the energy related to problems that perhaps couldn’t be resolved through conversations or problem solving. (That doesn’t mean avoiding of distracting yourself from problems, because these strategies don’t make problems disappear.)
And finally, Step 8 is about Understanding the Cyclical Nature of Anger. Key to this review is understanding that we can’t change others, but that we can ask for what we want, and focus on changing ourselves and adapting our own expectations.