Dyadic Coping in Couple Therapy Process: An Exploratory Study

Fam Process. 2018 Jun;57(2):324-341. doi: 10.1111/famp.12304. Epub 2017 Jul 10.


This study aimed at moving beyond previous research on couple therapy efficacy by examining moment-by-moment proximal couple and therapist interactions as well as final treatment outcomes and their reciprocal association. Seven hundred four episodes of dyadic coping within 56 early therapy sessions, taken from 28 married couples in treatment, were intensively analyzed and processed using a mixed-methods software (T-LAB). Results showed that negative dyadic coping was self-perpetuating, and therapists tended to passively observe the negative couple interaction; on the contrary, positive dyadic coping appeared to require a therapist's intervention to be maintained, and successful interventions mainly included information gathering as well as interpreting. Couples who dropped out of treatment were not actively engaged from the outset of therapy, and they used more negative dyadic coping, whereas couples who successfully completed treatment showed more positive dyadic coping very early in therapy. Results highlight the role of therapist action and control as critical to establishing rapport and credibility in couple therapy and suggest that dyadic coping patterns early in therapy may contribute to variable treatment response.

Keywords: Correspondence Analysis; Couple Therapy; Dyadic Coping; Process Research; Sequence Analysis; afrontamiento diádico; análisis de correspondencias; análisis de secuencias; investigación de proceso; terapia de parejas; 二元应对; 伴侣心理治疗; 对应分析; 序列分析; 过程研究.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Couples Therapy / methods*
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome