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Couple Therapy Versus Individual Therapy
Differences Between Couple Therapy and Individual Therapy
Kaveena Persaud
University of Central Florida
Couple Therapy Versus Individual Therapy
The present study evaluates whether couple therapy or individual therapy is more beneficial to
couples. The hypothesis is that individuals who participate in couple therapy will show higher
levels of progress in their day to day lives than individuals who participate in individual therapy.
A sample of 15 couples that participate in couple therapy, and 15 individuals that participate in
individual therapy was selected. Individuals were asked to complete The Relationship
Assessment Scale that asked questions regarding their satisfaction with their relationships after
attending therapy sessions. The study found that the individuals that participated in couple
therapy reported higher satisfaction than the individuals that participated in individual therapy.
Keywords: therapy, individual, couple, satisfaction.
Couple Therapy Versus Individual Therapy
Differences Between Couple Therapy and Individual Therapy
Monogamous relationships have been the cornerstone of marriage and families for many
centuries. In many cultures, religions and beliefs, a monogamous marriage has been the
foundation of a family. Unfortunately, there has been a rise in divorce rates. According to the
American Psychological Association (2018), in the United States, nearly one in two marriages
end up in divorce. Based off of Women’s Web (2018), 48 percent of women in South Asia that
are forced to marry before 18 end up in a divorce. Clearly, there has been a large decline in the
growth of successful relationships and marriages and there is in need for a solution. Some may
choose to participate in couple therapy and some may choose individual therapy.
Previous research has found that including patients’ partners in the treatment has proved
to be effective when treating depression (Artigas, Mateu, Vilaregut, Feixas, & Escudero, 2017).
Couple therapy has not only been found as an efficient treatment for depression, there is also a
chance that marital functioning will improve along with emotional wellbeing, whereas individual
therapy would not do so (Beach & O’Leary, 1990, 1992; EmnuelsZuurveen & Emmelkamp,
1996; Jacobson et al., 1991; Teichman, Bar-El, Shor, & Elizur, 1998).
The hypothesis for the present study is that participants in individual therapy will not
show as much progress in the satisfaction of their relationships as couples that participate in
therapy together in spite of the fact that some participants might prefer the privacy of individual
therapy. For example, a depressed person might consider their spouse a participant in the
negative events that are generating increased dissatisfaction in the relationship (Artigas, Mateu,
Vilaregut, Feixas, & Escudero, 2017) . They might prefer to speak in private about the situation.
Couple Therapy Versus Individual Therapy
A sample of 15 couples and 15 individuals were recruited from a local psychologist’s
office for a total of 30 participants. Participants; ages ranged from 18 to 35 years.
The Relationship Assessment Scale was utilized to measure relationship satisfaction. It
consists of 7 questions where the participants report their feelings on a 10-point scale, ranging
from “1- Low Satisfaction” to “5 – High Satisfaction.” The survey possesses high internal
consistency, with an alpha of .05.
The 30 recruited participants were informed about the essential aspects of the study and
the confidentiality of it, in order to make sure that they were comfortable during their
participation in the study. They were presented with information about the aim of the research.
The procedures were self-explanatory and participants were informed of the expected goals of
the study. Participants received a contract stating that their participation in the study will remain
anonymous. The contract also stated that their participation is 100 percent voluntary as well as
the fact that they have the choice to stop participating at any time without consequence. Finally,
they were asked to sign the contract stating that they were informed of these statements.
All participants were asked to complete an informal survey to ensure that each and every
participant were in any of these intimate relationships: married, cohabiting, engaged, or dating.
Then, the RAS which measured relationship satisfaction was completed. All participants were
asked to complete the RAS after 6 sessions of therapy (individual and couple therapy, basing
Couple Therapy Versus Individual Therapy
their answers on the quality of their relationships after therapy, which for the purpose of this
study was satisfaction.
For this experiment, an independent-samples t-test was used to test the research
hypothesis that couple therapy would have a better outcome than individual therapy. The alpha
level chosen was .05. The mean of couple therapy was slightly higher than the mean individual
therapy in this experiment. The mean for couple therapy was 4.400 (SD = 2.613) and the mean
for individual therapy was 2.733 (SD = 2.154). However, based on the experiment’s data, no
Couple Therapy Versus Individual Therapy
significant difference was found between the two groups, t (28) = 1.906, p = .067. Therefore, the
hypothesis was refuted. There was no statistically significant difference.
Figure 1. Outcome as a function of therapy.
There was no significant difference between couple therapy and individual therapy.
However, as predicted, couple therapy did have a slightly higher difference in the satisfaction of
relationships than individual therapy.
The analysis between participants receiving couple therapy versus participants receiving
individual therapy showed that there was not a significant difference. This did not agree with the
research hypothesis which stated that couple therapy would be more effective than individual
The null hypothesis was that participants in couple therapy and individual therapy would
not present any difference in satisfaction of their relationships, which was proven to be true. The
Couple Therapy Versus Individual Therapy
results show that there is not a significant difference in the satisfaction of relationships in couple
therapy versus individual therapy.
This study has various limitations. To start with, the way the participants were selected
was based on convenience. Participants were gathered from a local office. This limited the
randomization of the selection of the patients. Sexual orientations are not included in the first
survey, medical history and psychological state which could make a difference in the severity of
their cases and the kind of therapy that they are receiving. It was also limited on the variables
studied because group therapy is also an option.
Future Studies
The study does not support my hypothesis, which declared that couple therapy would be
more beneficial for relationships than individual therapy. There is no room for further study on
this issue. Researchers can focus on specific sicknesses or symptoms that might interfere with a
person’s relationship. Further studies could also involve family members instead of the couples
or individuals alone based on the cultures or backgrounds in which the participants come from.
This study recognizes the differences of couple therapy versus individual therapy. When
individuals are choosing between couple therapy or individual therapy, this study found that
there is no significant difference in the benefits. As long as therapy is kept as an option for the
improvement of satisfaction in relationships, that’s all that matters.
Couple Therapy Versus Individual Therapy
American Psychological Association. (2018). Retrieved April 06, 2018, from
Artigas, L., Mateu, C., Vilaregut, A. et al. Contemp Fam Ther (2017) Couple Therapy
for Depression: Exploring How the Dyadic Adjustment Determines the Therapeutic
Alliance in Two Contrasting Cases. Springer Science and Business Media 39: 195.
Beach, S. R. H., & O’Leary, K. D. (1992). Treating depression in the context of marital discord:
Outcome and predictors of response of marital therapy versus cognitive therapy.
Behavior Therapy, 23, 507–528.
Emanuels-Zuurveen, L., & Emmelkamp, P. M. G. (1996). Individual behaviouralcognitive
therapy v. marital therapy for depression in maritally distressed couples. British Journal
of Psychiatry, 169, 181–188.
Gilliam C, Cottone R. (2007) Couple or Individual Therapy for the Treatment of Depression?:
An Update of the Empirical Literature. American Journal Of Family Therapy [serial
online]. May 2005;33(3):265-272. DOI: 10.1080/01926180590952472
Jacobson, N. S., Dobson, K., Fruzzetti, A. E., Schmaling, K. B., & Salusky, S. (1991). Marital
therapy as a treatment for depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 59,
O’Leary, K. D., & Beach, S. R. H. (1990). Marital therapy: A viable treatment for depression
and marital discord. American Journal of Psychiatry, 147, 183–185.
Couple Therapy Versus Individual Therapy
Teichman, Y., Bar-El, Z., Shor, H., & Elizur, A. (1995). A comparison of two modalities of
cognitive therapy (individual and marital) in treating depression. Psychiatry, 58, 136–148

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