Couple therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help couples improve their relationship. It can help couples deal with issues such as communication, conflict, intimacy, trust, and compatibility. But how effective is couple therapy? How many couples actually benefit from it? And what factors influence its success?
In this blog post, we will explore the answers to these questions based on the latest research and statistics. We will also provide some tips on how to make the most of couple therapy and how to find a qualified therapist.
How Effective is Couple Therapy?
According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT), couples and families who have attended couple or family therapy sessions report high levels of satisfaction and improvement. Over 98% of those surveyed said that they received good or excellent therapy, and over 97% said that they got the help they needed. After working with a therapist, 93% of clients said they had more effective tools for dealing with their problems.
Another source of evidence for the effectiveness of couple therapy is the outcome studies that compare the results of couples who receive therapy versus those who do not. These studies measure various indicators of relationship quality, such as satisfaction, distress, stability, and divorce rates.
One meta-analysis of 48 outcome studies found that couple therapy had a moderate but significant effect on improving relationship satisfaction compared to no treatment or alternative treatments. The average effect size was 0.58, which means that couples who received therapy were about half a standard deviation more satisfied than those who did not.
Another meta-analysis of 26 outcome studies found that couple therapy reduced relationship distress by about 50% compared to no treatment or alternative treatments. The average effect size was 0.80, which means that couples who received therapy were about three-quarters of a standard deviation less distressed than those who did not.
These meta-analyses also found that couple therapy had positive effects on other aspects of relationship functioning, such as communication, problem-solving, intimacy, and commitment .
How Many Couples Benefit from Couple Therapy?
While the overall effectiveness of couple therapy is encouraging, it does not mean that every couple who tries it will benefit from it. Some couples may experience more improvement than others, while some may experience no improvement or even deterioration.
One way to estimate how many couples benefit from couple therapy is to use the concept of clinical significance. Clinical significance refers to the degree to which a change in outcome is meaningful or important for the client. For example, a change in relationship satisfaction may be clinically significant if it moves the client from a dissatisfied to a satisfied range, or if it exceeds a certain threshold of improvement.
One study used this concept to classify couples who received Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), one of the most widely used and researched approaches to couple therapy. EFT focuses on improving the emotional attachment and bond between partners by helping them identify and change negative patterns of interaction.
The study found that out of 32 couples who completed EFT, 25 (78%) were classified as recovered, meaning that they moved from a distressed to a non-distressed range of relationship satisfaction. Four couples (13%) were classified as improved, meaning that they showed a significant increase in satisfaction but remained in the distressed range. Three couples (9%) were classified as unchanged, meaning that they showed no significant change in satisfaction. No couples were classified as deteriorated, meaning that they showed a significant decrease in satisfaction.
These results suggest that EFT has a high success rate for couples who complete it. However, not all couples who start EFT complete it. The study also reported that out of 47 couples who began EFT, 15 (32%) dropped out before finishing it. The reasons for dropping out were not reported, but they could include factors such as lack of motivation, dissatisfaction with the therapist or the process, financial constraints, or external events.
Therefore, the overall success rate of EFT for all couples who try it may be lower than the success rate for those who complete it. One way to estimate this is to assume that all dropouts are failures, meaning that they did not benefit from EFT at all. This would result in a success rate of 53% (25 out of 47) for all couples who try EFT.
However, this may be an overly pessimistic assumption. Some dropouts may have benefited from EFT to some extent, even if they did not complete it. Alternatively, some dropouts may have sought other forms of help after leaving EFT. Therefore, the actual success rate of EFT for all couples who try it may be somewhere between 53% and 78%.
What Factors Influence the Success of Couple Therapy?
The success of couple therapy depends on many factors, some of which are related to the couple, some to the therapist, and some to the therapy itself. Here are some of the most important factors that can affect the outcome of couple therapy:
- The severity and duration of the problems: Couples who have more severe and chronic problems may have more difficulty in resolving them than couples who have less severe and acute problems. Severe and chronic problems may also indicate deeper issues that require more intensive and longer-term therapy.
- The motivation and readiness of the partners: Couples who are more motivated and ready to change their relationship may have more success in couple therapy than couples who are less motivated and ready. Motivation and readiness may depend on factors such as the level of distress, the degree of commitment, the availability of alternatives, and the expectations of therapy.
- The compatibility and cooperation of the partners: Couples who are more compatible and cooperative with each other may have more success in couple therapy than couples who are less compatible and cooperative. Compatibility and cooperation may depend on factors such as personality, values, goals, interests, and preferences. Couples who are more compatible and cooperative may also have a better rapport with the therapist and a higher adherence to the therapy process.
- The quality and experience of the therapist: Therapists who have more quality and experience in couple therapy may have more success in helping couples than therapists who have less quality and experience. Quality and experience may depend on factors such as education, training, certification, supervision, feedback, and personal characteristics. Therapists who have more quality and experience may also have a better rapport with the couples and a higher competence in applying the therapy techniques.
- The type and fit of the therapy: Different types of therapy may have different effects on different couples. Some types of therapy may be more suitable for certain problems, goals, or preferences than others. For example, EFT may be more effective for couples who want to improve their emotional connection, while CBT may be more effective for couples who want to change their cognitive distortions. The type and fit of the therapy may also depend on factors such as the theoretical orientation, the evidence base, the format, the duration, and the cost of the therapy.
How to Make the Most of Couple Therapy?
If you and your partner are considering or attending couple therapy, here are some tips on how to make the most of it:
- Do your research: Before choosing a therapist or a type of therapy, do some research on their credentials, reputation, approach, style, fees, availability, and outcomes. You can search online for reviews, testimonials, or ratings from other clients. You can also ask for referrals from friends, family members, or other professionals who have experience with couple therapy.
- Contact them: Once you have narrowed down your options, contact the therapists you are interested in working with. You can call or email them to ask some questions about their services. You can also schedule a consultation session with them to meet them in person, discuss your goals and expectations, and get a sense of their personality and rapport.
- Commit to it: Once you have chosen a therapist and a type of therapy that suit you and your partner, commit to it fully. Attend all sessions regularly and punctually. Complete all homework or exercises assigned by the therapist. Be honest and open with your partner and your therapist. Be willing to listen, learn, change, and grow.
- Evaluate it: Throughout the course of therapy, evaluate its effectiveness periodically. Monitor your progress and satisfaction with your relationship. Give feedback to your partner and your therapist about what is working and what is not working for you. If you encounter any problems or challenges with the therapy process or outcome, communicate them clearly and respectfully. If you feel that you need to change something about the therapy or terminate it altogether, discuss it with your partner and your therapist.
Couple therapy is a form of psychotherapy that can help couples improve their relationship at any stage. It can help couples resolve conflicts, enhance communication, increase intimacy, and strengthen their bond. Couple therapy has been shown to be effective for many couples who complete it. The success rate of couple therapy varies depending on various factors such as the severity