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Digital Seminar

Neurodivergent Friendly Couples Therapy (NFCT): Working with difference to resolve conflict and deepen connection

Working with difference to resolve conflict and deepen connection

Robyn Blake-Mortimer, BA (Hons), Grad Dip Ed, Grad Dip Spec Ed, Grad Cert Gifted Ed, M Psych Clinical, Dip Clin Hypnosis, MAPS
15 Hours 33 Minutes
Audio and Video
Aug 30, 2023
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Digital Seminar
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"The solution to disengaged neurodiverse couples is the NFDT model plus compassionate understanding of the challenges faced by people living in a world which does not cater to their needs, or way of operating. Never underestimate the strengths of your autistic or ADHDer clients."

Your existing skills may work well for many couples but Neurodivergence in one or both partners presents specific challenges and requires very specific skills. Without these skills, tolerance, and then love may be lost and your clients will likely take the same problems into their next relationship. This training will help you connect your couples who have different 'wiring' so they can develop strong, understanding and loving bonds that endure the challenges of difference.  

In this training program, you will learn the steps to use with the advanced empathy skills form Gottman Method, Motivational Interviewing and TEAM CBT to set your couples sessions up for success. Robyn will show you how to hear and accurately interpret both points of view and then connect with each, as the translator between two differing neural positions. You will learn the exact steps to help couples move toward each other, to translate and show them the skills.

Neurodivergent Friendly Couples Therapy (NFCT) is designed to help couples when one or both partners have a different way of processing information about the world and responding to that information. It is designed to be friendly, inclusive, and supportive for all those among us who are Autistic or have ADHD.  I acknowledge the insights of psychologist Monique Mitchelson and her Model of working with Autistic people and ADHDers in viewing differences with acceptance rather than as deficits needing to be fixed.  This training can help us all move toward being part of the solution, not part of the problem.

 NFCT has been evolving in response to many reports from distressed couples where some standard approaches to their difficulties only made them feel worse, even less understood and more despairing.  The therapy room becomes just another setting where neurodivergent people find it difficult to have their needs met, or to be shown understanding and compassion for their perspectives, or to even feel they can begin to be met on a level playing field.

 Frequently we learn that the single largest influence on successful therapeutic outcome is the relationship between the therapist and the client.  Consequently, this model explains and makes explicit the qualities of an effective therapist and the environment which needs to be created to ensure success with unconditional positive regard for both partners.  The goal is to help couples build happier and more fulfilling relationships by developing strategies that consider the unique strengths and challenges of neurodivergent couples.  The image of a hand is used as a memory aid as you learn how to deliver these tasks:

  • Create safety and equality
  • Share lived experience of neurodiversity
  • Address motivation
  • Teach skills
  • Hand over the power.

Traditionally we were taught that autistic people have difficulties in understanding theory of mind.  At the center of NFCT is the alternative concept of double empathy.  Both neurotypical and neurodivergent couples may struggle to understand or value the other’s perspective.  This lessens the habit of blaming the other person, or seeing them as defective.  It is simply another example of difference.

This workshop will provide demonstrations of how to present information to couples, how to encourage effective communication and how to assist them to problem solve their own areas of conflict. Reference is made to tools of effective couples therapy and how to  further simplify these to be more accessible in times of heightened emotion and overwhelm.  We will also address the motivation for doing the work, and how to manage ambivalence about change. 

I have used John Gottman’s evidence-based model of the Sound Relationship House for over ten years to show the attitudes and behaviors of successful couples.  I extend that framework to systematise the components which are needed for therapists to deliver Neurodivergent Friendly Couples Therapy (NFCT).  This workshop will introduce you to the elements needed to assist couples build their own “Safe House for a Neurodivergent Relationship”. You will view demonstrations of many skills to use with couples as they are invited to consider what they would like to include in their own “Safe House. “

EXCLUSIVE FREE BONUS FOR LIVE EVENT ATTENDEES: Check the registration details page for more information. 



PESI Australia, in collaboration with PESI in the USA, offers quality online continuing professional development events from the leaders in the field at a standard recognized by professional associations including psychology, social work, occupational therapy, alcohol and drug professionals, counselling and psychotherapy. On completion of the training, a Professional Development Certificate is issued after the individual has answered and submitted a quiz and course evaluation. This program is worth 15.5 hours CPD for points calculation by your association.



Robyn Blake-Mortimer, BA (Hons), Grad Dip Ed, Grad Dip Spec Ed, Grad Cert Gifted Ed, M Psych Clinical, Dip Clin Hypnosis, MAPS's Profile

Robyn Blake-Mortimer, BA (Hons), Grad Dip Ed, Grad Dip Spec Ed, Grad Cert Gifted Ed, M Psych Clinical, Dip Clin Hypnosis, MAPS Related seminars and products

Tuned In Couples

Robyn Blake-Mortimer is a Clinical Psychologist with 20 years of experience providing therapy and counselling to individuals, couples and families from diverse backgrounds within a variety of settings. She was the co-founder of ABC Psychology, a generalist group practice in Goodwood. Since December 2019, Robyn specialises in working with couples and grief, as the founder of Tuned in Couples, a small private practice in Glenside, South Australia.

