Motivational interviewing with male couples to reduce substance use and hiv risk: Manifestations of partner discord and strategies for facilitating dyadic functioning

Tyrel J. Starks, Gabriel Robles, Kendell M. Doyle, Mark Pawson, Paula Bertone, Brett M. Millar, Karen S. Ingersoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

The efficacy of motivational interviewing (MI) to reduce substance use is well established; however, its use with couples has met with mixed results. The development of such interventions is particularly relevant for male couples, as rates of substance use in this population are comparatively high and use is associated with aspects of sexual relationship functioning. One challenge noted in conducting MI with couples is how to respond to situations in which partners disagree with one another or argue against change. Guided by the couples interdependence theory, we conceptualized conflicts within session as failures in the accommodation process. We used qualitative analysis to examine manifestations of conflict in session and to identify effective provider response strategies. The sample included 14 cis-male couples with at least 1 partner was aged 18-29 years, reported substance use, and was HIV negative. All couples completed 3 MI sessions lasting 60-75 min each. Manifestations of conflict included conflation of thoughts/feelings, vague or indirect communication, and inaccurate assumptions. Effective provider responses included correcting assumptions, shifting focus, relationship repair, "common ground" reflections, and relationship affirmations. Observed conflicts aligned with conceptualizations of destructive resolutions to the accommodation process (i.e., exit and neglect). Effective provider responses to conflict facilitated dyadic functioning and catalyzed constructive accommodation. These results provide an initial compendium of provider skills and strategies that may be particularly relevant in work with sexual minority male couples, for whom achieving accommodation around drug use and sexual health goals is often viewed as a key mechanism of intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-67
Number of pages10
JournalPsychotherapy
Volume57
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Keywords

  • Drug use
  • HIV
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Same-sex couples
  • Sexual minority men

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