Researchers compared a ‘movie-and-talk’ condition against groups following other, more intensive forms of couples therapy, and were surprised at the results (Rogge et al., 2013).
The study’s lead author, Ronald Rogge, said:
“We thought the movie treatment would help, but not nearly as much as the other programs in which we were teaching all of these state-of-the-art skills.”
“The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships. Thus, you might not need to teach them a whole lot of skills to cut the divorce rate. You might just need to get them to think about how they are currently behaving. And for five movies to give us a benefit over three years–that is awesome.”
The benefits of this type of activity are that a marriage counsellor is not required–couples spend most of their time watching movies about relationships and talking about them afterwards.
The study compared three different marriage interventions against a control group:
- Conflict management: focuses on teaching couples active listening skills and how to slow down the pace of arguments.
- Compassion and acceptance: couples learn to appreciate their relationships more and to use language which communicates acceptance.
- Movie-and-talk: couples watched and discussed movies about relationships after receiving a 10-minute lecture on how watching couples in movies could help them pay attention to their own behaviour.
When the groups were compared over three years, all did equally well compared with a control group, in which couples divorced at twice the rate.
This was a surprise for the movie-and-talk group given that it’s not much like ‘going into therapy’.
“You might not be able to get your husband into a couples group, especially when you are happy. But watching a movie together and having a discussion, that’s not so scary. It’s less pathologizing, less stigmatizing.”
Here is Ronald Rogge talking more about the study, including clips from some of the films that were used:
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Image credit: Sam Javanrouh