How can we improve preventive and educational interventions for intimate relationships?

Behav Ther. 2012 Mar;43(1):113-22. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2011.02.008. Epub 2011 May 30.


Improving intimate relationships with preventive and educational interventions has proven to be more difficult than originally conceived, and earlier models and approaches may be reaching their limits. Basic concerns remain about the long-term effectiveness of these interventions, whether they are reaching and benefiting couples most likely to need them, and how they might be exerting their effects. We identify six problems that we believe are hindering progress in the field, and for each we outline research findings that point to new ways forward. These problems include (a) the incomplete understanding of couple communication and unwarranted translation of communication findings into interventions; (b) the surprising stability of relationship satisfaction; (c) the powerful roles that personal histories, personalities, and stress play in determining relationship outcomes; (d) the difficulties involved in recruiting and retaining high-risk couples in intervention programs; (e) the lack of attention given to specific stages of relationship development in interventions; and (f) the tendency to deliver preventive and educational interventions in the same format as therapies for distressed couples. We conclude by noting that a large body of basic research about intimate relationships, and large-scale outcome research with diverse populations, hold great promise for advancing the field.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / trends
  • Couples Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*