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Effectiveness of schema-focused couple therapy to reduce marital relations conflict applicant for divorce.


Divorce is a social problem that challenges the structure of the family and community. Despite the entire try that done through the different ages, community and government to support for marriage and prevention of divorce; this issue is still a problem for many families as inevitable probable reality. In Iran from every thousand marriages nearly two hundred end in divorce (Bahari and Mirweysi, 1998), and Iran is the fourth country in the world in terms of the ratio of divorces to marriages was introduced (Kiyan nia, 1997). The researchers hav e shown that the negative effects of conflict (anger, hatred, anxiety, and fear) in the couple's interactions are related total level of violence and engagement (Bookwala, Sobin & Zdaniuk, 2005). The destructive relation or negative interactions between spouses can be lead to a decrease in relationship satisfaction and more likely to divorce (Amato & Homann-Marriott, 2007). Beach, S., Sandeen, E., & oLeary, K. (1987) in their research, on the stagnation of marital relations found that the maladaptive schemas, such as a willingness to consider radical, extreme self-control (not able to be emotional) in the couple relationships caused the collapse of the family including divorce. Andooz and Hamidpour (2005), also in a study showed that there is inverse relationship between the maladaptive schemes and marital satisfaction. In the other hand, Epsten, S. Lipson, A., Holstein, C., & Huh, E. (1990) showed that the maladaptive schemes are the deepest predictor's cognitive elements for compatibility and incompatibility in couples. So that it has a significant impact in reducing chronic interpersonal problems and marital conflicts (Morrison, 2000). Early maladaptive schemas to be represent the core beliefs (unconditional default) about the self and others and processing deviate the processing of external information about the inefficient path. Thus, interpersonal relations and self-perception are affected (Young, 1999, cited in Pinto-Gooya et al, 2006). Compared to other cognitive vulnerabilities, the early maladaptive schemas are more unconditional and generate high levels of negative affect because they are related to the main life issues, such as autonomy and intimacy (Schmidt, Joyner, Young and Telch, 1995, quoted Harris and Kartin, 2002). schemas bias our interpretations of events and these biases in psychopathology among individuals (couples) shows them as a misunderstanding, distorted attitudes, speculation, false targets, expecting unrealistic (Pascal, Christine, Jain, 2008). Young and Gluhoski (1997) found that the couple's relationship, a couple as well as early schema that bring to the relationship, there is form a schema in current relationship too, so that if the requirements early schema not to meet in their relations and or the early schema is inconsistent with current schema it is lead to disagreements between couples. Thus, among the various approaches that are aim to reduce conflicts and inconsistencies between couples (Misty 2002, quoted Ahmadi, 2004), it seem that the schema-focused couple therapy is sufficient approach to reduce conflicts. The present study examined the effectiveness of schema- focused couple therapy on reducing the marital conflict and adjustment of maladaptive schemas for conflicting couple.


The present research is semi-experimental with pretest and posttest which used the control and experimental group. Statistical community for this study are entire the couples applicant for divorce in Khorram Abad city whom because to marital conflicts until 20 march 2013 are referring counseling centers for preventing of divorce by family court in this city so that 20 couples (40 people) recruited randomly and categorized in two groups: the experiment group (20 pairs) and control group (20 pairs). Finally, the schema therapy was performed in 20 sessions with duration of 60 minutes for experimental group and at the end of the intervention period, both groups were tested. In order to data analysis in this study, the descriptive statistics indexes and multi analysis covariance (MANCOVA) was used through 21spss software. There are used from two questionnaires for evaluating of treatment process that are:

A) Marital conflict questionnaires:

This questionnaire has been developed to evaluating of marital conflicts and their dimensions. This test is conducted by Barati and Sanaei (1997), who have measured 7 dimensions of marital conflict. The seven dimensions are consist of subscales for the reduction of co-working of, reduction of sexual relationship, increasing of emotional reactions, to attract children to support, enhance of personal relationships with their families, reducing family relationship with wife family and friends and the separation of the finances of each other. Barati (1997) in order to assess of reliability and validity, who performed the questionnaire on group of 111 people, consist 53 men and 58 women who referring to the Judiciary services and counseling centers to resolve their marital conflicts and also a control group of 108 normal couples who were comprised of 53 men and 55 women. The comparison of the mean between compatible and incompatible men and women, suggesting that there are significant differences between them that it has the ability to detect for conflict and non-conflict couples (Sanaei, 1999). Moreover, the correlation of each question with the total score of testing showed high significance.

