Exploring Partner-Assisted Therapy (PAT) for Perinatal Depression: Are Partner Support and Non-Verbal Communications Associated with Women’s Treatment Response?
Ceccotti, Nadia Laurence
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BACKGROUND: Poor partner support is a risk factor for perinatal depression, a disease with adverse consequences for mother, baby, and partner. This pilot study explored changes in partner verbal/non-verbal supportive behaviors, including overt displays of emotional expression, during interactions between romantic partners and depressed perinatal women participating in Partner-Assisted Therapy (PAT). A novel approach for perinatal depression currently under investigation, PAT includes the partner of a depressed woman as an active participant in her treatment over eight acute sessions and one follow-up. This is the first study to date that investigates psychotherapeutic processes by analyzing the spontaneous display of support and positive affect in romantic partners during their engagement in psychotherapy sessions. METHODS: Eleven couples (females between ≥ 8 weeks pregnant and ≤ 12 weeks postpartum, diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder) attended eight weekly psychotherapy sessions along with their partners. Two raters coded video recordings from sessions one, four and eight (acute phase). Partner support (positive helping behaviors) was coded using the Social Support Interaction Coding System, marital affect was coded using the Specific Affect Coding System, and warm touch by the male partner to his depressed spouse was recorded by frequency and duration of time. The associations between partner support and the change in the female partner's symptoms of depression were then investigated. RESULTS: Our hypothesis of the inverse correlation between partner support (an increase over time) and treatment outcome was partially supported. The hypotheses that warm touch and positive marital affect would increase over time were not supported in this sample. CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that an increase in partner support over time in treatment is partially associated with a decrease in female depressive symptoms. Future investigations with larger samples would support more confident interpretations and allow meaningful explorations into the processes of partner support and their implication for perinatal depression.