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Couples Therapy. The relationship as the client. Post WW-II history of marriage. Economics Shift in type of work due to industrialization Necessity of dual incomes Technology Industrialization Transportation Birth control Social Norms (next slide). The change in social norms.

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couples therapy

Couples Therapy

The relationship as the client

post ww ii history of marriage
Post WW-II history of marriage
  • Economics
    • Shift in type of work due to industrialization
    • Necessity of dual incomes
  • Technology
    • Industrialization
    • Transportation
    • Birth control
  • Social Norms (next slide)
the change in social norms
The change in social norms
  • Shift from external, role-oriented criteria (e.g., good worker, provider, mother, wife) to internal criteria of personal satisfaction.
  • Studies of changing themes in popular magazine articles about marriage since the '50s document increased emphasis on self-development, flexible and negotiable roles, and open communication about problems. Surveys show similarly dramatic changes in criteria for "marital satisfaction".
  • These changes reflect increases in individualism and our standard of living, as well as improved contraceptive methods and greater availability of abortions.
  • Could you conceive of staying in a marriage unless you're happy?
current statistics
Current statistics
  • The American divorce rate has increased dramatically since the mid 19th century (peak in early '80s).
  • Between 50-67% of first marriages end in divorce -- and the failure rate for second marriages is 10% higher. Median duration is 7.2 years.
  • More marriages now end in divorce than death (true since 1974).
  • Couple therapy is a growing industry: From 1,000 licensed marital therapists in 1972 to over 50,000 today.
  • Barely half of couples report significant improvement from therapy (compared to over 75% in individual therapy) -- and a third of those who improve have problems later on (Bray & Jouriles).
characteristics of happy couples
Characteristics of “happy” couples

Tolstoy’s adage:

“All happy families are alike, but unhappy marriages are unhappy in their own way.”

  • Characteristics (John Gottman)
    • foundation of affection and friendship
    • "validation sequences“
    • ability to resolve disagreements
    • “positive sentiment override”
      • a 5 to 1(or better) compliment-criticism ratio is optimal
      • as the ratio decreases, marriage satisfaction decreases
    • Amount of conflict relatively unimportant (all relationships have conflict)
distressed couples gottman cont
Distressed couples (Gottman cont.)
  • Engage in a wide range of destructive fighting techniques
    • Personal attacks (name calling)
    • Dredging up the past
    • Losing focus (…and the “kitchen sink”)
  • Tend to resort to the "four horsemen of the apocalypse“
    • Criticism (more common in women)
    • Defensiveness
    • Withdrawal (more common in men)
    • Contempt
couples interaction styles gottman cont
Couples’ interaction styles (Gottman cont.)
  • Three ways of understanding couples’ interaction styles:
    • Validating (optimal)
      • the 5 to 1 ratio (optimal)
      • respect partner's opinions and emotions
      • compromise often
      • resolve problems to mutual satisfaction
    • Volatile
      • arguments, conflict may or may not be resolved
      • Vacillate between heated arguments and passionate reconciliation
    • Avoiding – do not deal with problems at all (agree to disagree)
  • Compatibility of interaction styles sometimes more predictive of relationship success than the style itself
love is a story sternberg
Love is a story (Sternberg)
  • What are stories of love?
    • They are stories about what love ideally should be
    • They play out in our day-to-day experiences in relationships
    • They influence who we are attracted to and who we are compatible with
    • They are a lens through which people experience events
  • How do they form?
    • Stories come from past experiences, thoughts, and feelings about relationships
    • Stories can and do change, but new stories start with old stories
    • Stories are affected by cultural norms
love is a story continued
Love is a story (continued)
  • Some examples
    • Asymetrical stories (generally not healthy)
      • teacher-student
      • sacrifice
      • government
      • police investigation (detective/suspect)
      • horror
      • collection
    • Coordination stories (usually healthier)
      • travel
      • garden:processing | attention
      • sewing
      • business
    • Narratives
      • fantasy
      • war
goals of therapy
Goals of therapy
  • The most-studied form of couple therapy -- Behavioral Marital Therapy
    • Help partners negotiate behavior change
    • Teach more effective communication skills (e.g., active listening, how to argue)
  • Gottman (microskills)
    • Avoid the 4 horsemen and other forms of destructive fighting
    • Focus on and encourage “positive sentiment override”
  • Latest research findings
    • Improving "communication skills" may not be the key to resolving many couple problems (Baucom; Burleson & Denton).
      • Good will between partners may be more important than good communication skills
      • Good language and communication skills can even make bad marriages worse (e.g., keeps problem salient)
  • Several promising new approaches
    • Acceptance therapy (focus on interrupting partners' attempts to change each other)
    • Solution-focused therapy (intervention aims to identify exceptions to the problem and reinforce strengths in the couple's relationship)
therapeutic techniques
Therapeutic techniques
  • Maintain balanced approach (don’t show favoritism)
  • Have members of the couple talk to each other, not the therapist
  • Anticipate backsliding (habits are hard to change)