Background A positive predictive genetic test for Huntington’s disease (HD) can be a life-changing event for both carriers and their partners. The risk for relational problems may be increased before symptoms of HD occur, as well as after onset of HD. Strenghtening the emotional connection between spouses may be seen as an investment in a couple’s capacity to face HD together. The ‘Hold me Tight’ program (HmT), based on emotionally focused couples’ therapy, aims at strengthening the couple bond by targeting attachment needs.
Aims To investigate whether the HmT program contributes to relationship satisfaction, well being, and resilience of presymptomatic HD-carriers and their partners.
Methods In a multiple baseline design using three baselines of varying length, 15 couples were included. In three consecutive groups, couples underwent the intervention (an adapted version of the eight-session HmT program) in four weekly sessions, and completed self-report questionnaires throughout the study period of 19 weeks (17 measurement times in total). Using self-report questionnaires, resilience was assessed at baseline and at the end of the study, while relationship satisfaction and well being were measured weekly. A multi-level model was applied to the data.
Results Over the course of the study, wellbeing and relationship satisfaction significantly improved. Resilience did not improve significantly over the study period. Participants rated the usefullness of the intervention highly, especially since it was tailored to their specific situation. They valued the possibility to talk about their emotional needs with their spouse, and to exchange experiences with other couples in a similar situation.
Conclusions The HmT relationship program improved wellbeing and relationship satisfaction of couples facing a future with HD. Due to these results and high patient acceptability rates, this program could become a standardized procedure in regular care for couples facing HD.
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