Category: Couples / Close Relationships


The Marriage Checkup: Developing and Implementing a Checkup Approach to Relationship Health Care

Saturday, November 18
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom K & L, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Couples / Close Relationships | Couple Therapy
Presentation Type: Symposium

Cognitive Behavioral approaches to addressing relationship health issues emerged in the late-1970s, principally with the approach put forward by Jacobson and Margolin (1979). For several decades, both empirical and clinical work focused almost exclusively from within this paradigm on relationship health interventions at the tertiary level. Subsequently in the late eighties and early nineties behavioral approaches to the prevention of marital distress emerged (e.g., Markman, Stanley, & Bloomberg, 1994).  With the emergence of what has been termed the third wave of behavioral therapy, the traditional skills training approach to tertiary care evolved to include a significant emphasis on both acceptance and change (Jacobson & Christensen, 1996).  However, although empirical support for both tertiary and preventative relationship education approaches continues to accumulate, it has become increasingly apparent that there is a significant gap in the healthcare model between inoculating couples against distress with relationship skills training and intervening at the tertiary level. Accumulating data suggests that relationship health deterioration continues to be a significant problem with divorce rates remaining high and approximately 20% of all couples reporting significant relationship distress at any point in time (Bradbury, Fincham, & Beach, 2000). In an attempt to address the gap in relationship healthcare, we developed the brief prevention and early intervention program called the Marriage Checkup.  The MC is intended to be the relationship healthcare equivalent of the annual physical checkup or the semi-annual dental checkup.  The MC is a brief assessment and feedback protocol, designed with four objectives 1) early identification, 2) prevention and early intervention, 3) motivating appropriate help seeking, and 4) fostering long-term martial health and preventing divorce. In our 5-year NIH funded RCT, the Marriage Checkup demonstrated noteworthy gains in several facets of relationship functioning such that treatment couples reported significant improvements in relationship satisfaction, intimacy, and acceptance compared to control couples (Cordova et al., 2014).  Further, recent analyses have found that, in keeping with the theory of change, intimate safety and acceptance mediate both short and long-term treatment response, suggesting that they are actively involved in the prevention of relationship deterioration (Hawrilenko, Gray, & Cordova, 2016).  Finally, the MC worked to affect both distal (i.e. depression; Gray, Hawrilenko, & Cordova, in progress) and specific (e.g., time together, sexual satisfaction, and communication,) relationship outcomes (Hawrilenko, Gray, & Cordova, in progress).  In this talk we will present our theory of change, outcome data, and future directions of the Marriage Checkup. 

James Cordova

Clark University


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The Marriage Checkup: Developing and Implementing a Checkup Approach to Relationship Health Care

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