How to Have Difficult Conversations

How to Have Difficult Conversations


How to Have Difficult Conversations

Presented By: Daniel Ellenberg, PhD

Location: Embassy Suites, 101 McInnis Parkway, San Rafael, CA 94903

Cost: $110 early registration, up to 10 days prior to seminar, $120 after

CIP Member Rate:  $75 early registration, up to 10 days prior to seminar, $85 after

CEs: 6 CEs for MFTs & LCSWs and 6 CEs for Psychologists

Daniel Ellenberg Bio: 

Daniel Ellenberg, PhD is a licensed therapist, group facilitator, leadership coach, and seminar leader. He is a principle in Relationships That Work and Rewire Leadership Institute. He leads Strength with Heart men’s groups and seminars and is a board member of CIIS and the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. He co-created and delivered a resilience training for several NASA space centers. He has taught locally at CIIS and Stanford. He is the co-author of Lovers for Life: Creating Lasting Passion, Trust, and True Partnerships with his wife, Judith Bell. They are currently writing a book on mindful conversations for Guilford Press.

Course Description:

Meaningful, mindful conversations underlie coherent, resilient relationships. Unfortunately, little training is offered the general population that helps them understand and develop skills to strengthen their personal and professional relationships. Therapists are uniquely positioned to help educate and guide clients through important conversations they inevitably face.


In this workshop, participants will learn a framework for helping clients (and themselves) engage meaningfully and competently in important conversations. Through the use of didactic presentations, demonstration and experiential exercises, the following will be covered: the five-stage model of conversations, which includes: 1) deciding; 2) planning; 3) initiating; 4) navigating (the body); and 5) completing; and a paradigm for understanding and addressing the challenges human beings face when their survival-defense system gets triggered or activated. This framework incorporates discoveries from neuroscience, communication theories, and various psychologies—including positive, cognitive, evolutionary, and existential—along with an exploration of the impact of schemas, stress, resilience, and general skills in assessing and improving client’s effectiveness in communication.


There will be a focus on the importance of basic principles and practices that improve conversations and relationships; this includes compassion (self and other), courage, clarity of values, and increasing self-awareness. Participants will learn specific interventions to help clients better appraise and engage in important conversations.

Learning Objectives: 

Upon completion of this workshop, participants should be able to: 

  1. Examine the common opportunities and impediments to meaningful, authentic conversations.
  2. Recognize the underlying hardwired dynamics and issues people have behind their upsets.
  3. Identify ignorance and emotional reactivity (defensiveness) as the core obstacles to successful conversations.
  4. Address and assess the hidden assumptions that can derail essential conversations.
  5. Distinguish the six different dimensions of interpersonal courage. 
  6. Recognize courage as a key ingredient in successful outcomes.
  7. Practice methods to diminish reactivity and inspire positive participation. 
  8. Analyze why and how clarifying intention and staying on purpose is critical to successful conversational outcomes.
  9. Apply specific interventions to increase client conversational skills.


Course Schedule/Outline: 


8:30 am – 9:00 am Registration  

9:00 am - 9:30 am Introduction of topic and presenter, including definition of difficult conversations. Exploration of how this approach to conversations can be used by both clients and psychotherapists. 

9:30 am - 10:30 am Inclusion exercise for participants related to topic; introduction to neuroscientific and evolutionary impacts on conversations.

10:30 am - 10:40 amBreak 

10:40 am - 11:10 am  Small group practices that focus on participants understanding of and relationship to difficult conversations. 

11:10 am – 12:00 pm Introduction to the stage model of conversations. Practices to engage in conversations effectively.

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm Lunch 

1:00 pm - 1:45 pm Role plays that focus on giving feedback to clients regarding conversations 

1:45 pm - 2:30 pm Talk on connecting interpersonal courage with positive outcomes

2:30 pm - 2:40 pmBreak  

2:40 pm - 3:15 pmGroup discussion and exploration of specific cases

3:15 pm - 3:45 pmDeveloping a plan to increase conversational competence. 

3:45 pm - 4:00 pmQuestions and answers; review and completion of the day



Community Institute for Psychotherapy is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Community Institute for Psychotherapy maintains responsibility for this program and its content. 

Cancellation Policy: Only cancellations received in writing more than 10 business days prior to the seminar or class will be refunded/credited, with a $10 cancellation fee deducted. However, if you cancel fewer than 10 business days prior to the seminar or class, you will forfeit the registration fee.


  * Marked fields are required.
Price $120.00