William J. Doherty, Mary Ellen Lester, Geoffrey Leigh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


This study examined interview and essay data for 50 married couples who had the most positive or most negative reactions in a larger sample of participants in Marriage Encounter weekends. We were interested in describing the experiences of couples who years later believed they were strongly helped by the program or who believed their marriages deteriorated because of the program. Content analysis of interview transcripts and written essays indicated that 7 couples experienced highly positive changes apparently related to Marriage Encounter, and that 9 couples experienced significant negative changes apparently related to Marriage Encounter. The other 34 couples were equally divided between “somewhat positives” and “neutrals.” Retrospective analysis of the condition of marriages prior to the Marriage Encounter weekend revealed that both the highly positives and the negatives were likely to report grave marital distress prior to the weekend. Based on the findings reported here, the authors suggest that distressed couples who attend Marriage Encounter weekends are susceptible to serious further deterioration. The paper concludes with recommendations for clinicians in treating Marriage Encounter casualties, and for the Marriage Encounter organization in screening participants and modifying the program to diminish the likelihood of program‐induced deterioration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-61
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of marital and family therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1986

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