Couples distress is a common problem, nearly half of American marriages end in divorce. Couple distress can also lead to health, and familial problems. Couples distress has been shown to lead to mental health diagnosis of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and alcohol and substance abuse disorders. Couple distress occurs when partners in an intimate relationship express dissatisfaction with the relationship. There are many talk therapy treatments for couple problems, which are effective. The difference between a behavioral approach to couple distress, and talk therapy is that in the behavioral approach certain assumptions are made, for example, negative interactions between the couple occur at a higher rate than positive interactions. The behavioral approach works on changing aspects of these interactions to increase positive interactions between the couple. The two behavioral approaches that will be covered are behavioral couple therapy and integrative behavioral couple therapy.
Behavioral couples therapy
Behavioral couples therapy can by divided into four components. Component one is increasing and initiating positive exchanges between the couple. To accomplish this each individual is asked to increase behaviors that the other partner likes, a few examples include, saying thank you, providing affection. Component two the couple is taught to express what they like about each other, and what they appreciate about each other. Component three, the couple is taught techniques to solve relationship problems in a systematic fashion. Component four, the couple is taught to identify risk factors, and or signs that they are sliding back to relationship dissatisfaction and to use the problem solving skills developed in component three to move the relationship back on course.
Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy
Integrative behavioral couple therapy (IBCT) is very similar to behavioral couple therapy the main difference is the addition of emotional acceptance training. When couples increase acceptance of each other this leads to reductions in fighting. This also reduces individuals of a couple trying to change each other, which is often a source of couple distress. Acceptance means not assigning any emotions, or assessments of good or bad, and accepting each other for who they are.
Martin, G. & Pear, J. (2011). Behavior modification: What it is and how to do it (9th Ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.