What is stopping individuals from pursuing couples therapy? Barriers regarding the pursuit of couples therapy for relationship problems.
Maris, Ruth van
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Many couples could benefit from couples therapy, yet not everyone who needs it actually pursues it. The aim of the current study was to identify attitudinal, structural, relational and personal barriers, as well as demographical factors (i.e. age, education, children at home, relationship length, psychological distress and relational distress) that could serve as barriers to the pursuit of couples therapy among a Dutch sample. In two studies, the barriers surrounding couples therapy were examined. In Study 1, the sample existed of distressed individuals who were not in couples therapy (N = 462). Attitudinal barriers (such as: the feeling that therapy is unnecessary, the feeling of own responsibility for solving relationship problems and a lack of trust in effectiveness of couples therapy) were of most importance, regardless of sex. In Study 2, the sample existed of individuals who were in couples therapy (N = 118). The top three barriers here differed between sex. For men, the feeling of own responsibility for solving relationship problems, unfamiliarity with couples therapy and the feeling of embarrassment were most important. For women, costs, the feeling of own responsibility for solving relationship problems and the partner’s negative opinion about couples therapy were most important. Moreover, a correlation analysis revealed that evaluation of couples therapy correlated with the attitudinal barrier: no trust in effectiveness for women only. A lower trust in effectiveness was associated with a lower evaluation of couples therapy. This indicates barriers of importance differ between those in pursuit of therapy and those already in therapy and between sexes. Findings are important to future interventions.