Autism – Dr. Turns dissertation
Dr. Turns doctoral dissertation investigated the use of Solution-Focused Brief Couples Therapy (SFBCT) for couples raising a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The majority of autism research focuses on the individual with the diagnosis, previous research however has found unfavorable effects that raising a child with ASD can have on parents. Parents have previously reported higher levels of depression, burnout, and marital distress in comparison to those raising typically developing children. Researchers have suggested various therapeutic models but a lack of research investigating the effectiveness of a model remains. The first part of her dissertation studied the effectiveness of SFBCT for couples.
Parents of children with higher ASD symptoms report greater levels of stress. There are numerous treatments that have been identified for the diagnosed child, however there is a lack of treatment for couples raising a child diagnosed with ASD. Although Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) has previously been proposed for the treatment of families raising a child with ASD, research has yet to assess its effectiveness for these couples.
SFBCT - its effectiveness
Dr. Turns study investigated the effectiveness of SFBCT for couples raising a child with ASD. With the use of a Multiple Baseline design (Multiple baseline design is a style of research involving the careful measurement of multiple persons, traits or settings both before and after a treatment). The study established that SFBCT is an effective treatment option for couples. The majority of participants increased in their overall well-being and marital satisfaction assessment scores. Her study also assessed the indirect relationship between the couple’s treatment and their child’s symptomatic behaviors. Every couple reported a decrease in their child’s problematic behaviors. Some children even decreased in their severity levels. Dr. Turns discusses the limitations in this study, but also acknowledges that the study identified the first couples therapy treatment to help the stressful experiences couples face while raising a child with an autism spectrum disorder.