Communication Training

The main objective of communication training is to teach couples how to improve their communication. Partners receive training in skills that enable them to talk to one another more effectively. The following skills are instructed in a structured fashion: active listening, expression of empathy, expression of emotion, and assertiveness. When the partners have adequately mastered these skills they can apply them when discussing their specific relationship issues. The therapist also applies the systematic problem-solving training as part of the course. Modelling, feedback, shaping and role playing are specific techniques used in communication training. Prior to formulating the treatment plan, the therapist will make a functional analysis of the relationship problems. A number of studies have demonstrated the efficacy of behavioural communication training among couples with relationship distress (Emmelkamp, 1988).

Relationship distress between partners can give rise to a dramatic increase in the risk of clinical depression. About half of the women who are in treatment for depression report marital difficulties. In some cases individual therapy for the depressed patient is inadequate and needs to be supplemented with treatment efforts focused on the relationship issues.

Three controlled studies examined the effect of couple's therapy (communication training) on depression (Beach & O'Leary, 1992; Emanuels-Zuurveen & Emmelkamp 1996; Jacobson et al., 1991). There was no overall difference in mood improvement between patients in the individual cognitive behavioural therapy versus those in couple's therapy but relationship improvement was significantly higher among patients in couple's therapy. These findings suggest that depressed patients with marital difficulties are better served by couple's therapy than by individual cognitive behavioural therapy. Moreover, the additional benefit in terms of relationship improvement can be an important factor in the prevention of relapse.

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