BACKGROUND Depressed patients are often characterised by marital distress, but few studies investigate the effects of marital therapy on depressed mood and relationship dysfunction.
METHOD Twenty-seven depressed patients experiencing marital distress were randomly assigned to either individual behavioural-cognitive therapy or marital therapy. The individual treatment condition focused on depressed mood, behavioural activity and dysfunctional cognitions, whereas in the marital condition the partner was involved in the treatment and the focus was on the communication process in the marital relationship. MANOVAs revealed that treatment led to statistically significant improvements in depressed mood, behavioural activity and dysfunctional cognitions, an increase in relationship satisfaction and improvement of communication in patients and spouses. A significant interaction effect was found, showing that marital therapy had more impact on relationship variables than the individual treatment.
CONCLUSION Both individual cognitive-behaviour therapy and marital therapy lead to less depressive complaints, and both treatment conditions have a positive effect on the relationship, although the effect on the relationship is significantly stronger in couples who were tested by marital therapy compared with patients who were treated individually.