The emotionally distressed couple in context and as context: Exploring predictors such as socioeconomic status and emotional processes in couples therapy.

Categories: Research project

Nyhetsartikkel publisert 25/01/24

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The research project aims to explore internal and external factors, such as emotions or financial problems, that might affect the outcome of couple therapy. Do different groups have different needs in couples therapy?

Joanna Rzadkowska

Joanna Rzadkowska

Clinical psychologist


Joanna Rzadkowska is a specialist in clinical psychology with further training in emotion-focused couple therapy (EFT) and the safe trauma therapist model. Joanna’s research interests include couple and family therapy, equal health services, emotions and affective processes in therapy, treatment research, qualitative and quantitative methods and critical psychology. Her main interest concerns how poverty, socio-economic status and contextual conditions affect mental health in couples and families.

About the Project

The project aims to investigate how internal and external factors, such as emotions or financial situation, affect the outcome in couples therapy. What I am interested in is finding out how these stressors affect the couple and the family while they are undergoing treatment. How does life’s many challenges affect their therapeutic process? What happens if both partners are experiencing emotional overload and severe stress?


The aim of the project is to better understand the experiences of couples who struggle with strong stress factors in their lives, how they affect each other during the course of therapy and whether we should make adjustments to the therapy we offer, to the greater benefit of the couples in question.


The project is a doctoral project that started in 2023 and will be completed in 2026. The project has its origins in the treatment provided by the Family Unit, a department informed by the treatment approaches EFT and integrative systemic therapy (IST). The treatment given is an inpatient stay for the whole family for a duration of 10-12 weeks.


Data will be gathered through qualitative interviews and a routine outcome monitoring system (ROM) known as Modum Process Outcome Questionnaire (M-POQ), that collects data concerning symptoms, common factors (therapist-patient factors, as well as couple and family factors), in addition to emotional, therapy-specific factors.


The project is internally funded by Modum Bad.


Rzadkowska is part of the following research group:

EASIER – couples (Emotions, Attachment, Systems and Identity in Extended Residential couples treatment): Toward a greater understanding of the role of emotions in residential couples therapy.

Other members of the research group:

PhD candidate and psychology specialist Catrin Sagen.

PhD and psychology specialist Nadia Ansar.

Contact Information

Project Contact: Joanna Rzadkowska

You can also reach us through the Modum Bad telephone service: 32 74 97 00.

Project team at Modum Bad

Kristoffer J.  Whittaker, Ph.D.

Kristoffer J. Whittaker, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

Terje Tilden, Ph.D.

Terje Tilden, Ph.D.

Senior Researcher

Clinical Social Worker, Family Therapist.

Joanna Rzadkowska

Joanna Rzadkowska

Clinical psychologist


Project participants

PhD and senior researcher in couples and family therapy at Modum Bad Terje Tilden (principal investigator and main supervisor)

PhD and professor in psychology at the University of Oslo, Helene Amundsen Nissen-Lie (co-supervisor)

PhD and director of the Modum Bad Research Institute, KariAnne Vrabel (co-supervisor).

PhD-candidate and psychologist Kristoffer Whittaker (member of the project team)


Rzadkowska, J. (2023). Bokanmeldelse av Jacob B. Priest, The Science of Family Systems Theory. Fokus på Familien, 4(50), 349-354.

Rzadkowska, J. (2024). Etikkpanelet: Fattigdom som elefanten i psykologkontoret. Tidsskrift for Norsk psykologforening, 61(1), 44-47.

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