couples therapy session

Couples Therapy: The Latest in Evidence-Based Techniques

12 July 2023

couples therapy session


  • As a couples therapy provider, staying abreast of the latest research for different treatment modalities can help you provide effective treatment to your clients. 
  • Evidence-based therapies such as integrative behavioral couples therapy, emotion-focused couples therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and systemic therapy consistently show positive outcomes for couples who receive treatment. 
  • The future of couples therapy includes a focus on technology, such as AI-powered tools and cloud-based practice management software, to help you spend more time with clients and offer personalized treatment.

In the field of couples therapy, therapists constantly integrate new research and evidence-based techniques into their practices. These techniques and traditional therapy methods provide therapists with a range of tools to assist couples in improving their relationships.

However, the specific needs and circumstances of the couple are critical in determining the most appropriate therapy approach. The emphasis remains on creating a safe, collaborative, and empathetic environment where couples can explore and address their issues. 

Familiarizing yourself with the latest couples therapy research on approaches such as integrative behavioral couples therapy (IBCT), emotion-focused couples therapy (EFT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and systemic therapy can help you facilitate understanding and growth in your clients.   

Latest Findings in Evidence-Based Couples Therapy Treatment 

As a marriage and family therapist, you provide relationship counseling to your clients when they are most vulnerable. You can use several couples therapy techniques to unite these couples and help them work through their relationship issues. These include  IBCT, EFT, ACT, or systemic therapy.

Explore the latest insights from studies on these evidence-based marital therapy methods to help you choose the most valuable approach for your clients.  

Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy (IBCT)

IBCT is a short-term approach that combines elements from behavioral and insight-oriented therapies to improve couples’ communication, emotional intimacy, and relationship satisfaction. 

It focuses on helping couples develop better emotional regulation, empathy, and problem-solving skills and accept each other for who they are. IBCT involves communication skills training, problem-solving strategies, and building empathy to foster lasting relationship improvements.

IBCT has been shown to effectively reduce stress and improve the quality of couples’ relationships. In a 2021 randomized controlled trial, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of a conflict prevention program that used strategies from IBCT.

Couples who participated in the program reported improved relationships, including acceptance of their differences and increased empathy towards each other. They also experienced a stronger sense of unity while maintaining personal boundaries and reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction.

These positive outcomes were maintained at a three-year follow-up, suggesting that the IBCT-based program has long-term benefits in preventing couple conflict.

couples in therapy

Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy (EFT)

Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) is a long-term, attachment-based approach that focuses on helping couples heal from past hurts and build a more secure emotional connection.

Couples who undergo EFT have consistently shown positive outcomes, including increased relationship satisfaction, improved communication, and reduced stress within the partnership.

A 2020 review found that EFT is equally effective as the traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBCT) approach as a couples therapy modality. EFT is especially beneficial for couples coping with chronic illness or post-traumatic stress disorder and helps build intimacy between partners. 

This review also found that in previous studies, EFT showed a 61% recovery rate for couples who underwent this type of therapy. In these studies, an additional 11% of couples also reported improvement. 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

(ACT is a well-respected treatment for couples hoping to repair their relationships. It is a mindfulness-based approach that focuses on helping couples accept their thoughts and feelings and commit to actions that align with their values.This approach allows them to navigate challenges and build a more fulfilling partnership.

Studies show that ACT can reduce relationship distress, improve communication, and create more emotional closeness for couples. For example, a 2021 study looked at ACT’s efficacy on male students’ interpersonal relationships in Tehran. The study found that ACT improved relationships when emotions such as anger were an issue and was as effective as the standard CBT in other areas. 

A 2022 analysis of existing ACT research found that the treatment is ideal for addressing issues affecting interpersonal relationships, such as depression, drug use, chronic pain, and eating disorders. By treating underlying issues that cause relationship problems, ACT can help couples experience a more genuine connection and empathy with each other, leading to increased emotional intimacy. 

Systemic Therapy

Systemic therapy is a family-based approach that focuses on understanding how the couple’s relationship is affected by their individual and family systems. Rather than solely focusing on the couple’s individual issues, systemic therapy looks at the dynamics and interactions within the larger family unit. 

This approach explores how the couple’s relationship is influenced by their family history, communication patterns, roles, and beliefs. Helping clients understand these elements helps promote understanding, improve communication, and create positive changes that benefit the couple and their wider family system.

A 2014 case report found systemic therapy was effective at 12-month follow-up for a couple with one partner diagnosed with dysthymia. Using systemic therapy, the couple focused on understanding how they interacted with each other, reducing resentment, and expressing emotion to improve their dynamics. 

By the end of treatment, the pair saw positive changes in their relationship. Additionally, the partner with dysthymia showed nonclinical results on the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders (SCID-I) and Beck Depression Inventory, Second Edition (BDI-II), showing the effectiveness of systemic couples therapy for helping treat the condition. 

The Future of Couples Therapy

In the future, couples therapy trends will focus more on prevention and evidence-based practices. AI-powered technologies and cloud-based mental health EHR platforms will also impact how therapists treat clients. 

Focus on Prevention

Couples therapy traditionally addresses existing conflicts, helping couples repair issues by learning to communicate, recognize patterns, and accept each other. However, there is a growing trend toward empowering couples with the skills they need to prevent marital issues before they experience a breakdown in the relationship.

For example, therapists offer pre-crisis counseling or classes promoting healthy relationship skills and communication strategies. Using these services, couples can proactively build strong foundations to prevent future relationship issues and reduce the need for intensive interventions.

Evidence-Based Practices

Therapists will continue to treat clients using evidence-based therapeutic approaches. With the availability of research and publications, therapists can choose treatment modalities supported by evidence, such as case studies, surveys, and randomized controlled trials, to provide a high level of patient care. Evidence-based practices, such as EFT, ACT, and IBCT, can help you support your clients so they can improve their relationships.  

couples therapy via telehealth

Use of Technology

The future of couples therapy includes technology, such as AI tools and cloud-based practice management software. AI tools such as virtual reality and interactive environments can be valuable couple therapy resources for therapists that help clients practice communication, empathy-building, and conflict resolution skills in a safe space. 

You can also use AI tools to analyze text or speech to identify communication patterns and areas of conflict to support your in-person or virtual therapeutic process. 

Cloud-based therapy EMR technology also represents the future of practice management for therapists. Digital therapy practice management software like ClinicSource offers customizable dashboards and real-time analytics that provide valuable insights into your practice’s performance. These insights can help you run your practice efficiently and understand the most effective services or treatment approaches. 

The platform also has mental health-specific features to simplify couples therapy documentation. With ClinicSource, you can highlight portions of your clients’ case history relevant to marriage counseling and access customizable templates for diagnoses, assessments, and treatment plans. 

Focus on Effective Couples Therapy with the Support of Your Therapy EMR

Couples and marriage counseling sessions are most effective when you can focus solely on your clients instead of the administrative work behind the scenes. ClinicSource’s integrated therapy EMR helps you simplify tasks like documentation, scheduling, and billing so you can implement couples therapy best practices and give your clients 100% of your attention when they’re in your office. 

Schedule a demo with a ClinicSource Specialist today to see our cloud-based therapy EMR in action and learn how it can improve your couples therapy treatment. 


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