B) Early Maladaptive Schema Questionnaire (EMSS):

Young make an early maladaptive schemas questionnaire to measure the 18-fold structure that has 75 questions in the first and second edition and has 90 questions in the third edition of it. (Young, 2008). This questionnaire surveyed the 18 maladaptive schemas in five areas that are rejection and cuts areas, autonomy and disrupt functional areas, disrupt restriction areas, other areas of interest, areas of too ear ringing and inhibition. Young J.& Norman, S & Thomas, J reliable the early maladaptive schemas questionnaire by 90 questions in third edition on the 564 samples of American students that show the reliability of the questionnaire using internal consistency and retest method were 0.95 and 0.81 respectively. In another study performed by John, J. Joshua & Jacqueline, M. 2004, (according to Yousefi et al, 2007), reliable the early maladaptive schemas questionnaire by 90 questions in third edition on the 292 samples of students that show the reliability of the questionnaire using internal consistency and retest method were 0.93 and 0.81 respectively.

3-Schema Therapy:

Therapy schema approach has been designed and developed by Yang and Gelasco (2003). To achieve these objectives, using the methods and certain techniques and the main objective of it, is a change and catching of the insights of clients at early maladaptive schemas for them. The processes of schema-focused couple therapy sessions developed by researchers are presented in Table 1.1.


Descriptive data indicate that the average age is (30.0882) years, mean duration of marriages participants (3.2706). Education level of the majority of participants (52.9%) undergraduate (26.5%) or Diploma (11.8%) technician and (8.8%) had master graduate. also among the applicant for divorce there is five pairs of couples had one child and a couple who had two children and the other couple had no children.

Multivariate analysis of covariance to compare mean scores of pre-test and post-test for experimental group and control group in marital conflicts and early maladaptive schemas are presented following.

Table 3 shows the results of Levine's test for homogeneity of variance between groups that the given assuming in all areas other than the area of child support in the pre-test, post-test is satisfied. The determined direction for the level of significant difference between the two groups and also to test the research hypotheses for multivariate analysis of variance (ANOVA) are done and the results are given in Table 4.

Table 4 shows the information related to statistical analysis multivariate covariance on posttest score for early maladaptive schema component. As can be seen, results show that there are significant differences, at least one of the dependent variables between two groups. To determine the differences, the analysis of univariate variance was performed on the base of mankova the results of this test are given in table 4.

As seen in Table 5, there are significant different the among the couples of the experimental group who received the interventions couple therapy based on schema-focused and a control group that have not received training in terms of an overall score of marital conflict (f = 44.946 and P = 0.000 and Eta = 0.625). the study on the difference in pre-test and post-test scores in the marital conflict areas showed that in the area of reduction co- working Couples (f = 4.219, P = 0.050), reducing the sexual relationship (f = 12.820 and P = 0.001), areas of increased emotional reactivity (f = 17.800 and P = 0.000),), reducing the field of family relationship with the wife's relatives (f = 12.684 and P = 0.001), increasing the area of personal relationships with the relative (f = 13.996 and P = 0.001) and area of separate of finance (f = 0.011 and P = 0.918) there are significant differences. And in area of catching support for children (f = 0.001 and P = 0.918) there is no significant difference.

According to the results obtained between the experimental group and control group of couples who had not received any training, there is a significant difference in term of the total score of the schema, (f = 80.256 and P = 0.001 and Eta = 0.709). Difference in pre-test and posttest for early maladaptive schemas areas showed that within the rejection and drop with (f = 46.413 and P = 0.003), disturbed function area (f = 46.413 and P = 0.001), and other areas directed (f = 6.860 and P = 0.013), disturbed restriction area (f = 6.860 and P = 0.013) and ear ringing area (listen to live) (f = 12.346 and P = 0.001) there are significant differences.

Discussion and Conclusions:

The findings showed that schema-focused couple therapy is significantly effectiveness to reduce the dimensions of marital conflict divorce. This finding is consistent with the results of studies by Young, J. & Gluhoski, (1997), Miller and Thomas (1995), Andooz and Hamid Poor (2005) and also results for V, Epsten, S. Lipson, A., Holstein, C., & Huh, E. (1990), Beach, S., Sandeen, E., & oLeary, K (1987). In the explanation of these findings one can be said that therapy schemes relying on beliefs and changing of attitudes can have a large impact on reducing the dimensions of the conflict couples. The marital conflict comes when the couples have any conflicting beliefs based on early life experiences, parenting styles, friends and community to the affairs of their lives and since schemas are dimensional mode, meaning that they are different with together in term of intensity and scope of activities in mind, in other words, the more severe the schemes, the more number of situations activate it and when a person is excited he/she experience more negative emotions and being active schemas in mind and takes more time, this somehow caused to create severe conflicts between the couples. In the process of therapy schema using cognitive techniques, such as techniques to identify schema, downward arrow technique, A.B.C technique, techniques of technical definition, advantages and disadvantages techniques, surveying for evidence, lawyer technique, technique for role playing of both aspects of thought and etc., and ... Breaking patterns of behavior such as prioritize for destructive behavior for changes of behavior, increasing of motivation for behavior change, providing training card and practicing healthy behaviors, such as card imagery and role play for a couple is caused to significant reduction in the dimensions of marital conflict. Also the findings showed that couple therapy based on the schema is effective on reducing maladaptive schemas in the divorce applicants. The results of this study are consistent with Young (2003), Morrison (2000), andooz and Hamidpour (2005). In other words, the therapy schema relying on the belief and psychological awareness can have a large impact on reducing couple early maladaptive schemas.

In the explanation of these findings one can be said that the existence of an early maladaptive schema in childhood meant that threat. The threat is a failure to satisfy a child's basic emotional needs in Child. When child facing a threat (activation of schema) using countering styles (avoidance, submission and extreme compensation) comes along with that position. Usually, the countering styles in childhood are adaptive and are part of a survival mechanism, but when a person puts into adulthood, the countering styles becoming to maladaptive mode. These styles may make a comeback for peace in the short term but long term they will not somehow makes it the not solve the problem makes it on the intensity of the form of adds prolong schema. Maladaptive countering styles, eventually being imprisoned person behind the walls of their schemas. Schema therapy helps to clients that understand their scheme and memories, emotions, physical feelings, and countering styles which corresponding to them to be identify. And somehow make them aware of the psychological in them. Also, to satisfy the emotional needs that create an unreasonable belief in them, it must be said when the client understand the schema and their countering styles, can be somewhat control on their responses using techniques such as providing training card. They can have control on their own free will with practice. According to the study, we can say that schema therapy is effective in reducing early maladaptive schemas.


According to the research evidence on the effectiveness of schema-focused couple therapy to reduce marital conflict, it is suggested that this approach be considered in individuals with a man's marital infidelity. Also considering the fact that psychotherapy is an influence of culture also suggests that similar studies performed in other cultures as well as to confirm the effectiveness of this approach and to clarify other aspects effectiveness of schema-focused couple therapy.


Article history:

Received 10 September 2014

Received in revised form 23 October 2014

Accepted 15 November 2014

Available online 23 November 2014


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Amato, P.R., B. Hohmann, 2007. A comparison of high-and low-distress marriages that end divorce journal of marriage and Family, 62: 621-638.

Bookwala, J., J. Sobin, B. Zdaniuk, 2005. Gender and aggression in marital relationships: A life -span prespective Sex Roles, 52:797-506.

Epsten, S., A. Lipson, C. Holstein, E. Huh, 1992. Irrational reactions to negative outcomes: Evidence for two conceptual systems. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62: 328-339.

Harris, A., L. Curtin, 2002. Parental perceptions, Early mal adaptive Schemas, and depressive symptoms in young adults. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 26(3): 405-401.

Morrison, Norma, 2000. Schema Focused therapy for complex long standing problem: A single case study. Behavioral and cognitive psychotherapy, 28(3): 269-283.

Pascal, A., A. Christine, L. Jean, 2008. Development and validation of the Cognitive Inventory of Subjective Distress. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 23: 1175-1182.

Young, J.E. V. Gluhoski, 1997. A Schema-focused perspective on satisfaction in close relationships. In R. J. Sternberg &. M. Hojjat (Eds). Satisfaction in close relationships (336- 381). New York: The Guoilford press.

(1) Sajad Panahifar, (2) Mohammadehsan Taghizade, (3) Hojat Esfandyari, (4) Abed Mahdavi, (4) Sara Salehi

(1) MA in Clinical Psychology, Department of Family Consulting, Young Researchers and Elites Chub, Branch, Islamic Azad University, Sanandaj, Iran.

(2) Member of faculty, Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology, Payam Nour University, Shahr-e-Rey, Tehran, Iran.

