Feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of a novel cognitive-behavioral couple therapy for provoked vestibulodynia: a pilot study

Serena Corsini-Munt, Sophie Bergeron, Natalie O Rosen, Marie-Hélène Mayrand, Isabelle Delisle
Journal of Sexual Medicine 2014, 11 (10): 2515-27

INTRODUCTION: Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD), a recurrent, localized vulvovaginal pain problem, carries a significant psychosexual burden for afflicted women, who report impoverished sexual function and decreased frequency of sexual activity and pleasure. Interpersonal factors such as partner responses to pain, partner distress, and attachment style are associated with pain outcomes for women and with sexuality outcomes for both women and partners. Despite these findings, no treatment for PVD has systematically included the partner.

AIMS: This study pilot-tested the feasibility and potential efficacy of a novel cognitive-behavioral couple therapy (CBCT) for couples coping with PVD.

METHODS: Couples (women and their partners) in which the woman was diagnosed with PVD (N = 9) took part in a 12-session manualized CBCT intervention and completed outcome measures pre- and post-treatment.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measure was women's pain intensity during intercourse as measured on a numerical rating scale. Secondary outcomes included sexual functioning and satisfaction for both partners. Exploratory outcomes included pain-related cognitions; psychological outcomes; and treatment satisfaction, feasibility, and reliability.

RESULTS: One couple separated before the end of therapy. Paired t-test comparisons involving the remaining eight couples demonstrated significant improvements in women's pain and sexuality outcomes for both women and partners. Exploratory analyses indicated improvements in pain-related cognitions, as well as anxiety and depression symptoms, for both members of the couple. Therapists' reported high treatment reliability and participating couples' high participation rates and reported treatment satisfaction indicate adequate feasibility.

CONCLUSIONS: Treatment outcomes, along with treatment satisfaction ratings, confirm the preliminary success of CBCT in reducing pain and psychosexual burden for women with PVD and their partners. Further large-scale randomized controlled trials are necessary to examine the efficacy of CBCT compared with and in conjunction with first-line biomedical interventions for PVD.

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