Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

A Preliminary Investigation of Empirically Based and Spiritually Based Marital Enrichment Programs

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

A Preliminary Investigation of Empirically Based and Spiritually Based Marital Enrichment Programs

Article excerpt

Research speaks to the efficacy of many empirically based marital enrichment programs (Butler & Wampler, 1999; Giblin, Sprenkle, & Sheehan, 1985; Hof & Miller, 1981; Miller & Sharrard, 1999; Stanley, Blumberg, & Markman, 1999; Zimpher, 1988). More specifically, both Prevention and Relationship Enhancement (PREP) and Couple Communication (CC), the two empirically based programs examined in this investigation, were two of only four marital enrichment programs characterized as efficacious using the criteria established for Empirically Supported Treatments (ESTs): employing a randomized clinical trial design and replicating the findings (Jakubowski, Milne, Brunner, & Miller, 2004). PREP has been linked to improved communication and problem-solving skills for couples (Stanley et al., 2001) and lower divorce rates and higher satisfaction levels (Halford, Sanders, & Behrens, 2001; Markman, Renick, Floyd, Stanley, & Clements, 1993). Furthermore, PREP is the only program with long-term outcomes after follow-up periods of twelve months (Halford, Markman, Stanley, & Kline, 2003). And according to Wampler's (1982) examination of studies on CC in her meta-analysis, all of the studies using high standards of research methodology found a positive impact of CC upon relationship satisfaction and communication.

Conversely, very little reliable data exists to assert the validity of spiritually based martial enrichment programs. For example, Jakubowski et al. (2004) conducted a comprehensive search for marital enrichments studies from 1970 to 2003. Only marital enrichment programs that had been empirically examined since 1990 were included in their review. Not surprisingly, none of the 13 programs they reviewed were spiritually based programs with the possible exception of one: Marriage Encounter (ME). Marriage Encounter might be considered spiritually based due to the fact that it is partly led by trained clergy; however, the topics covered in the program appear very similar to the topics covered in many others (communication, trust, acceptance), and there does not appear to be a significant emphasis on spirituality or religion as the foundation for the program. Regardless, ME was classified by Jakubowski et al. as empirically untested, which provides further evidence of the fact that spiritually based programs remain untested.

It is problematic that spiritually based marital enrichment programs have not been examined empirically since they are abundant amongst places of worship across the United States. Furthermore, as the aforementioned research shows, marital enrichment programs provide couples with the skills necessary to aid them in responding to challenging situations that arise in marriage, such as conflict. Considering the powerful influence spirituality may have in individuals' lives, the addition of spirituality as a foundation to a marital enrichment program may have an effect upon the power of the program in enhancing couples' marriages. For example, a study done by Karampatsos (2012) revealed a positive correlational relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction. And in assessing spirituality /religiosity as a protective factor for married couples in adjusting to their first five years of marriage, Mika (2011) found significant relationships existed between spirituality/religiosity and dyadic cohesion for the females and between spirituality/religiosity and dyadic consensus for males; both were important factors in the dyadic adjustment of couples. Such studies convey that spirituality may play an important role in marital enrichment programs. As a starting point in this process, the similarities and differences of two empirically based and two spiritually based marital enrichment programs are considered. The foundations, goals, content, and outcomes of two empirically based programs, PREP and CC, and two spiritually based programs, Couples' Temperament Workshop and Heirs Together, are examined. …

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