Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy


Marriage and Family Therapy

First Committee Member

Katherine Hertlein, Chair

Second Committee Member

Steve Fife

Third Committee Member

Gerald Weeks

Graduate Faculty Representative

Chad Cross

Number of Pages



This study focused on three main areas. These areas involved (1) the relationship among perceived stress, global orientation to life and indicators of physical, psychological and dyadic relational distress, (2) the effect of a brief CBT-based relaxation/guided visualization intervention on these outcome indicators of distress, and (3) changes in physiological indicators during the intervention sessions. The study population was drawn from couples who perceived themselves as living highly stressed lifestyles.

Results suggested that global orientation to life as reflected by differentiation of self inventory (DSI) and sense of coherence scale (SOCS) scale scores mediated the relationship between stress and distress. More specifically, individuals with higher DSI and SOCS scores showed lower levels of physical, psychological and relational distress related to their relatively high levels of perceived stress. Results also indicated that after the three session intervention, participants showed lower levels of perceived stress, dyadic distress, physical and psychological complaints, and higher scores on the DSI and SOCS. Monitoring of physiological parameters (breathing rate, heart rate variability and salivary cortisol) during the intervention sessions suggested relationships among controlled breathing instruction, breathing rates and heart rate variability (an indicator of sympathetic / parasympathetic nervous system balance). Clinical implications of these results within the framework of an integrated theoretical approach might suggest the use of relaxation / guided visualization techniques in conjunction with couple therapy in cases where couples report high levels of perceived stress.


Differentiation of self; Distress (Psychology); Guided visualization; Heart beat; Heart rate variability; Imagery (Psychology); Sense of coherence; Stress management; Stress (Physiology); Stress (Psychology); Stress tolerance (Psychology)


Cognitive Psychology | Counseling Psychology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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