Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, have been studying the effectiveness of couples therapy in a study of 134 married couples. Most of the couples were in their 30s and 40s and slightly more than half of them had children. The couples were chronically and seriously distressed and fought frequently but were hoping to improve their marriages. The couples received 26 therapy sessions a year and psychologists carried out follow-up sessions approximately every six months for five years after therapy ended. Some of the couples received traditional behavioural couple therapy, focusing on making positive changes and learning better ways of communicating and working towards solutions, while others received integrative behavioural couples therapy which focuses more on emotional reactions. When the therapy sessions were over about two-thirds of the couples had shown significant clinical improvement. The integrative approach was more effective in the first two years but the difference was not dramatic and did not last as the years went on. Five years after the treatment about half the couples were significantly improved, a quarter were unchanged and a quarter were separated or divorced.
You can find out more about this research at