The Couples Health Program: Overview

    The Couples Health Program (CHP) is a short-term, cognitive-behavioral approach to Couples Therapy that teaches couples effective negotiation and conflict-resolution skills to help them resolve their own interpersonal differences.  The core program runs for a three-month period, and combines the individualized benefits of Couples Therapy, with the interactive benefits of Group Therapy.   A psycho-educational approach is used during group meetings to teach the general skill sets.  These skills can then be applied specifically to a couple’s unique problem areas during their optional Couples meetings with a trained therapist-instructor.  Between the group meetings, couples are given a workbook of practice exercises designed to help them integrate and consolidate the skills learned in class.  A follow-up group is scheduled three months after the core series is completed.

      The program just described adheres to a managed care structure and philosophy of care, and is intended for clinical populations when taught by licensed psychotherapists.  The program may also be as a Psycho-educational Workshop Series intended for a broader general public, by omitting the Couples Therapy meetings.  In both formats, couples learn the cognitions and behaviors needed to sequentially move them from their often polarized starting points, to an appreciation of their individual differences, to learning the communication skills that reflect and respect these differences, to creatively applying this knowledge to brainstorm solutions, to agreeing on a preferred “Plan A,” and finally, after implementing it in good faith, to reviewing and refining their agreement over time to increasingly reflect their growing needs.  A  P.E.A.C.E. acronym is offered as a mnemonic to help couples remember the process and navigate their way through future disagreements.

      The CHP teaches new skills by using an experiential and interactive, rather than passive approach to learning.  This approach creates an enjoyable learning environment and also insures the durability of new behaviors.  Between each of the five group meetings, participants receive a workbook module containing:  a personal journal exercise, an exercise to do with one’s mate, a “phone buddy” exercise, and an individual exercise.  Classroom and homework exercises are gender sensitive, engage different learning styles and modalities, and are paced in terms of complexity.  By the end of the program, couples will be able to customize the PEACE Process to fit their own relationship, and use it as a tool both to prevent, and solve, future problems.