Whittaker et al. (2022) published a study that focused on the issue of couple therapy (CT) among people with trauma histories; Troubled Relationships Article. The purpose of the study was to increase knowledge regarding how couples with trauma histories respond to CT. Whittaker et al.’s  (2022) study was partly influenced by the results of a previous study that reported that individuals with childhood trauma benefited less from CT than individuals who lacked such trauma. The researchers asked three main research questions to better understand the research phenomenon. The first question was, “How does the participant perceive the CT outcome?” The second question was, “How does the participant perceive the collaboration with their partner and their therapist?” The third main research question was “How does the participant perceive the influence of past trauma on the therapeutic process?” The authors were trying to determine if past trauma impacted CT success and, if so, how.


The research method that Whittaker et al. (2022) selected in his work “Troubled Relationships Article” for the study was qualitative research. The researchers gathered and analyzed qualitative data. Three couples participated in the study. Thus, study data were collected from six participants. Three participants were male, and three were female. The inclusion criteria were at least one member of the couple having a history of childhood trauma and having completed CT at the Family Unit (FU). The participants gave informed consent before data collection. Whittaker et al. (2022) selected interviewing as their data collection method. They conducted in-depth interviews to access rich data to address the research issue. The procedure for data collection was gaining informed consent from the participants, scheduling a date for data collection, and finally interviewing. The researchers tape-recorded participants’ responses and transcribed the same after the interviews. The analysis of the qualitative data was done using the thematic analysis method. Whittaker et al. (2022) relied on the NVivo 12 qualitative data analysis software to analyze the gathered data.


Whittaker et al. (2022) observed quite a number of things. The observations were divided into topics, themes, and subthemes. The researchers categorized their findings into three topics. The topics are the outcome of therapy, relationships in therapy, and the impact of trauma. The themes under the outcome of therapy topic are life after therapy and coming home. The themes under relationships in therapy are emotional connection and relationship breakdown and the failure to renegotiate. The theme under the impact of trauma topic is trauma and self-knowledge.

One key finding in Troubled Relationships Article was that almost all of the participants continued to struggle after therapy. Most of the participants reported that their relationships were still difficult. Some could not talk about the issues that took them to therapy. Some participants observed that despite undergoing months of therapy, they found it challenging to discuss their futures. Most of the couples also experienced relational breakdown issues despite undergoing therapy. Most couples also reported having trouble renegotiating after relational breakdowns. Some participants reported that they felt responsible for their relational breakdowns or inability to re-establish their relationships. Others reported not knowing how to deal with relational breakdowns. Some participants reported that anger issues impacted their relationships. Given that almost all the participants experienced relationship issues even after CT, it is quite clear that such therapy did not work for them.


The researchers set out to investigate how couples with trauma histories responded to CT. After analyzing and reporting the study’s findings, they observed no apparent improvement in family functioning after CT. The therapy did not help the participants better manage their relationships. Whittaker et al. (2022) argued that the outcome of their study confirmed the findings of a previous study which stated that people with histories of childhood trauma did not benefit from CT. Despite arguing that CT did not help improve relational functioning among the participants, the researchers observed that it had some positive effects, like improving communication and providing participants with better strategies for handling mental distress. Whittaker et al. (2022) appealed to previous research to explain how past trauma negatively affects relational functioning. They cited studies that reported that issues like lack of trust and poor coping strategies among people with past trauma contributed to relational difficulties.


The study has implications for CT involving one or both members of a couple with past trauma. Current CT interventions are hardly effective in dealing with individuals with past trauma. Clinicians should use the study’s findings to develop better strategies for dealing with individuals with past trauma. Individuals with past trauma issues need more help dealing with relational difficulties as such trauma often negatively affects their relationships. Hence, urgent need for more effective strategies for helping such people. The study also has implications for future studies focusing on the connection between past trauma and relationships. The study will inform the development of hypotheses in such studies.


Whittaker et al. (2022) gave several recommendations following their study. One recommendation is that better CT intervention strategies for individuals dealing with past trauma should be developed. Another recommendation is that therapists should be vigilant not to take sides in CT involving one or two people with past trauma. Taking sides will highly likely diminish the likelihood of success. Whittaker et al. (2022) also recommended adequate post-CT follow-ups for couples where one or both members have past trauma. Such follow-ups would help maintain positive gains made in therapy. The researchers also recommended further research on the subject to better understand why past trauma negatively affects CT outcomes.


Whittaker, K. J., Stänicke, E., Johnson, S. U., Solbakken, O. A., & Tilden, T. (2022). Troubled Relationships: A Retrospective Study of How Couples with Histories of Trauma Experience Therapy. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 1-23. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332691.2022.2053262


  1. Purpose – state clearly the author’s/researcher’s purpose or objective(s) of the article or research, what he/she is attempting to accomplish, and what is the specific question or problem that is being addressed.
  2. Method (research articles only) – state clearly the methodological procedures used by the researcher(s) to collect data indicating participants i.e., the sex, age, race /culture/ or ethnicity and the number of persons studied, procedure, and instruments employed to gather and analyze information.
  3. Results: Succinctly state what the researchers discovered, revealed, uncovered or found as a result of their investigation. This information is usually found under the article’s subheading of findings or results.
  4. Discussion: Review the investigator’s intent/purpose of the study and provide an overview of how the central or major elements, variables or hypotheses were researched or handled. For an example of how a discussion section is developed, please review the discussion section of the research article.
  5. Implications: Your implications should address how the results of the study would impact on the role of counselors, the counseling relationship and/or counseling approaches.
  6. Recommendations: The recommendations simply state what is being suggested for further or future study as a result of the study’s limitations, focus, research variables
Troubled Relationships Article

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