The Benefit of Guilt in Couples Therapy

As a field, we have neglected to focus on the positive side of guilt as it shows someone how they’ve hurt their spouse. We often confuse guilt and shame. In The Doherty Approach, we have ways to clinically help a spouse own the hurt they’ve caused without rescuing them from guilt (by explaining their behavior exclusively in systemic terms or by giving them a label like trauma survivor). This approach helps both spouses accept responsibility for past behavior (put in context but not excused away) and puts them in good position to work on change.

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