European Journal of Psychology and Educational Studies

: 2015  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 95--98

Effects of positive couple therapy on hope of mothers of children with special needs

Zahra Ajirak1, Majid Zavvar2, Maedeh Babazadeh Shahsavar2,  
1 Faculty of Psychology and Education, Payam Noor University of Najaf Abad, Isfahan, Iran
2 Faculty of Psychology and Education, Tabriz Azad University, Tabriz, Iran

Correspondence Address:
Zahra Ajirak
Payam Noor University of Najaf Abad, Isfahan


Hope has a vital role in human health and well-being. The aim of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of positive couple therapy on improving satisfaction of mothers of children with special needs. A quasi-experimental method with pretest, posttest, and follow-up with control group was adopted in this study. Among mothers of children with disabilities in Isfahan, 24 students were selected through purposive sampling and then randomly assigned to experimental and control groups (n = 12 for each group). Snyder«SQ»s Adult Hope Scale was used for collecting data. Results showed hope of mothers of children with special needs who received the intervention had significantly increased. However, it can be concluded that couple therapy with positive prospective is effective in increasing hope of mothers of children with special needs in Isfahan.

How to cite this article:
Ajirak Z, Zavvar M, Shahsavar MB. Effects of positive couple therapy on hope of mothers of children with special needs.Eur J Psychol Educ Studies 2015;2:95-98

How to cite this URL:
Ajirak Z, Zavvar M, Shahsavar MB. Effects of positive couple therapy on hope of mothers of children with special needs. Eur J Psychol Educ Studies [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Aug 6 ];2:95-98
Available from:

Full Text


Emptiness and purposelessness are the cause of many psychiatric disorders. Humans' goals in his life examine his abilities and connect his mind to the future. Frankl [1] believed that humans give shape to the meaning of their own lives because meaning seeking is the most important human motivation that distinguishes him from other creatures. The meaning of life can increase the ability to deal with the problems of living by injection of responsibility to the life. Snyder [2] showed that hope covers concepts which make achieving goals possible. Results from a research by Miller and Power [3] showed that besides other factors such as ability for confrontation, mental health, and personal competence, "Successful Meaning of Life," as a prospect of better future life, is an important determinant of hope. Human beings need meaningfulness in their lives. "Meaning of Life" is one of the most important philosophical, psychological, and religious concepts of human life in the modern era which is the era of industrialization of societies and all-round development of science and technology. The main issues that fall under the title above include the questions that are related to whether or not there is any purpose for life, whether life is precious or not, and whether people have reason to live or not besides circumstances and interests of their own? Where are we? Why we are here? What is our purpose of life? [4]

The results of several studies (Poster 2000) [5],[6] showed that hope has an important contribution in healing various mental diseases. Mascaro and Rosen [7] conducted a study on university students showing that existential meaning has a very important role in increasing hope. In addition, they showed in their study that existential meaning plays an important role in prevention of depressive symptoms. The results of several studies showed that hope which is a sense of possibility of an event or behavior in the future is considered as an important therapeutic factor in the treatment of individual and group psychotherapy.

Subjective well-being is a branch of behavioral science in which people's judgment of their life is studied (Diener 2000; quoted by Sheikhi et al. [8] ).

Evidence shows parents of children with disabilities enjoy from lower physical and mental health. Many of them suffer from back pain, headaches, migraines, ulcers, anxiety, anger, guilt, sadness, social isolation, insomnia, and depression. [9] Furthermore, studies have shown that mothers of children with special needs face more problems and more engaged with behavioral problems of these children, compared to fathers; therefore, they experience greater stress and need more support. In fact, having children with disabilities threatens adjustment and physical and mental health of these parents, especially mothers, and often has a negative impact on them. [10],[11]

Positive psychology approach focuses on the talents and abilities of people instead of addressing abnormalities and disorders and knows its ultimate goal as identifying methods for welfare and happiness of people. [12]

Since mothers of children with disabilities have problems in terms of mental health, life satisfaction, stress and anxiety, hopelessness, depression and unhappiness [13] and also with respect to the fact that components of positive approach is effective in reducing anxiety and depression and increasing life satisfaction, mental health, hope, and happiness of people. [14] Thus, a question arises as to whether "couple therapy-oriented positive intervention" can be effective in increasing hope in mothers of children with special needs? The aim of this study is to answer this question.

 Research Method

Population, sample, and sampling method

A quasi-experimental method with pretest, posttest, and 2 months follow-up with control group is utilized in this study. The study population consisted of all mothers who took their children to Rehabilitation Center of Isfahan city for treatment. The sample selected through a targeted manner using Adult Hope Scale (those who scored lower than the average of community). Twenty of them were randomly selected and assigned to experimental and control groups (10 patients in each group). Statistics of mean and standard deviation (SD) for descriptive level, and mixed method ANOVA for deductive level, were used to analyze the data.


