Marital Therapy: Taxpayer Benefits

Posted on March 17, 2012


This is the final post in a series examining not only the relational benefits, but the cost benefits of marital therapy.  In previous posts we looked at the data that supported that marital satisfaction and physical and mental health are correlated.  We established that recent studies of the effectiveness of marital therapy have found 70-73% of couples reporting recovery and 90% reporting improvement.  The success of marital therapy is not related to the level of distress the couple is experiencing at the start of therapy.  There is hope for the couple coping with marital distress.  In the middle of distress, it may be difficult to remember when the relationship was good or to imagine that things can be good again.  The data would suggest that there is a very well founded hope to find closeness, satisfaction, emotional safety, and security again.  In the last posts, we looked at the cost effectiveness to the couple and to private insurers.  This post will look at the public fiscal benefit.

This is another one of those posts that needs a few disclaimers as it has the potential to evoke strong reactions.  First, this is not a political statement or treatise.  I am not weighing in on the issue of government provided health care, but rather pointing out ancillary financial benefits to taxpayers of healthy marriages.  Second, this is not a condemnation or indictment of those who have experienced divorce.  This is not an exercise in finger-pointing at those who have already endured a painful experience.  That said, are you ready?  Here we go.

Schramm (2006) provided an in depth analysis of the direct and indirect cost of divorce born by the government (and consequently, by taxpayers).  Schramm arrived at a conservative estimate of $30,000 for a single divorce.  Caldwell, Woolley, & Caldwell (2007, p. 392) posed the question: “If government paid for the screening and, where indicated, empirically supported treatment of [50,000 randomly selected married couples], would the financial benefits outweigh the costs?”  The researchers took into account screening costs, treatment costs for couples that dropout of therapy and those that complete therapy, and administrative costs.  These costs were then compared to the number of divorces prevented multiplied by the saving per divorce.  The result was “a return of $1.85 for every $1 spent on screening and empirically supported marital therapy” (p. 398).  More recent data on the effectiveness of marital therapy has demonstrated a greater effectiveness (70-73% recovery from distress) than the 53% recovery rate utilized by Caldwell, Woolley, & Caldwell.  The more recent research makes the cost benefit more pronounced.

The real “bottom line” is not the bottom line.  Bigger than any of the cost benefit analysis is the impact on lives.  Being disconnected or having a breach in one’s most intimate relationship is painful.  We are made for relationship.  Most broken relationships can be restored.  There is hope.


Caldwell, B., Woolley, S., & Caldwell. C. (2007). Preliminary estimates of cost-effectiveness for marital therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33(3), 392-405.  Retrieved April 5, 2010, from ProQuest Psychology Journals. (Document ID: 1313201091).

Schramm, D. (2006). Individual and social costs of divorce in Utah. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 27(1), 133-151.

“I work with individuals, couples, and families to help develop secure connections
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Scott Wood is a registered marriage and family therapist intern (IMF67385) and is supervised by Dr. Melinda Reinicke, Psychologist (Psy11011).