Evaluating Couples Therapy Effectiveness

What Approach Works Best?


In the field of couple’s therapy, various approaches and concepts have been developed and implemented over the years. However, a critical question arises: do these methods truly work, and if so, which ones are the most effective based on sound scientific inquiry? This article delves into the current state of couple’s therapy, examining the efficacy of different approaches, and seeks to identify the most effective method based on available scientific evidence.

The State of Couple’s Therapy

Couple’s therapy encompasses a wide range of techniques and theories aimed at helping partners improve their relationships. Traditional approaches include behavioral, psychodynamic, systemic, and integrative therapies. Despite their popularity, many of these methods have faced criticism for insufficient scientific backing. This lack of evidence does not necessarily negate their effectiveness but highlights the need for more rigorous research.

The Challenge of Measuring Effectiveness

Measuring the effectiveness of therapy poses significant challenges. Factors like the uniqueness of each couple, varying therapist skill levels, and the subjective nature of relationship improvement make it difficult to apply a one-size-fits-all measure of success. Furthermore, the private and intimate nature of couple’s therapy limits the scope of empirical studies, often relying on self-reported measures which can be biased.

Evidence-Based Approaches in Couple’s Therapy

Despite these challenges, some approaches have garnered substantial empirical support. Among these, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and the Gottman Method stand out.

  1. Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT): Developed by Dr. Sue Johnson, EFT is grounded in attachment theory and focuses on emotions as the key to understanding and improving relationships. EFT has been supported by numerous studies showing its effectiveness in improving relationship satisfaction and emotional closeness. It emphasizes the development of secure, resilient bonds between partners.
  2. The Gottman Method: Developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, this method is renowned for its empirical basis, derived from decades of research. It focuses on increasing closeness and intimacy, managing conflict effectively, and creating shared meaning. The Gottman Method uses specific interventions based on the observed interaction patterns and the “Sound Relationship House” theory.

The Role of Tailored Approaches

No single therapeutic approach guarantees success for all couples. The effectiveness of therapy often depends on the specific needs and dynamics of the couple, as well as the skill and adaptability of the therapist. A tailored approach, where the therapist assesses the unique situation of each couple and applies the most suitable method, often yields the best results.

The Importance of Ongoing Research

The field of couple’s therapy continues to evolve, with ongoing research playing a crucial role in validating and refining therapeutic approaches. Future studies focusing on diverse populations, long-term outcomes, and the comparison of different methodologies will enhance our understanding of what works best in couple’s therapy.


In conclusion, while many approaches in couple’s therapy lack sufficient scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness, methods like Emotionally Focused Therapy and the Gottman Method have shown promising results. The key to successful therapy lies in the adaptability and skill of the therapist, combined with an approach tailored to the specific needs of the couple. Ongoing research is crucial for further validating and improving the effectiveness of couple’s therapy.

This article was meant to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of couple’s therapy and its effectiveness. While it’s clear that more research is needed to conclusively determine the most effective methods, current evidence points to the promise of certain approaches like EFT and the Gottman Method. As research continues to evolve, so will our understanding and application of these therapies to help couples build stronger, more resilient relationships.

Some of the most current research:

Beasley, C. C., & Ager, R. (2019). Emotionally focused couples therapy: A systematic review of its effectiveness over the past 19 years. Journal of evidence-based social work16(2), 144-159.

Asadi, M., Ghasemzadeh, N., Nazarifar, M., & Sarvandani, M. N. (2020). The effectiveness of emotion-focused couple therapy on marital satisfaction and positive feelings towards the spouse. International Journal of Health Studies.

Eslahi, N., Arefi, M., Hoseini, S., & Amiri, H. (2019). Study on the effectiveness of emotionally focused couple therapy and Gottman’s systemic couple therapy on marital harmony in conflicting couples. Journal of Psychological Science17(71), 849-56.

Tajikesmaeili, A., & Rasuli, M. (2022). Comparison of the effectiveness of couple therapy based on acceptance and commitment (ACT), and gottman’s couple therapy on marital intimacy among conflicting couples. Journal of psychologicalscience21(110), 287-304.

Roddy, M. K., Walsh, L. M., Rothman, K., Hatch, S. G., & Doss, B. D. (2020). Meta-analysis of couple therapy: Effects across outcomes, designs, timeframes, and other moderators. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology88(7), 583.