Marriage & Couples Research
A Research Project at the University of Washington
At the University of Washington, Kim Ryan and John Gottman wanted to learn how couples workshops can help couples deepen their friendship and intimacy and build stability in their marriage. In particular they designed a “relapse prevention program” to see how they could help couples maintain the improvements to their relationship that they had gained in a couples workshop.
Out of 100 couples in an overarching study that included “bibliotherapy” and other conditions, forty couples were randomly assigned to two workshop-related conditions: twenty attended a couples workshop only. Another twenty attended a couples workshop and then received “booster sessions” of individual couples therapy as part of a “relapse prevention” effort.
The researchers assessed the couples’ marital satisfaction before the workshop, after the workshop, and then after six months had passed.
What were the results? The workshop created effective, lasting changes in marital satisfaction with effects similar to those obtained in six months of marital therapy. Couples who participated in the relapse prevention program, or an additional nine “booster sessions,” were better able to maintain gains made during the workshop-based intervention than the couples who did not receive booster sessions.
Who benefited most from booster sessions? It turns out that couples who had trouble handling daily stress were also the most likely to benefit from the booster sessions.
UPDATED September 2014