(3) MA in Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology, Young Researchers and Elites Club, Sanandaj Branch, Islamic Azad University, Sanandaj, Iran.

(4) Department of Psychology, Khuzestan Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Khuzestan, Iran.

Corresponding Author: Sajad Panahifar, MA in Clinical Psychology, Department of Family Consulting, Young Researchers and Elites Club, Sanandaj Branch, Islamic Azad University, Sanandaj, Iran
Table 1: The processes of the therapy schema in the 20 therapy

session   Contents

1         Initial Assessment/delivery of
          Questionnaire schema, conflict and
          marital compatibility

2         Explained in simple, clear language
          model schema for couples and how
          formation of schema and countering

3         Making assumptions about the schemas,
          and the identification and naming them

4         Diagnosis for countering styles and mood
          of each couple and mental evaluation in
          assessment phase

5         Conceptualization for the couple problem
          according to the approach schema and
          collecting all information obtained
          during the assessment phase

6         Evaluation of objective evidence
          confirming or rejecting of the schema
          based on a shared and past life couples

7         Attribute the confirming evidence of
8         schema to the childhood experiences
          Dialogue between maladaptive schemas and
          normal aspects and learning the answers
          for normal aspect by couples

9         Preparing the educational card for
          schema, when faced with provocative
          position of schema on marriage

10        Write a schematic form in everyday life
          and resurrection schemes

11        Provide a rationale for the use of
          experimental techniques and the
          implementation of an imaginary

12        Reinforce the concept of "healthy adult"
          in mind of couples and identification
          the unfulfilled emotional needs and
          fight against the schemas

13        Making opportunity for the patient to
          recognize his feelings about his parents
          and their unmet needs by them.

14        Helping to couples for exit the blocked
          emotions with the traumatic event and to
          provide mutual support

15        Finding and practicing new ways of
          communicating and desist the styles of
          countering and avoiding excessive

16        Providing a comprehensive list of
          problematic behaviors and determination
          for the changing priorities

17        Mental imagination of problematic
          situations and dealing with most
          problematic behavior

18        Practice the healthy behaviors through
          role playing and doing homework with the
          new behavior patterns

19        Review the advantages and disadvantages
          of healthy and unhealthy behaviors

20        Overcoming on barriers to behavior
          change and the end of treatment

Table 2.Mean, standard deviation scores for couples
at pre-test and post-test.


Area              group      Mean       Std.        Std.
                                      Deviation    Error

Decreasing in     Exp.      24.7778    3.54061      .83453
co working of    control    22.5556    3.79198      .89378

Decreasing in     Exp.      26.7222    3.15866      .74450
sexual           control    23.2222    5.50460     1.29745

Increasing in     Exp.      27.4444    3.48479      .82137
coemotional      control    25.5000    2.25571      .53168

Obtaining for     Exp.      16.0556    1.58938      .37462
child support    control    16.7778    2.98142      .70273

Decreasing in     Exp.      27.1667    2.50294      .58995
family           control    24.5556    3.09121      .72860
with spouse

Increasing for    Exp.      27.0000    2.44949      .57735
individual       control    24.7778    2.77712      .65457
with wife's

Separation for    Exp.      26.5556    2.83304      .66776
finance          control    25.3889    2.14583      .50578

Conflict          Exp.     175.7222    8.20907     1.93490
                 control   162.7778    9.07845     2.13981

Resection and     Exp.      58.7778   17.50817     4.12671
drop             control    57.8333   17.05096     4.01895

Disturbed         Exp.      49.3333   15.81883     3.72853
function         control    46.5556   13.10690     3.08933

Other oriented    Exp.      48.8333   10.82073     2.55047
                 control    47.9444   10.83823     2.55460

Excessive ear     Exp.      63.0556   11.76971     2.77415
ringing          control    61.9444   11.20647     2.64139

Disturbed         Exp.      30.1111    8.81769     2.07835
restriction      control    29.7222    9.02158     2.12641

Schema            Exp.     250.0556   49.61673    11.69478
                 control   245.8333   48.87589    11.52016


Area              group      Mean       Std.        Std.
                                      Deviation    Error

Decreasing in     Exp.      12.5556    1.65288      .38959
co working of    control    24.8889    4.44428     1.04753

Decreasing in     Exp.      13.3333    1.68034      .39606
sexual           control    25.1111    3.87889      .91426

Increasing in     Exp.      13.7222    2.65254      .62521
coemotional      control    26.2222    3.02063      .71197

