Exploring the effectiveness of couples interventions for adults living with a chronic physical illness: A systematic review

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OBJECTIVE: Partners have a significant role in a person's ability to adjust to a chronic physical illness, which warrants their inclusion in couples interventions. However to deliver more specific, tailored support it is necessary to explore which types of couples interventions are most effective across certain chronic illness populations and outcomes.

METHODS: Five databases were searched using selected terms. Thirty-five articles met the eligibility criteria for inclusion.

RESULTS: The majority of studies were from the US, and most interventions targeted cancer populSaveations. Couples interventions fell into two categories according to therapeutic approach; Cognitive Behavioural Skills Training (CBST) and Relationship Counselling (RC). When compared with a patient-only intervention or controls, CBST interventions effectively targeted behavioural, physical/somatic and cognitive outcomes, while RC more effectively targeted interpersonal outcomes.

CONCLUSION: Couples interventions can be more effective than patient-only interventions or controls across various patient and partner outcomes. Couples interventions tend to favour a skills-based or a relationship-based approach, which strongly influences the types outcomes effectively targeted.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Our findings suggest it could be therapeutically useful to integrate these two approaches to more holistically support couples living with chronic illness. We also identify the need to target understudied illness groups and ethnicities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1287
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number7
Early online date14 Feb 2017
Publication statusEarly online date - 14 Feb 2017


  • Journal Article
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