Initial relationship goal and couple therapy outcomes at post and six-month follow-up

Document Type


Date of Original Version



The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between client initial goal for couple therapy (i.e., improve the relationship or clarify the viability of the relationship) and the outcomes (including their relationship status, i.e., separated or together) at posttreatment as well as at 6-month follow-up. Two hundred forty-nine couples (N = 498 individuals) seeking treatment for relationship distress in a naturalistic setting were treated by 20 therapists. Client initial relationship goal was attained by intake paperwork protocol, which included client initial goal for couple therapy and client perception of partner goal. Clients who reported that their goal was to improve the relationship reported better outcomes at post. Couples who reported their goal was to improve the relationship were less likely to break up at a 6-month follow-up. Of the 115 couples stating they wanted to improve the relationship, only nine (7.8%) couples were separated at 6 months. In contrast, of the 16 couples in which both partners wanted to clarify the relationship prior to therapy, nine (56%) were separated at follow-up. Therapist awareness of each individual's relationship goal prior to couple therapy could enhance outcomes, and treatment tailored according to initial goals could set the stage for positive outcomes however defined. © 2012 American Psychological Association.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Family Psychology