Client-directed therapy technique drastically reduces divorce/separation rates

November 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)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Dutch courage—Alcohol improves foreign language skills

October 18, 2017
A new study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University and King's College London, shows that bilingual speakers' ability to speak a second ...

Inflamed support cells appear to contribute to some kinds of autism

October 18, 2017
Modeling the interplay between neurons and astrocytes derived from children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Brazil, say innate ...

Study suggests psychedelic drugs could reduce criminal behavior

October 18, 2017
Classic psychedelics such as psilocybin (often called magic mushrooms), LSD and mescaline (found in peyote) are associated with a decreased likelihood of antisocial criminal behavior, according to new research from investigators ...

Taking probiotics may reduce postnatal depression

October 18, 2017
Researchers from the University of Auckland and Otago have found evidence that a probiotic given in pregnancy can help prevent or treat symptoms of postnatal depression and anxiety.

Before assigning responsibility, our minds simulate alternative outcomes, study shows

October 17, 2017
How do people assign a cause to events they witness? Some philosophers have suggested that people determine responsibility for a particular outcome by imagining what would have happened if a suspected cause had not intervened.

Schizophrenia disrupts the brain's entire communication system, researchers say

October 17, 2017
Some 40 years since CT scans first revealed abnormalities in the brains of schizophrenia patients, international scientists say the disorder is a systemic disruption to the brain's entire communication system.

0 comments

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.