Robyn is always interested in finding new ways to help her clients and improve her practice. She completed a Master of Clinical Psychology from Flinders University in 2003 after a successful career as a teacher. In 2006 she completed the Diploma of Clinical Hypnosis and later provided training for that organisation. In 2014 she became the first Certified Gottman Couples therapist in South Australia. Currently she is involved in research with the Gottman Institute about the effectiveness of marathon therapy.

Robyn lived and worked in New York as a Marriage and Family Therapist between 2016 and 2019. That was a wonderful opportunity to work in community mental health and private practice in a setting where the dominant model was still psychodynamic. During that time, Robyn was introduced to the work of David Burns and the certification program at the Feeling Good Institute. She uses those skills when working with the communication challenges faced by neurodiverse couples, where one may have ADHD or autism spectrum disorder. Robyn is the first accredited TEAM-CBT therapist in Australia and delivers training programs for other psychologists and counsellors in this approach.

Speaker Disclosures:
Financial: Robyn Blake-Mortimer maintains a private practice. She receives a speaking honorarium from PESI, Inc. She has no relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations.
Non-financial: Robyn Blake-Mortimer has no relevant non-financial relationships.



Morning Session: Introduction and overview of neurodivergence and couples therapy

  •  Introduction and reasons to develop a new model of couples therapy.
  • Build on current knowledge of effective couples therapy eg John and Julie Gottman, Sue Johnson
  • Definitions of Neurodiversity and limitations of medical model in couples counselling.
  •  Introduce model of “Neurodivergent Friendly Couples Therapy: it’s in your hands!”
  • Break out group discussion

Afternoon Session: Getting started: The palm of the hand

  • How to create safety and equality
  • Provide Unconditional positive regard and respect for difference
  • Sources of feedback to repair ruptures in the therapeutic relationshi
  • The 5 secrets of effective communication to respond to negative feedback.
  • Break out group practice a 5 secret response to negative feedback towards your therapy.
  • Use self disclosure appropriately so you role model accepting your onw vulnerabilities and areas of struggle.
  • Explore your own biases and assumptions about disability before doing this work
  • Value collaboration and show humility to their knowledge of the interaction and issues.
  • Physical adaptation of therapy room, using different forms of communication.


Morning Session: Knowledge about neurodiversity: The thumb so you can pick things up

  • Going beyond DSM-5 TR.  What’s in a name?
  • Valuable sources of information with Monique Mitchelson, Devon Price, Chloe Hayden
  • Likelihood of comorbidities with anxiety and trauma. 
  • Theory of mind versus double empathy.
  • Strengths of many ND people.
  • Break out group What is wrong with this identification checklist item? How can you make it more inclusive?


Afternoon Session: Third finger: Motivation: why do this work

  • Fundamental attribution error (It’s not my fault, fix the other1)
  • David Burns notion of working with resistance to change yourself
  • Demonstration of the Cost Benefit Analysis of having to let go of blaming the other for the problems
  • Options available to couples and likely outcomes.
  • Sitting with open hands:  respect their choice not to do this work
  • Possible practice session with very clear vignette for them to role play: one as the therapist, other the pretend client


Morning Session: Teach skills and build understanding

  • Myhill and Jekyll model : Act as interpreter : Go slow> be concrete> Clarify and confirm> Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.
  • Goal to improve communication, manage conflict and melt downs , modify environment , improve emotional connection
  • Provide psychoeducation about what challenges result from neurology.  Normalising their experience.
  • Provide memory aids or summaries.  Worksheets, take photos with phone.  Duck , bunny image and other visual illusions to build acceptance of different viewpoints.
  • Gottman resources at a high level of sophistication . Dreams within conflict, aftermath of a fight, compromise circles.
  • Inevitability of trial and error.  Underpin standard  approach with teaching to recognize emotions in each other.
  • Demonstration of how to introduce “time out “ when conflict is escalating

Afternoon Session: Handing over the power  to maintain their own relationship

  • Additional skills with one minute drills and the Relationship journal
  • Develop their own Neurodivergent Couples Safe house tailored to their needs
  • Deciding when to phase out and “graduate” from therapy
  • Maintenance kit for relapse prevention.
  • Recap :  avoid these behaviors, do these……


Learning objectives of this training:

  1. Reflect on personal biases and assumptions about neurodivergent individuals and relationships which are fostered by the medical model of disability.
  2. Learn strategies for creating a welcoming and inclusive environment to neurodivergent clients including accommodations for sensory sensitivities, communication preferences  and individual needs.
  3. Consider the impact of trauma on your clients and the role of intersectionality, especially where your clients may identify with multiple marginalized communities, eg impact of race or migration.
  4. Gain a deeper understanding of the components necessary for  “Neurodivergent Friendly Couples therapy: It’s in your hands”
  5. List the pitfalls to avoid when working with Neurodivergent couples.
  6. Practice receiving and responding to negative feedback in a way that restores the therapeutic relationship.


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