The Evaluation and Treatment of Marital Conflict: A Four-Stage Approach

By Philip J. Guerin Jr.; Leo F. Fay et al. | Go to book overview

9
The Treatment of Stage III
THE HALLMARKS of stage III marital conflict are high emotional arousal, a polarized position of fixed distance, and a rampant projection process in which each spouse blames the other for the state of the relationship and has little or no self-focus. Attempting to negotiate the conflictual process or address it directly with structural tasks or experiments, without first preparing the way, will inevitably fail. The first two goals in treating stage III conflict are therefore to create a safe climate by lowering the emotional arousal and to increase self-focus in each spouse, which will help to neutralize the intensity of the reactive emotional process. These goals must be achieved before the third major goal, strengthening the marital relationship itself, can be addressed.The work toward the first two goals begins during the engagement process and continues throughout the entire course of therapy. To reach these goals, the therapist and the couple work in three key areas:
1. Reactivity in the marital dyad. The intensity of reactivity in the marital relationship must be lowered. It is especially important in stage III that the therapist keep his or her own anxiety down and help the couple to discipline their automatic reactivity.

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