While a great deal is known about the problems that clients bring to therapy, little is known about the way in which clients conceptualize problems during the course of couple therapy. Understanding clients’ conceptualizations of problems is important because it provides the therapist with a client-centered context on how to approach discussions about the problems during the course of treatment. This manuscript provides the results of an exploratory qualitative inquiry concerning how clients conceptualize problems during therapy and across the trajectory of treatment. The sample consisted of 26 individuals comprising 13 couples attending couple therapy. Participants completed a semi-structured interview prior to the first and after the second, third, and fourth therapy session. Analysis included grounded theory and discourse analysis. Results suggested that couples approach problems from an individualistic standpoint, they internalize problems, and they expect to recover from problems. The authors discuss how therapists may challenge dominant discourses around problems during couple therapy.


Couple Therapy, Expectations, Therapy Process


We appreciate the helpful reviews and editorial comments of Dr. Nancy Naples, Dr. Tom Strong, Kayla Balsden, Farah Iqbal, Bevan Kovitz, Danni Lei, Chantal Poirier, Alexandra Robinson, Alyssa Ryan, and Jon Woodend.

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