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Large-scale study of the effectiveness of couple therapy shows it improves people’s relationships and their mental health

Published in News on December 12th 2016

Tavistock Relationships’ work is biggest known to date

Results from the largest prospective naturalistic study of couple therapy for adults ever published show that it is highly effective, at not only reducing individual psychological distress, but also improving the relationship quality between partners.

Analysis of data on 877 adults (508 female, 369 male) receiving psychodynamic couple therapy at Tavistock Relationships’ two central London clinics found that clients reported a large, and statistically significant, decrease in individual psychological distress over the course of couple therapy as well as a medium-sized, and statistically significant, increase in relationship satisfaction. These findings held true regardless of client ethnicity or gender.

The sizes of the changes seen in terms of both relationship and psychological distress are some of the largest ever reported.

The findings provide further proof that relationship distress and individual psychological distress are closely linked; and proves the modality of psychodynamic couple therapy is  as effective for individual and relationship distress as any other couple therapy that has ever been tested for effectiveness.

Commenting on the results of the study, Andrew Balfour, Chief Executive of Tavistock Relationships,  said: “These results provide strong research evidence of what we - as clinicians working in the field have long known - that psychodynamic couple therapy really works.

We hope that the sheer size of this work, along with the scale of the impact on both psychological distress and relationship satisfaction, will make the Government and health commissioners take notice that couple therapy is a highly effective intervention for helping couples who have troubled relationships.

We know that research shows conclusively that problems between couples – and we should remember that over half of the people in this study have children – can have an extremely detrimental impact of children’s mental health. We also know that relationship breakdown costs the UK an estimated £46 billion per year.

The publication of this study will, we hope, lead to an expansion of couple therapy provision in the UK as an effective way to help relieve the distress many couples experience, and which – if left unaddressed – can be so damaging to them, their children and therefore to society as a whole”.

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