Predictors of success in emotionally focused marital therapy

J Marital Fam Ther. 1997 Apr;23(2):135-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.1997.tb00239.x.


This study examined client variables expected to predict success in emotionally focused marital therapy (EFT), now the second most validated form of marital therapy after the behavioral approaches. The relationship of attachment quality, level of emotional self-disclosure, level of interpersonal trust, and traditionality to the therapy outcome variables, marital adjustment, intimacy, and therapist ratings of improvement, was examined. These variables were chosen for their relevance to the theory and practice of EFT and to intimate relationships in general. Overall, therapeutic alliance predicted successful outcome; the task dimension of the alliance in particular predicted couples' satisfaction. More specifically, one dimension of female partners' trust, their faith in their partner, predicted couples' satisfaction at follow-up. Females' faith also significantly predicted males' level of intimacy at follow-up. Males who were most likely to be nondistressed at termination indicated higher levels of proximity seeking on an attachment measure at intake, and older males and males whose partners had higher levels of faith in them were more likely to be nondistressed at follow-up. Traditionality was not found to be significantly related to outcome. Couples who made the most gains at follow-up also indicated lower initial marital satisfaction and included males who indicated lower levels of use of attachment figure on the attachment measure at intake. Males who made the largest gains at termination were older and were rated as less expressive by their partner on self-disclosure measures at intake. Age was the only variable significantly related to males' gains in satisfaction at follow-up. Implications for the practice of marital therapy and future research are delineated.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Therapy*
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Self Disclosure