Among 20 participants, two people were excluded from sample group during homogenizing process. Mothers aged from 21 to 42 years (mean 31.17, SD 4.95). Their spouses aged between 28 and 43 years (mean 35.44, SD 4.67). Five of attending people had primary education level (27.8%); three of them had secondary education level (16.7%); seven of them had high school degree (38.9%), and three patients had academic education (16.7%). Two of the participants (11.1%) were employed and 16 (88.9%) were homemakers. Five participants (27.8%) had special disease and 13 participants (72.8%) had no specific disease. Ten couples (55.6%) were married according to the cousin marriage customs and eight of them (44.4%) were not. Three participants (16.7%) had children with mental disabilities, Two (11.1%) with hearing disabilities, Six (33.3%) with sensorimotor disabilities, Four (22.2%) with multiple disabilities, and three (16.7%) had children diagnosed with autism.

Among 20 selected participants, 2 couples were excluded from the study because of their work time, traveling problems, and the lack of possibility to adjust their work time with therapy sessions. At the beginning and before the intervention, all couples admitted that they freely participated in this study. The consent form is provided at the beginning of demographic questionnaire in appendix. Participants who had children <12 years old or scored lower than 13 on Hope Scale were selected to attend positive couple therapy intervention sessions. Those who were selected for couple therapy were randomly divided into control and experimental groups. After intervention, two groups were re-evaluated with a posttest and finally, after 2 months, a follow-up test was conducted. For this particular population, couple therapy sessions were re-scheduled for six 90-min sessions based on the treatment plan of Conoley and Conoley. [15]

 Research Tools

Snyder's adult dispositional hope scale

Snyder believes that this measure should be viewed as "targets scale" instead of "hope scale." This scale is composed of two subscales named by path and agency. Each of subscales has four items besides four items for polygraph which are not considered in the scoring. Nasiri and Jokar [16] calculated the validity of this scale through factor analysis and principal component analysis with varimax rotation. Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin index in this scale was equal to 81%, and Bartlett's Sphericity index was equal to 644.81, which is significant at the level of 0.0001. The results of factor analysis revealed two main factors in scale, altogether explained 51% of the variance. Cronbach's alpha was used to check the reliability of this scale. The results showed coefficient of 62% for path subscales and 74% for agency subscales.

 Study Findings

Mean scores and SD for hope of experimental and control groups in each phase of the study are revealed in [Table 1] (pretest, posttest, and follow-up).{Table 1}

A 3 × 2 analysis scheme (groups: Positive couple therapy and control group; measurements: Pretest, posttest, and 2 months follow-up) with repeated measurements was used for hope scores. The results of data analysis showed that main effect of group, main effect of time, and interactive effect of time, and hope on hopefulness variable as dependent variables are significant.

Bonferroni test was used to compare pairs of time periods (endogenous variable). Results showed that there is significant difference between pretest and posttest (P < 0.0001) and between pretest and follow-up (P < 0.0001). On the other hand, there was no significant difference between posttest and follow-up (P = 1.00). Considering the mean values [Table 1], we can say that life satisfaction scores had been increased from pretest to posttest and this increase remained constant until follow-up phase.

Changes in the intervention group, i.e. positive couple therapy had no significant change from posttest to follow-up phase while changes from pretest to posttest phases were more significant.


The aim of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of positive couple therapy on increasing hope of mothers of children with special needs. Data analysis showed that positive couple therapy has been effective in increasing hope of mothers having affected children. Hence, results from this study are consistent with previous studies (Aghayousefi et al., 2010, Fredrickson and Branigan 2003). [15],[17],[18],[19],[20],[21]

Ebadi et al. [19] evaluated the effectiveness of positive thinking training with emphasis on Quranic verses on the increasing life expectancy of divorced women in Ahvaz. Their findings showed that positive thinking training with emphasis on Quranic verses was effective in increasing hope and had stable effects with regard to the follow-up after 1 month.

Aghayousefi et al. (2010) showed that infertile women felt disappointed in the case of difficult treatments and utilization of inefficient coping strategies. It has showed that coping therapy help reducing the hopelessness of infertile women. Given the fact that there is a strong and direct relationship between positive thinking and hope, [21] as Conoley and Conoley [15] argue that positive emotions has reinforced immediate levels of hope horizontally and cause longer hope, and since Fredrickson and Branigan (2005) [20] found in their study that even watching a comedy that makes people to laughter, can increase immediate feelings of hope in them. [22] It can be said that in this study, besides decreasing mother's disappointment, the hope and ability to understand the goals and create belief to achieve these goals have also increased. Positive couple therapy had been capable to create hope through gradual injection of positive thinking to couples and also remembrance of abilities and talents of each person and focusing on abilities instead of disabilities. In fact, hope in the treatment is "believing that one is able to achieve his goals." [2] Creating beliefs and faith in the self-ability motivates people to begin to break down barriers with perseverance and planning to achieve that goal. People with confidence in their abilities can express their self-supporting statements such as: "I know I can do this."

