It may be that this finding reflects the results for clients who'd simply entered marital therapy too late and/or under duress, for whom treatment probably would have been short-lived and unsuccessful. It also may be that what respondents described as marital counseling may have little connection with what we now think of as marital therapy. However, to the extent that such negative attitudes are still held today, the field needs to find ways to make even those couples whose marriages aren't helped feel that seeing a marital therapist is worthwhile on some level--if only because they learn something about themselves individually or about why their marriages failed.
In sum, there are now four empirically supported methods of practice for which positive outcomes have been demonstrated: Behavioral Couples Therapy, Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy, and Insight-Oriented Marital Therapy. We also should highlight, as Al Gurman has for many years, that there are many forms of couples therapy, such as Bowenian and narrative therapy, which may be effective but haven't been studied yet.
The totality of this body of research offers us the security of knowing that what we do as couples therapists truly does make a difference. However, there's a great deal that we still don't know about what can help couples improve their relationships most effectively and about how to foster changes that last.
Gurman, Alan S., and Neil S. Jacobson (eds.). Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy. 3rd edition. New York: Guilford Press, 2002.
Jacobson, Neil S., and Andrew Christensen. Acceptance and Change in Couple Therapy: A Therapist's Guide to Transforming Relationships. New York: Norton, 1998.
Johnson, Susan M. The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy: Creating Connection. 2nd edition. New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2004.
Snyder, Douglas K., A. M. Castellani, and Mark A. Whisman. "Current Status and Future Directions in Couple Therapy." Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 57 (2006): 317-44.
Whisman, Mark A. "Marital Dissatis-faction and Psychiatric Disorders: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey." Journal of Abnormal Psychology 108, no. 4 (November 1999): 701-06.
Jay Lebow, Ph.D., is a contributing editor to the Psychotherapy Networker and clinical professor at Northwestern University. He's also senior therapist and research consultant at the Family Institute at Northwestern University. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters to the Editor about this department may be e-mailed to email@example.com.