Identifying the Stage of Marital Conflict
EVALUATING marital conflict is a two-step procedure in our model of marital therapy. First, the therapist gathers information about the multigenerational family system by means of a genogram, a kind of family tree that allows the therapist to assess the state of the family over time and the amount of stress the family is undergoing at the moment. Second, the therapist considers the individual spouses, the marital couple, and the surrounding triangles in the light of various criteria to determine the severity of the conflict and to devise an effective treatment plan.
During this two-step procedure, it is important that the therapist successfully connect with each spouse, engaging them in the therapy process. The therapist must keep down his or her own anxiety, remain relevant to the couple's view of the problem, listen to both spouses, and validate each of them without taking sides. These measures, combined with appropriately timed and relevant feedback to the couple, create the safe climate that is essential to successful engagement.
In this chapter we will describe how the therapist assesses the stage