Based on previous studies and the results obtained from this study, we can say that positive thinking and optimism, in groups or individually, can be considered by experts as an effective approach in psychological characteristics of individuals, in the field of psychological health. In human's life, anything that is inherently tagged as good or bad can have positive and negative aspects. Based on positive thinking approach, if one person can concentrate and consider abilities, virtues, and positive points of one thing, he can experience an easier and less stressful life. In the world where every day passes quickly, enjoying life and being proud of individual abilities are better than begrudge for disabilities of own. The limitations of this study include lack of control group to control the effect of therapist, the impossibility of random selection, small sample group because of time and money problems. However, each study has its limitations, but it is expected that future researches resolve limitations of this study to achieve more stable and reliable results.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


1Frankl V. Man's Search for Meaning. Translated by Salehian N, Milani M. 18 th ed. Tehran: Dorsa; 1946.
2Snyder C. Reality negotiation: From excuses to hope and beyond. J Soc Clin Psychol 1989;8:130-57.
3Miller JF, Powers MJ. Development of an instrument to measure hope. Nurs Res 1988;37:6-10.
4Hua H. Beginning Buddhism. Vol. 1. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley: Dharma Realm Buddhist Association; 2003.
5Young J. The loss of time in chronic systems: An intervention model for working with longer term conditions. Aust N Z J Fam Ther 1994;15:73-80.
6Poster EC. A shot at the brass ring. J Child Adolesc Psychiatric Nurs 2000;13:5-6.
7Mascaro N, Rosen DH. Existential meaning's role in the enhancement of hope and prevention of depressive symptoms. J Pers 2005;73:985-1013.
8Sheikhi M, Houman HA, Ahadi H, Sepahmansour M. Psychometric specification of life satisfaction scale. Thought Behav 2010;5:29-17.
9Murphy NA, Christian B, Caplin DA, Young PC. The health of caregivers for children with disabilities: Caregiver perspectives. Child Care Health Dev 2007;33:180-7.
10Saloviita T, Itälinna M, Leinonen E. Explaining the parental stress of fathers and mothers caring for a child with intellectual disability: A double ABCX model. J Intellect Disabil Res 2003;47(Pt 4-5):300-12.
11Duarte CS, Bordin IA, Yazigi L, Mooney J. Factors associated with stress in mothers of children with autism. Autism 2005;9:416-27.
12Naderi F, Heidarii AR, Mashe'al Pour M. Relationship between proactive flexibility and positive and negative affecttion with self-efficacy and job satisfaction of Ahwaz municipal employees. New Find Psychol 2008;3:27-4.
13Arnaud C, White-Koning M, Michelsen SI, Parkes J, Parkinson K, Thyen U, et al. Parent-reported quality of life of children with cerebral palsy in Europe. Pediatrics 2008;121:54-64.
14Dockray S, Steptoe A. Positive affect and psychobiological processes. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2010;35:69-75.
15Conoley CW, Conoley JC. Positive Psychology and Family Therapy: Creative Techniques and Practical Tools for Guiding Change and Enhancing Growth. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley; 2009.
16Nasiri H, Jokar B. Meaningfulness of life, hope, life satisfaction and mental health in women. Womens Res 2010;21:85-6.
17Aghayousefi AR, Zare H, Choobsaz F, Motie'i G. The effect of coping therapy on hopelessness of infertile women. J Behav Sci 2010;5:119-25.
18Alberto J, Joyner B. Hope, optimism, and self-care among better breathers support group members with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Appl Nurs Res 2008;21:212-7.
19Ebadi N, Sudani M, Faghihi AN, Hossein Pour M. Examining the effectiveness of positive thinking training with an emphasis on Quranic verses on increasing life expectancy of divorced women in Ahvaz. New Find Psychol 2009;4:71-84.
20Fredrickson BL, Branigan C. Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought action repertoires. Cogn Emot 2003;19:313-32.
21Wong SS, Lim T. Hope versus optimism in Singaporean adolescents: Contributions to depression and life satisfaction. Pers Ind Diff 2009;46:648-52.
22Snyder CR. Target article: Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychol Inq 2002;13:249-75.