Using client feedback to improve couple therapy outcomes: a randomized clinical trial in a naturalistic setting

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2009 Aug;77(4):693-704. doi: 10.1037/a0016062.


Despite the overall efficacy of psychotherapy, dropouts are substantial, many clients do not benefit, therapists vary in effectiveness, and there may be a crisis of confidence among consumers. A research paradigm called patient-focused research--a method of enhancing outcome via continuous progress feedback--holds promise to address these problems. Although feedback has been demonstrated to improve individual psychotherapy outcomes, no studies have examined couple therapy. The current study investigated the effects of providing treatment progress and alliance information to both clients and therapists during couple therapy. Outpatients (N = 410) at a community family counseling clinic were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups: treatment as usual (TAU) or feedback. Couples in the feedback condition demonstrated significantly greater improvement than those in the TAU condition at posttreatment, achieved nearly 4 times the rate of clinically significant change, and maintained a significant advantage on the primary measure at 6-month follow-up while attaining a significantly lower rate of separation or divorce. Mounting evidence of feedback effects with different measures and populations suggests that the time for routine tracking of client progress has arrived.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Family Conflict / psychology
  • Feedback, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Therapy / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Young Adult