Reactions to a Partner-Assisted Emotional Disclosure Intervention: Direct Observation and Self-Report of Patient and Partner Communication


  • Laura S. Porter, PhD, Francis J. Keefe, PhD, and Emily S. Patterson, MSW, LCSW, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences/Medical Psychology, Duke University Medical Center; Donald H. Baucom, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina.

Address correspondence to Laura S. Porter PhD, Box 90399, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences/Medical Psychology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27709; E-mail:


Partner-assisted emotional disclosure is a couple-based intervention designed to help patients disclose cancer-related concerns to their spouses–partners. We previously found that, compared with an education/support control condition, partner-assisted emotional disclosure led to significant improvements in relationship quality and intimacy for couples in which the patient initially reported holding back from discussing cancer-related concerns (Porter et al., 2009, Cancer, 115, 4326–4338). The purpose of this study was to examine the process data from couples who participated in the disclosure sessions including (a) observational ratings of couples’ communication during the sessions; (b) couples’ ratings of their communication during the sessions; and (c) associations between participants’ observed communication and their baseline psychological/relationship functioning. As rated by trained observers, couples’ communication was in the moderate range of adaptive skills. Self-report data indicated that participants had positive perceptions of their communication. Observational and self-report ratings were weakly associated. Patients reporting lower levels of relationship quality, higher levels of holding back, and higher partner avoidance at baseline were rated by observers as more expressive during the sessions. Overall, these findings suggest that the intervention was acceptable to couples and was particularly helpful for patients who had difficulty talking with their partners on their own without skills training.