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J Consult Clin Psychol. 2010 Apr;78(2):225-35. doi: 10.1037/a0018132.

Marital status and satisfaction five years following a randomized clinical trial comparing traditional versus integrative behavioral couple therapy.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563, USA.



To follow distressed married couples for 5 years after their participation in a randomized clinical trial.


A total of 134 chronically and seriously distressed married couples were randomly assigned to approximately 8 months of either traditional behavioral couple therapy (TBCT; Jacobson & Margolin, 1979) or integrative behavioral couple therapy (IBCT; Jacobson & Christensen, 1998). Marital status and satisfaction were assessed approximately every 3 months during treatment and every 6 months for 5 years after treatment.


Pre- to posttreatment effect sizes on marital satisfaction were d = 0.90 for IBCT and d = 0.71 for TBCT, which were not significantly different. However, data through 2-year follow-ups revealed statistically significant superiority of IBCT over TBCT in relationship satisfaction, but subsequent data showed increasing similarity and nonsignificant differences in outcome. At 5-year follow-up for marital satisfaction relative to pretreatment, effect sizes were d = 1.03 for IBCT and d = 0.92 for TBCT; 50.0% of IBCT couples and 45.9% of TBCT couples showed clinically significant improvement. Relationship status, obtained on all 134 couples, revealed that 25.7% of IBCT couples and 27.9% of TBCT couples were separated or divorced. These follow-up data compared favorably to other, long-term results of couple therapy.


TBCT and IBCT both produced substantial effect sizes in even seriously and chronically distressed couples. IBCT produced significantly but not dramatically superior outcomes through the first 2 years after treatment termination but without further intervention; outcomes for the 2 treatments converged over longer follow-up periods.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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