Couple therapy for military veterans: overall effectiveness and predictors of response

Behav Ther. 2012 Mar;43(1):216-27. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2011.06.006. Epub 2011 Jun 24.


Despite the numerous challenges facing U.S. veterans and their relationships, there have been no examinations of the effectiveness of couple therapy for relationship distress provided to veterans. In the present study, 177 couples presenting for couple therapy at two Veteran Administration Medical Centers completed assessments of relationship satisfaction prior to therapy and weekly during therapy. Results revealed that the average couple showed significant gains in relationship satisfaction during treatment (d=0.44 for men; d=0.47 for women); gains were larger for couples beginning therapy in the distressed range (d=0.61 for men; d=0.58 for women) than for couples in the nondistressed range (d=0.19 for men; d=0.22 for women). Rates of premature termination were high, with 19% of couples completing fewer than three sessions and 62% rated as not completing a "full course" of therapy. Benchmarking analyses demonstrated that the average gains were larger than would be expected from natural remission and similar to previous effectiveness trials; however, average gains were smaller than those observed in couple therapy efficacy trials. Relationship, psychological, and demographic characteristics were generally unrelated to the amount of change in therapy after controlling for initial satisfaction. However, African American couples showed significantly larger gains than Caucasian, non-Hispanic couples. Thus, though yielding smaller effects than those shown in efficacy trials, the impact of couple therapy for veterans' relationship problems appears to generalize across various demographic, psychological, and relationship characteristics.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Benchmarking / statistics & numerical data
  • Black or African American / psychology
  • Couples Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Dropouts / statistics & numerical data
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • White People / psychology