Sudden gains in treatment-as-usual couple therapy for military veterans

Brian D. Doss, Lorelei Simpson Rowe, Kathryn Carhart, Joshua W. Madsen, Emily J. Georgia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Previous studies of couple therapy have conceptualized change as a gradual process. However, there is growing evidence that, for many clients, the majority of gains in other treatment modalities are often achieved between just 2 sessions. Isolating the frequency, nature, and predictors of these sudden gains (SGs) in couple therapy can add to a growing understanding of how and why couple therapy works. In a sample of 67 couples receiving treatment-as-usual couple therapy in two Veterans Affairs hospitals, 25% of individuals experienced a SG in relationship satisfaction. The magnitude of these SGs were large (d= 1.62) and fully explained the total pre-post change for individuals who experienced them. Individuals with SGs showed significantly greater satisfaction gains during therapy; however SGs were not related to relationship satisfaction or relationship status at 18-month follow-up. SGs were predicted by the content of the previous session, putative change mechanisms of communication, intimacy, and behavior, as well as the partner's SGs during the same period. Results suggest that SGs are an important component of change during couple therapy for some individuals, challenging the assumption of continuous change in previous studies. In addition, predictors of SGs were generally consistent with theoretical and empirical examinations of mechanisms of change in couple therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-520
Number of pages12
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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