Getting There: The Process of Overcoming Barriers to Couple Therapy
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Relational distress has been shown to negatively impact approximately 20% of married couples at any given time. Despite the negative impacts of such distress, very few couples seek out relationship therapy. Very few studies have focused on relationship help-seeking through couple therapy. Even fewer studies have been organized using a specific theoretical framework of help-seeking. The lack of theory-informed relationship help-seeking research is concerning because theory helps facilitate the research process and organize data. This dissertation seeks to address the gap in the empirical and theoretical literature on relationship help-seeking. Specifically, I utilized Charmaz’s (2014) constructivist grounded theory procedures to produce a grounded theory examining how couples overcome barriers of relationship help-seeking. The theory highlights a multi-phase process couples go through as they decide to attend therapy. In each phase, unique barriers must be overcome to successfully enter treatment. Discovering a problem, deciding to seek therapy, actively seeking a therapist, and the initial sessions are all key factors in the process couples use when deciding to seek treatment for relationship problems. The process of couples overcoming barriers to seeking therapy also highlights the importance of negotiating, a unique characteristic of relationship help-seeking. Additionally, a micro-process is outlined within the actively seeking phase, where couples must overcome several structural barriers to successfully enter treatment. The resulting theory informs researchers, clinicians, and potential clients about how couples overcome barriers to attending couple therapy.