Improving couple communication through the Imago Getting the Love You Want Workshop for Couples

Lawson, Wendy Anne (2008-03)

Thesis (MA (Psychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2008.


Although couples are often aware of the importance of communication, they are unable to implement effective communication skills. Couples can be assisted to improve their communication and the quality of their relationship by attending a marriage enrichment programme. While research shows that enrichment programmes do help couples to learn and maintain relationship skills, longer-term effectiveness seems limited, with effects dissipating over time. Researchers concerned with the long-term sustainability of improvements have recognised the value of post-intervention booster programmes. The Imago Getting The Love You Want Workshop for Couples (GTLYW Workshop) is an enrichment programme for couples interested in improving the quality of their relationship. The workshop is based on the theory and principles of Imago Relationship Therapy. Imago theory provides a relational approach to and framework for understanding the dynamics and interaction of the couple dyad, as well as a dialogical process crucial for the deep communication and growth that are essential to achieve healing and wholeness. Couples learn crucial communication skills by means of a structured communication technique, the Couples Dialogue. The GTLYW Workshop is under-researched when compared to other enrichment programmes. This research attempted to answer the question of whether or not couples who have attended the GTLYW Workshop experienced improvements in aspects of their communication and the quality of their relationship, and whether improvements were sustained over time. Based on a philosophy of pragmatism, a mixed-methods research approach was adopted, including a dominant quantitative method and a nested qualitative method. A longitudinal design incorporated a pre-workshop, a three- to four-week post-workshop, and three-month follow-up measures. Repeated measures ANOVA procedures and Pearson product-moment correlations addressed quantitative objectives. Aspects of communication that were measured were perceptions of communication ability (Primary Communication Inventory), communication patterns (Communication Patterns Questionnaire), and relational awareness (Relational Awareness Scale). The quality of the relationship was assessed using the Dyadic Adjustment Scale. Thematic analysis, using a phenomenological approach, addressed qualitative objectives Within the limitations of this study, the findings provided: some evidence of short-term improvements in some aspects of communication and the relationship; some evidence for the dissipation of improvements three months later; some evidence for the need for follow-up or booster sessions after the workshop; and evidence of positive changes after the workshop. Although there is evidence of the short-term effectiveness of marriage enrichment programmes, it is the longer-term maintenance of improvements and skills that is paramount for the effectiveness and credibility of marriage enrichment programmes. Given what research has found with regard to the dissipating effects of marriage enrichment programmes, the need for booster programmes, difficulties in teaching communication skills, and the potential risk to couples (post-workshop) of deteriorating communication skills, it would be wise for practitioners and educators, as they plan and run enrichment programmes, to also place emphasis on “what happens after the workshop”. The results of this research offer an opportunity for Imago practitioners and educators to review ways of assisting couples to sustain improvements over the longer term after they have attended the GTLYW Workshop.

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