DAVID C.ATKINS, PhD
SONA DlMIDJIAN, MSW
University of Washington
ANDREW CHRISTENSEN, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles
In Gurman and Kniskern's Handbook of Family Therapy (1981), our late friend, colleague, and mentor Neil Jacobson commented, “What distinguishes [Behavioral Couple Therapy] from other approaches to treating couples is its single-minded commitment to empirical investigation as the optimal road to development” (p. 557, Jacobson, 1981). We believe that this statement is as true today as it was then. To be clear, other couple therapies have demonstrated empirical support (see Christensen & Heavey, 1999, for a review), but behavioral couple therapy (BCT) is unique in both the quantity of empirical support it has received and the role that research plays in its ongoing evolution. Far from being a static treatment, BCT faces constant scrutiny and revision as researchers and clinicians try to develop an ever more potent therapy.
This chapter presents both the research support for and the clinical application of BCT. We will focus primarily on two versions of BCT. The first is the “classic” BCT of Jacobson and Margolin (1979) that focuses on skills and behavior change. We refer to this as traditional behavioral couple therapy (TBCT). The second version of BCT, and perhaps the most radical revision to date, is integrative behavioral couple therapy (IBCT), which emphasizes emotional acceptance and