Obtaining for     Exp.      14.3333    2.02920      .47829
child support    control    19.0556    5.41753     1.27692

Decreasing in     Exp.      15.6111    2.35494      .55507
family           control    25.9444    2.43678      .57436
with spouse

Increasing for    Exp.      13.7222    3.89276      .91753
individual       control    26.4444    1.88562      .44444
with wife's

Separation for    Exp.      13.3889    2.27877      .53711
finance          control    38.1667   56.92849    13.41817

Conflict          Exp.     118.2778    9.74260     2.29635
                 control   185.8333   56.46472    13.30886

Resection and     Exp.      47.7778   11.02167     2.59783
drop             control    60.0017   17.98521     4.32015

Disturbed         Exp.      39.6111    9.94774     2.34470
function         control    48.6528   15.43654     3.42633

Other oriented    Exp.      37.6111    6.90387     1.62726
                 control    47.3678   10.12587     2.15897

Excessive ear     Exp.      49.6111    7.40539     1.74547
ringing          control    57.0556   10.36471     2.54410

Disturbed         Exp.      23.0000    5.23562     1.23405
restriction      control    31.5416    8.03769     2.11235

Schema            Exp.     197.6111   30.95564     7.29631
                 control   250.1596    48.1273    10.63678

Table 3: Results of Levin's test for Homogeneity of variance
between groups.

Area               F     DF1   DF2   Sig.

Decreasing in    0.532    1    36    0.437
co working of

Decreasing in    2.011    1    36    0.861

Increasing in    0.066    1    36    0.737
co emotional

Obtaining for    1.437    1    36    0.014
child support

Decreasing in    0.009    1    36    0.912
with spouse

Increasing for   0.428    1    36    0.567
with wife's

Separation for   0.036    1    36    0.845

Conflict         0.518    1    36    0.409

Resection and    0.007    1    36    0.934

Disturbed        0.028    1    36    0.869

Other oriented   0.032    1    36    0.860

Excessive ear    0.101    1    36    0.753

Disturbed        0.076    1    36    0.784

Schema           0.417    1    36    0.532

Table 4: The analysis of the multi variables to examine the
significance for averages between the two groups in the dependent

                      Value       F      Hypothesis

Pillai's trace        .992     395.691     14.000
Wilks' lambda         .008     395.691     14.000
Hotelling's trace    131.897   395.691     14.000
Roy's largest root   131.897   395.691     14.000

                     Error    Sig.    Partial
                       df               Eta

Pillai's trace       20.000   0.001    .992
Wilks' lambda        20.000   0.001    .992
Hotelling's trace    20.000   0.001    .992
Roy's largest root   20.000   0.001    .992

Table 5: The results for the Univariate analysis of variance
based on Mankova on the post-test scores for control and
experimental groups of significant degrees of freedom F ratio eta
mean square

Variable            Total      Freedom      Average
                   Squares    degree for   of square

Decreasing in      34.184         1         34.184
co working of

Decreasing in      47.517         1         47.517

Increasing in      151.009        1         151.009

Obtaining for       0.014         1          0.014
child support

Decreasing in      72.884         1         72.844
with spouse

Increasing for     146.008        1         146.008
with wife's

Separation for     90.516         1         90.516

Conflict          3029.746        1        3029.746

Resection and     1902.515        1        1902.515

Disturbed         3138.311        1        3138.311

Other oriented    1081.638        1        1081.638

Excessive ear     1002.133        1        1002.133

Disturbed          399.801        1         399.801

Schema            32446.194       1        32446.194

Variable            F      Sig.        Eta

Decreasing in     4.219    0.050      0.135
co working of

Decreasing in     12.823   0.001      0.322

Increasing in     17.800   0.001      0.397

Obtaining for     0.011    0.918      0.001
child support

Decreasing in     12.684   0.001      0.320
with spouse

Increasing for    13.996   0.001      0.341
with wife's

Separation for    13.286   0.001      0.330

Conflict          44.946   0.001      0.625

Resection and     10.114   0.001      0.235

Disturbed         46.413   0.003      0.584

Other oriented    20.582   0.001      0.384

Excessive ear     12.346   0.001      0.272

Disturbed         6.860    0.013      0.172

Schema            80.256   0.001      0.709
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Author:Panahifar, Sajad; Taghizade, Mohammadehsan; Esfandyari, Hojat; Mahdavi, Abed; Salehi, Sara
Publication:Advances in Natural and Applied Sciences
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Jan 1, 2015
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