UBC Theses and Dissertations
The impact of emotionally focused couples therapy on marital interaction Vaughan, Peter Christopher
This study has addressed the continued debate regarding the effectiveness of "non-behavioral" marital psychotherapy. It provides empirical support for the effectiveness of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFCT), an "affective systemic" therapy model, by investigating changes of in-therapy interaction as a function of therapy. Specifically, the question under examination was: During EFCT, is the interaction of couples in the latter stages of the therapeutic experience significantly more positive than the interaction of couples in the beginning stages of the therapeutic experience? The sample for this study consisted of 22 couples. A modification of the pretest-posttest control group design was used as the experimental design. The data consisted of audio recordings of the 22 participating couples' interaction during marital therapy sessions. Episodes marked by the presence of negative interactional patterns were chosen from the 2nd session of therapy and were compared to equivalent episodes from the 7th session. Two measures were used. The DAS, a self-report measure, was used to determine the level of marital distress experienced by the participating couples before and after treatment. And the SASB, an observer-rated coding system, was used for the analysis of the marital interaction. Cohen's Kappa, a coeffient of agreement for nominal scales, was used to determine the interrater reliability between the SASB coders. This study investigated eleven hypotheses regarding the effectiveness of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy in bringing about positive change in couples' behavior and interaction during the therapy session. Eight of the eleven hypotheses were supported by statistically significant findings. EFCT was demonstrated to be effective in bringing about significant positive change in the frequency of negative/disaffiliative behaviors, the frequency of autonomous positive/affiliative behaviors, the occurrence of negative sequences, and the occurrence of positive sequences. EFCT was also demonstrated to be effective in bringing about significant positive change in positive other-focused behaviors, positive self-focused behaviors, negative reciprocal sequences, and negative complimentary sequences. However EFCT was not demonstrated to be effective in bringing about significant positive change in positive controlling behaviors, negative controlling behaviors, and positive complimentary sequences. In conclusion, this study has found substantial support for the assertion that Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy does indeed help couples to positively change the nature of their interaction in therapy.
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