Therapy Works for Even Very Unhappy Couples

Every couple encounters difficulties. Holding on to patterns of blame, denial, and avoidance can perpetuate marital struggle.  If you think your marriage is in trouble, a new study proves therapy can help even the rockiest relationship.

UCLA’s Andrew Christensen, lead author of the study, provided one year of regular therapy sessions to 134 consistently unhappy married couples in their 30s and 40s. In the longest, most comprehensive assessment of its kind, follow-up sessions were held every six months for five years after stopping therapy.

Couples received one of two kinds of therapy, either behavioral couples therapy or integrative behavioral couples therapy.  Traditional behavioral couples therapy, focuses on improved communication between partners and helps couples learn to work together to reach solutions. The second, Integrative behavioral therapy, is similar but also teaches partners to understand, accept, and react to problems from an emotional level too.

The good news is that it IS possible to rebuild a broken relationship. After the therapy ended, about two-thirds of the couples overall showed notable clinical improvement. During the first two years of follow-up treatment, the integrative therapy approach was shown to be more effective than traditional therapy. However, the difference between the treatments became less important as the years passed.

Five years after treatment ended, about half the couples were significantly improved from where they were at the beginning of treatment, about a quarter were separated or divorced, and about a quarter were unchanged.

If both partners are willing to commit to working towards change, this study proves that therapy does help. The best news is that the communication tools learned in therapy have long-term positive results.

If you want help finding a therapist there are various resources online.

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