Military personnel are exposed to situations that put their relationships under tremendous stress. Statistically, veterans of recent wars have divorce rates that have increased by more than 30% in the past decade. “Not surprisingly, problems in interpersonal relationships are one of the most common reasons for seeking mental health services within the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center system,” said Brian Doss of the University of Miami. Doss, along with colleagues from Texas A&M University, recently conducted a study to determine the long-term effects of prematurely terminating (PT) counseling in this group of individuals.
The team assessed 177 military couples and realized that between 50%-80% of them had prematurely terminated their couples’ therapy. They interviewed the couples at the beginning of treatment through a questionnaire, and then followed up 18 months after therapy. The researchers used the Quality of Marriage Index and the Marital Status Inventory to gauge levels of marital satisfaction before and after treatment. Additionally, the therapists treating the couples rated their level of future happiness based on clinical observations. The team found that based on all evaluations, if a couple ended therapy early and they fell in the therapists’ range of distressed relationships, they were more likely to seek a divorce than those who stayed in therapy or exhibited higher levels of satisfaction at termination.
“As a result, clinicians should carefully consider the decision to terminate couple therapy when couples are still scoring in the distressed range (even if that couple has made notable gains) as those couples are more likely to subsequently lose therapy gains,” said the team. The likelihood of future divorce seemed to be directly linked to the therapists’ measure of happiness. The team believes this is significant for the clinicians treating these couples. They added, “The ability of therapists to predict future relationship happiness and stability partially support previous conclusions that ‘therapist judgment may ultimately prove to be the best method of deﬁning dropout.”
Doss, B. D., Hsueh, A. C., & Carhart, K. (2011, August 29). Premature Termination in Couple Therapy With Veterans: Definitions and Prediction of Long-Term Outcomes. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025239
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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