On the last page, we learned about evidence-based treatments. Now, let’s take a look at one of these proven treatments for relationship distress, called IBCT.

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Tutorial Walkthrough

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This tutorial will walk you through the interactive components of the website.

  1. Click the arrows on the left and right sides to move through the tutorial.
  2. Click the icon in the upper right to close the tutorial.
  3. Click the avatar icon therapist avatar to access tutorial at any time.

The avatar will help guide you through the website.

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Click on this video to learn about IBCT for Relationship Distress.

ibct video

Click the wheel icons to view the treatment steps. The current step will be at the top of the wheel.

ibct wheel icons

Let’s learn about Proven Treatment for Relationship Distress

What is IBCT for Relationship Distress?

Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy (IBCT) is an evidence-based “talk therapy,” or counseling treatment, shown to be effective in improving relationships. IBCT is a newer approach to couples therapy that focuses on helping partners identify and accept each other’s differences and change difficult patterns in the relationship.

Watch this video to learn more about IBCT treatment. And check out the wheel at the bottom of this page to learn about the specific parts of treatment!

IBCT illustration

IBCT focuses on improving relationship functioning and emotional closeness.

man and woman holding hands

Years of research have shown that IBCT is effective in increasing relationship satisfaction and improving communication skills…

research on IBCT

and improvements often last for years following treatment.

family riding bike

Overall, Veterans who participate in IBCT report being more satisfied with their relationships.

man and woman holding hands

Both Veterans with and without PTSD report greater relationship satisfaction after participating in IBCT.

people interacting

What Happens in Treatment?

IBCT helps people take control of their relationships by understanding and accepting partner differences and learning skills for improving communication and closeness.

Click on an item on the wheel to learn about the different steps of IBCT!

emotional understanding changes wheel item

Increase Emotional Understanding

Conflict in relationships often results from differences between partners due to biology or early childhood experiences. For example, some people are born craving excitement while others crave quiet. Reactions to childhood experiences can also differ. One partner who grew up with limited resources may penny-pinch, while another may respond by indulging and purchasing things they didn’t have. In IBCT, the therapist helps partners identify these differences. Once identified and discussed, partners are often more understanding of each other and, as a result, treat each other more kindly.
wheel icon heads and eye changes wheel item

Recognize and Change Problematic Patterns of Interaction

Couples often develop patterns of interaction where they “get stuck” and can no longer work together to address issues productively. In IBCT, the therapist helps couples identify these patterns as they occur and then break out of them by better understanding each other’s intention and deeper feelings. This increased understanding often helps partners try new, more effective behaviors instead of having the same old arguments.
two heads positive interaction changes wheel item

Increase Positive Interactions and Connection

Couples who are struggling often criticize or blame each other a lot. As a result, the strengths of each partner and the positive in the relationship get lost. In IBCT, the therapist spends time helping partners recognize when things are going well, rather than focus only on the things that are tough in the relationship. During treatment, couples may also begin to spend more positive time together, which can help them feel more connected.
puzzle pieces changes wheel item

Improve Communication and Problem Solving

For many partners, learning to understand each other better and change how they interact helps them to talk better together and solve problems. However, for some couples, learning effective communication and problem-solving skills is also very useful for improving how partners relate to each other and address daily challenges. Therefore, during treatment the therapist may also use in-session practice to teach proven communication and problem-solving skills.

Click the arrows below to learn about the different steps of IBCT!

emotional understanding

Increase Emotional Understanding

Conflict in relationships often results from differences between partners due to biology or early childhood experiences. For example, some people are born craving excitement while others crave quiet. Reactions to childhood experiences can also differ. One partner who grew up with limited resources may penny-pinch, while another may respond by indulging and purchasing things they didn’t have. In IBCT, the therapist helps partners identify these differences. Once identified and discussed, partners are often more understanding of each other and, as a result, treat each other more kindly.
wheel icon heads and eye

Recognize and Change Problematic Patterns of Interaction

Couples often develop patterns of interaction where they “get stuck” and can no longer work together to address issues productively. In IBCT, the therapist helps couples identify these patterns as they occur and then break out of them by better understanding each other’s intention and deeper feelings. This increased understanding often helps partners try new, more effective behaviors instead of having the same old arguments.
two heads positive interaction

Increase Positive Interactions and Connection

Couples who are struggling often criticize or blame each other a lot. As a result, the strengths of each partner and the positive in the relationship get lost. In IBCT, the therapist spends time helping partners recognize when things are going well, rather than focus only on the things that are tough in the relationship. During treatment, couples may also begin to spend more positive time together, which can help them feel more connected.
puzzle pieces

Improve Communication and Problem Solving

For many partners, learning to understand each other better and change how they interact helps them to talk better together and solve problems. However, for some couples, learning effective communication and problem-solving skills is also very useful for improving how partners relate to each other and address daily challenges. Therefore, during treatment the therapist may also use in-session practice to teach proven communication and problem-solving skills.

Next, let’s look a bit closer at what IBCT for Relationship Distress looks like.

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