A Randomized Clinical Trial of a Brief, Problem-Focused Couple Therapy for Depression

Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Brigham & Women's Hospital, 1249 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215, USA.
Behavior therapy (Impact Factor: 3.69). 12/2010; 41(4):433-46. DOI: 10.1016/j.beth.2009.11.004
Source: PubMed


The aim of this study was to evaluate a brief couple therapy for depression targeted for mildly discordant or nondiscordant couples struggling with the negative impact of depression. Subjects included women with major depression or dysthymia who had husbands without clinical depression. Thirty-five couples were randomly assigned to the 5-week intervention (n=18) or a waitlist control group (n=17), and followed up 1 and 3 months later. Results showed a significant effect of treatment in reducing women's depressive symptoms, with 67% of women improved and 40% to 47% recovered at follow-up, compared to only 17% improved and 8% recovered among women in the control group. Treatment was also effective in secondarily improving women's marital satisfaction, reducing husbands' levels of psychological distress and depression-specific burden, and improving both partners' understanding and acceptance of depression. The treatment was implemented in five 2-hour sessions, representing an efficient, cost-effective approach. Findings support the growing utility of brief, problem-focused couple interventions that simultaneously target depression, relational functioning, and psychological distress experienced by the loved ones of depressed persons.

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