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Learn About Improving Relationship Distress

Let's take a look at a proven treatment for relationship distress, called Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy or IBCT.

What is IBCT for Relationship Distress?

Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy (IBCT) is an evidence-based "talk therapy," or counseling treatment, shown to be effective in improving relationships. IBCT is a newer approach to couples therapy that focuses on helping partners identify and accept each other's differences and change difficult patterns in the relationship.

Watch this video to learn more about IBCT treatment. And explore the tabs at the bottom of this page to learn about the specific parts of treatment!


Vignettes of two people on opposite ends of a series of cogs between and a therapist reaching for a heart in the middle.

IBCT focuses on improving relationship functioning and emotional closeness.

Therapist couple standing on a picnic blanket holding hands

Years of research have shown that IBCT is effective in increasing relationship satisfaction and improving communication skills…

Couple sitting opposite a therapist with a diagram in the background depicting improvement

Overall, Veterans who participate in IBCT report being more satisfied with their relationships.

Older couple sitting together enjoying an event

and improvements often last for years following treatment.

Couple with a baby in a baby-bjorn on a tandem bicycle

Both Veterans with and without PTSD report greater relationship satisfaction after participating in IBCT.

Four couples of varying ages ejoying each others' company

What Will Treatment Be Like?

IBCT helps people take control of their relationships by understanding and accepting partner differences and learning skills for improving communication and closeness.

Click on an item below to learn about the different steps of IBCT!

Increase Emotional Understanding

Conflict in relationships often results from differences between partners due to biology or early childhood experiences. For example, some people are born craving excitement while others crave quiet. Reactions to childhood experiences can also differ. One partner who grew up with limited resources may penny-pinch, while another may respond by indulging and purchasing things they didn't have. In IBCT, the therapist helps partners identify these differences. Once identified and discussed, partners are often more understanding of each other and, as a result, treat each other more kindly.

Recognize and Change Problematic Patterns of Interaction

Couples often develop patterns of interaction where they "get stuck" and can no longer work together to address issues productively. In IBCT, the therapist helps couples identify these patterns as they occur and then break out of them by better understanding each other's intention and deeper feelings. This increased understanding often helps partners try new, more effective behaviors instead of having the same old arguments.

Increase Positive Interactions and Connection

Couples who are struggling often criticize or blame each other a lot. As a result, the strengths of each partner and the positive in the relationship get lost. In IBCT, the therapist spends time helping partners recognize when things are going well, rather than focus only on the things that are tough in the relationship. During treatment, couples may also begin to spend more positive time together, which can help them feel more connected.

Improve Communication and Problem Solving

For many partners, learning to understand each other better and change how they interact helps them to talk better together and solve problems. However, for some couples, learning effective communication and problem-solving skills is also very useful for improving how partners relate to each other and address daily challenges. Therefore, during treatment the therapist may also use in-session practice to teach proven communication and problem-solving skills.


Let's look a bit closer at what Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy looks like.

  1. Learn about Proven Treatment You are here
  2. View the Treatment Process Up Close You are here
  3. Explore Your Goals You are here
  4. Find Treatment You are here

View the treatment process up close

speech bubble with implied comments

Questions or problems? Contact Rocky Mountain MIRECC.


Contact Information


Rocky Mountain Regional VAMC (RMR VAMC)
1700 N Wheeling St, BLDG A2
Aurora, CO 80045


VA Salt Lake City Health Care System
500 Foothill DR
Salt Lake City, UT 84148
801-582-1565 x2821