Close Romantic Relationships: Maintenance and Enhancement

By John H. Harvey; Amy Wenzel | Go to book overview

16
Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy
Janice Jones
Brian D. Doss
Andrew Christensen University of California, Los Angeles

Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy (IBCT; Christensen, Jacobson, & Babcock, 1995; Jacobson & Christensen, 1996M) is an innovative approach to working with couples experiencing distress in their marriages. IBCT is generally used with distressed couples in a therapeutic setting and includes a variety of techniques to work with partners around their problematic issues. However, the basic theory of IBCT can also be used to conceptualize the interactional patterns and potential troublesome areas of nondistressed couples and prevent as well as ameliorate nonclinical levels of marital problems. To facilitate the development of both acceptance and change in relationships, IBCT incorporates therapeutic techniques used in clinically proved, effective marital therapy focusing on behavior change (e.g., Jacobson & Margolin, 1979) with strategies for promoting emotional acceptance between partners. The more traditional behavioral approaches to marital therapy focus on changing the ratio of positive and negative behaviors in the relationship, such that negative behaviors are decreased and positive behaviors increased. This behavior change comes about through the therapist's directives as well as through the couple's discussion, negotiation, and compromise as facilitated and instructed by the therapist. Unfortunately, behavior changes based on instruction or directive are often difficult to maintain long term, and couples often find themselves reverting to their problematic behavior patterns with no change in their feelings about the problems or their attitudes toward the relationship.

In IBCT, the emphasis shifts to an emotional acceptance of the partner's negative behaviors or lack of desired positive behaviors even if those be

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