Common principles of couple therapy

Behav Ther. 2012 Mar;43(1):25-35. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2010.12.009. Epub 2011 Jun 1.


The similarity in efficacy of evidence-based couple therapies suggests that it may be useful to identify those treatment principles they hold in common. Expanding on the previous description of a unified protocol for couple therapy (Christensen, 2010), this article outlines five common principles: (a) altering the couple's view of the presenting problem to be more objective, contextualized, and dyadic; (b) decreasing emotion-driven, dysfunctional behavior; (c) eliciting emotion-based, avoided, private behavior; (d) increasing constructive communication patterns; and (e) emphasizing strengths and reinforcing gains. For each of these five elements of the unified protocol, the paper addresses how and to what extent the most common forms of evidence-based couple therapy carry out this principle. Implications for clinical practice, treatment research, and basic research on intimate relationships are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / trends
  • Couples Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*