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Behav Ther. 2012 Mar;43(1):25-35. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2010.12.009. Epub 2011 Jun 1.

Common principles of couple therapy.

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University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Psychology, A235D Franz Hall, BOX 951563, Los Angeles, CA 90095–1563, USA.


The similarity in efficacy of evidence-based couple therapies suggests that it may be useful to identify those treatment principles they hold in common. Expanding on the previous description of a unified protocol for couple therapy (Christensen, 2010), this article outlines five common principles: (a) altering the couple's view of the presenting problem to be more objective, contextualized, and dyadic; (b) decreasing emotion-driven, dysfunctional behavior; (c) eliciting emotion-based, avoided, private behavior; (d) increasing constructive communication patterns; and (e) emphasizing strengths and reinforcing gains. For each of these five elements of the unified protocol, the paper addresses how and to what extent the most common forms of evidence-based couple therapy carry out this principle. Implications for clinical practice, treatment research, and basic research on intimate relationships are discussed.

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