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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Marriage Therapy AND Applied Behavior Analysis

An interesting connection has been developing that combines the two separate fields of marriage therapy and applied behavior analysis. This could be a very useful collaboration that could help many couples address their problems and enhance the behaviors and well-being in their relationships.

One example of this intersection of the two fields is the following dissertation.

Applied Behavior Analysis To Modify Couple’s Behavioral Patterns: A Program Design

by Smith, Yramnna, Psy.D., THE CHICAGO SCHOOL OF PROFESSIONAL PSYCHOLOGY, 2016, 67 pages; 10117129


Marriage family therapy and applied behavior analysis are two separate fields that have the potential to be joined together to introduce a cutting edge way of exploring and treating couples who are experience marital distresses. This dissertation explores both fields while highlighting the various ways they are used to provide treatment across settings, individuals, and presenting problems. Based on previous research there was a clear gap in the field of applied behavior analysis that displays the potential utilization to manage couples martial presenting problems. In attempts to explore the promise of applied behavior analysis to treat couples presenting problem of arguing; this project consisted of the development of a couples manual based on the principles of applied behavior analysis, the development of two measurement tools to determine the effectiveness of the manual, and the evaluation of the manual by expert marriage family therapists and board certified behavior analysts. Based on the data analysis of feedback from both licensed marriage family therapists and board certified behavior analysts, the purposed manual shows promise that the couple manual could be an effective tool for couples treatment and suggests further research be completed to test the manual using human subjects in the future.

Here is another example of connecting the fields of behavior analysis and marriage therapy:

Behavior Analysis of Forgiveness in Couples Therapy

James Cordova, Ph.D., Joseph Cautilli, Ph.D., Corrina Simon and Robin Axelrod Sabag


Behavioral couples’ therapy has a long history of success with couples and is an
empirically validated treatment for marital discord (Task Force on Promotion and Dissemination
of Psychological Procedures, 1995). However, only about 50% of all couples in treatment
experience long-term change (2 years). One of the founders of behavioral couples’ therapy called
for the therapy to return to its original roots in functional analysis (Jacobson, 1997). This
produced integrative behavioral couples’ therapy. As behavioral couples’ therapy attempts to
reach the maximum number of couples possible, we believe further attention to behavior analytic
principles will continue to contribute to advances in the field. We propose that an operational
analysis of forgiveness will help to strengthen behavioral couples’ therapy by creating a direct
module to handle some of the most entrenched situations, those commonly referred to as betrayal.

Another journal article can be found at the following link:

Behavior Analysis and the Scientific Study of Couples

Marriage Therapy AND Applied Behavior Analysis

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at [email protected] You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2016). Marriage Therapy AND Applied Behavior Analysis. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from