Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy: A Systematic Review of Its Effectiveness over the past 19 Years

J Evid Based Soc Work (2019). 2019 Mar-Apr;16(2):144-159. doi: 10.1080/23761407.2018.1563013. Epub 2019 Jan 3.


Purpose: A meta-analysis is the review of several qualifying studies where the findings of each study is analyzed and is then pooled as to determine if an intervention is effective or not. The aim of this meta-analysis was to evaluate if the intervention of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFCT), also referred to as Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), continues to be an effective intervention, since its last meta-analysis in 1999, and to determine whether the improvements noted in EFCT continue to be effective, over a period of time, following the initial intervention.Method: For the meta-analysis, nine studies which identify as randomized control trials (RCTs), were extracted and utilized from the original systematic search. These nine studies were used to evaluate EFCT's initial pre to post-treatment effectiveness. The portion of the meta-analysis, which evaluates whether EFCT sustained improvement at follow-up, consisted of four studies that identify as RCTs.Results: The results strongly suggest that the intervention of EFCT not only improved marital satisfaction (Hedge's g coefficient = 2.09) but also, the improvement in marital satisfaction was sustained at follow up. This sustained improvement was evident through the results of both the Friedman's repeated-measures and the post hoc Wilcox (χ2 = 6.500, p = 0.039).Conclusion: The findings provide preliminary support that, as it relates to marital satisfaction, EFCT is an effective treatment, both in facilitating change during treatment, and in maintaining those improvements following treatment.

Keywords: Emotionally focused therapy; couples therapy; emotionally focused couples therapy; meta-analysis; outcome study; randomized controlled trials.