Client-directed therapy technique drastically reduces divorce/separation rates

Nov 13, 2009

Using four simple questions to generate client-directed feedback can greatly increase the chances that struggling couples will stay together, according to a recently published study.

According to the largest clinical trial with to date - which was co-authored by University of Rhode Island Human Development and Family Studies Professor Jacqueline Sparks - couples that had systematic client feedback incorporated into their sessions were 46.2 percent less likely to wind up divorced or separated.

The largest clinical trial to date, the findings of the study were published in the Aug. 3 issue of the . Sparks co-authored the two-year study - conducted at the Vestfold Family Counseling Center in Norway - with Barry Duncan of Heart and Soul of Change Project and Morten Anker of the Family Counseling Office in Vestfold.

The team of U.S. and Norwegian researchers studied 205 randomly selected couples from southern Norway for two years from October 2005 through December 2007. The couples showed problems typical of struggling relationships, from communication problems to infidelity and physical or psychological issues. Half of the couples in the study used the client feedback system, while the other half did not.

The couples using the feedback methods used a visual scale at the start of each session to rate their well being in four categories - individual, interpersonal, social and overall. Using the Outcome Rating Scale system as a guide, approaches for therapy could be altered in real time, helping to open lines of communication between clients and therapists.

This, in turn, helped give the client a sense of ownership in their healing process.

"According to the research, when clients believe they - not the therapist - are responsible for change, results are better and last longer," Sparks said. "In some therapy, clients can become passive and wait for the therapist to come up with the 'magic bullet.' If they get better, they figure it was the therapist. These kinds of situations often lead to dependency, where clients are reluctant to end treatment or get caught in a kind of treatment revolving door—after therapy they lose ground and return."

Participants in the study were contacted six months after their final therapy session. Couples using the Outcome Rating Scale reported feeling more satisfied in their relationships, with only 18.4 percent of those couples indicating they had separated or divorced, compared to 34.2 percent for those couples who didn't have client-based feedback incorporated into their sessions.

"The most important element for successful therapy is client engagement," Sparks said. "When clients buy into the process, believe it will be helpful, and participate with the therapist in working on difficulties, they will have better outcomes."

While the Outcome Rating Scale system helped couples, it also improved the performance rates of therapists. Therapists participating in the study were trained on how to integrate the findings of the Outcome Rating Scale into their counseling sessions.

"We know that therapists vary significantly in how skilled they are in engaging clients," Sparks said. "In our study, when poorer performing therapists asked for and used client feedback, they improved enough to rank with the best performing therapists. So, therapist variability was reduced, with feedback being the leveler. When this happened, given that our sample was large enough to actually tell us something, we found the superior effect for feedback couples."

Source: University of Rhode Island (news : web)

Explore further: Self-regulation intervention boosts school readiness of at-risk children, study shows

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Therapy is not one size fits all

Apr 04, 2007

The new school of thought is that there is not just one correct school of thought when it comes to counseling people. In actual practice, therapists mix theories and methods in order to produce best practices for helping ...

Study: Few working couples happy

Aug 12, 2006

A Minnesota researcher says middle-class couples are struggling to balance work and family in jobs designed for the days when men were the breadwinners.

Researcher Helps People See Beyond the 'Typical' Divorce

Dec 09, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- According to a University of Missouri family researcher, there is no “typical divorce.” Realizing this, friends and family members of people experiencing divorce should be aware of the appropriate type ...

Recommended for you

Brains transform remote threats into anxiety

Nov 21, 2014

Modern life can feel defined by low-level anxiety swirling through society. Continual reports about terrorism and war. A struggle to stay on top of family finances and hold onto jobs. An onslaught of news ...

Mental disorders due to permanent stress

Nov 21, 2014

Activated through permanent stress, immune cells will have a damaging effect on and cause changes to the brain. This may result in mental disorders. The effects of permanent stress on the immune system are studied by the ...

Could there be a bright side to depression?

Nov 21, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—A group of researchers studying the roots of depression has developed a test that leads them closer to the idea that depression may actually be an adaptation meant to help people cope with ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.