What Works in Relationship Support: An Evidence Review
The Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships Evidence review sets out what we know about the most efficacious practice in supporting couples.
The review focuses on three areas:
Couple Therapy – This chapter summarises the current state of couple therapy research, indicating that there is very clear evidence for its value as a treatment for a range of difficulties and disorders faced by individuals, couples and families. It surveys the nature of this evidence, pointing out that there are different types of evidence underpinning claims for the effectiveness of couple therapy and that there are limitations in relying only on that from randomized controlled trials (RCTs). It calls for more research into ordinary clinical work with a wide range of couples and difficulties to try to identify what helps which people, and how it does so.
Relationship education programmes for adults – A summary of findings is presented in this chapter from seven meta-analyses of studies into relationship education programmes conducted in the United States, followed by a summary of findings from three large-scale relationship education programmes (again from the States) but targeted primarily to low-income, less-educated couples; the chapter concludes with findings from an evaluation into relationship education programmes conducted by the Department for Education in the UK. Results of these various studies and evaluations suggest that the impacts of relationship education programmes are promising but also relatively modest, and it is as yet unclear how long the effects last for, and which groups benefit the most from these kinds of programmes.
Parenting interventions which incorporate a couple relationship focus – This chapter expands on the previous chapter on couple relationship education (CRE) by considering couple relationship quality within the context of the wider family system. It focuses on the well-established links between couple relationship quality and parenting, parent-child relationships, and children’s wellbeing, and reviews the evidence of the indirect positive impact of CRE on these inter-related family domains. This chapter then considers the potential application of this learning, by reviewing the benefits of explicitly incorporating a couple relationship focus into parenting interventions. We conclude that there is strong evidence that parenting interventions which address the couple relationship have important and positive impacts for parents and children, both directly and indirectly.