Exposure in Couple and Family Therapy
Exposure in couple and family therapy (C&FT) draws on the same principles as exposure used in individual treatment of anxiety disorders. Based on past learning, certain cues (e.g., an emotion expressed by one partner) come to represent some feared outcome (e.g., a relationship-threatening argument). In order to avoid the feared outcome, partners avoid the cues that are thought to precede the feared outcome. Through associative learning, those cues come to represent the feared outcome and are avoided with greater vigilance, growing the fear to be disproportionately larger than the actual likelihood of the event occurring. When fear cues inevitably arise in the course of life, romantic partners may react with intense emotions, often leading to dysfunctional and destructive behaviors toward one another. Exposure in C&FT, like in treatment for anxiety disorders, involves repeatedly facing such fear cues, learning to tolerate the intense emotions as they arise, and learning...
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