An evaluation of time-limited psychodynamic psychotherapy for couples: a pilot study

Psychol Psychother. 2012 Sep;85(3):292-309. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8341.2011.02030.x. Epub 2011 Aug 30.


Objectives: Psychodynamic Couple Psychotherapy has developed as a modality in only a few organizations in the public and voluntary sectors in this country. Varieties of couple therapy have evolved due to economic or other constraints, some more open-ended, others involving differing time limits or behavioural techniques. In this study, a time limit of 40 sessions was imposed on the Psychodynamic therapy to improve comparability with other therapeutic approaches. We examined work with 18 couples, employing various measures which, while not in the context of a full controlled trial, produced some interesting and indicative results. We aimed to investigate (1) the effects of time-limited psychodynamic couple psychotherapy, and (2) whether the measures used produce interesting results after 40 weeks.

Design: Within a normal clinical setting, measurements of individual and couple functioning would be taken at fixed points in the course of 40-week couple therapies, and analysed for evidence of significant change. Due to funding and clinical limitations within the setting, a baseline period before therapy started was used instead of a control group.

Method: Couples were invited to opt in to the study when applying to the agency for therapy. They were provided with 40 weekly sessions of couple therapy. Videotapes of sessions at beginning, middle, and end of the therapies were rated by independent observer, using the Personal Relatedness Profile (PRP) (Hobson, Patrick, & Valentine, 1998) adapted for couples (Lanman, Grier, & Evans, 2003), alongside two individual self-report measures, Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation (CORE) (Evans et al., 2000), and the Golombok Rust Inventory of Marital Satisfaction (GRIMS) (Rust, Bennun, Crow, & Golumbok, 1990).

Results: The couples showed improvement as rated both by therapists and observers (rating the videotaped sessions) on the PRP after 40 sessions. On the CORE measure, participants showed improvement at both 20 and 40 sessions. On the GRIMS measure of marital satisfaction, results were non-significant.

Conclusions: The results provide indicative evidence for the effectiveness of 40-session couple psychotherapy and provide some convergent validation for the utility of the PRP (as adapted for couples) as a measure of change.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Marital Therapy / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychotherapy, Brief / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Report
  • Sex Factors
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy
  • Time Factors
  • Videotape Recording*