A couples intimacy group, integrating feminist and systemic principles within a structured cognitive behavioral format

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Friedenberg, Myrna M.
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The practicum was designed to integrate feminism within a framework that was both systemic and behavioral; the result was a program of couples group therapy that focused on the clinical issue(s) of intimacy. The treatment premise of the eight-session couples group was that the blend of affective therapy in a structured, cognitive-behavioral format would be an effective approach for treating issues of relationship intimacy. A model of individual personality and interaction (cognition, behavior, affect) was extended to include the concept of developmental relationship tasks (relationship identity, relationship cooperation, relationship intimacy). The group process was utilized to merge the individual dimensions and the relationship tasks--cognitive/identity, behavior/cooperation, affect/intimacy--with balance. Throughout the treatment process, couples were encouraged to depersonalize their relationship problems or issues in order to work together at a cooperative level. While the feminist challenge was to foster egalitarian relationships, other skills were also critical: a positive evaluation of women, social analysis, the encouragement of total development, behavior feed-back and self-disclosure. The outcome was primarily evaluated using the Waring Intimacy Questionnaire (WIQ) in a pre and posttest format. When group participants were evaluated in their couple systems, four of the five couples were shown to experience an improvement as indicated by a higher posttest Total Intimacy score. The fifth couple maintained the same pre-posttest Total Intimacy score. These results suggest that the couples group was an effective treatment intervention. The group emphasis was feminist and systemic, and issues of couple sexuality were frequently explored. All of the ten participants reported that the group had been a positive experience and that they would definitely recommend it to a couple who was struggling with intimacy-related issues.