Adapting Enactments to Couple Reactivity: Five Developmental Stages


relationship therapy, therapy, couple/family interaction


Interest in change interventions that are common to different models of relationship therapy has spurred investigation of enactments as one such candidate. In change‐focused enactments, therapists structure and coach couple/family interaction, as opposed to channeling interaction through the therapist. Still, varying levels of couple/family distress, volatility, and reactivity mean that readiness for enactment intervention varies along a broad continuum and changes over the course of therapy. This suggests the need for differentiated enactments. Currently, however, no model exists for adapting enactments to changing relationship conditions. We propose a five‐stage developmental model of clinical operations in couple therapy that adapts the process and structure of enactments to changing levels of relationship distress, interactional volatility, and emotional reactivity. The model increases the possibility for therapists to use enactments successfully over the entire course of couple therapy. Issues to be considered in using the couple enactments model as a template for the development of enactment models for other relationship systems are noted.

Original Publication Citation

Butler, M. H., & Gardner, B. C. (2003). Adapting enactments to couple reactivity: Five developmental stages. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 29(3), 311-327.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Marital and Family Therapy




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor