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Undoubtedly, most couples experience challenges and difficulties in their relationships or marriages. 

Despite the initial euphoria and love, relationships can become strained over time due to factors such as communication breakdown, financial stress, infidelity, and differing life goals. 

The American Psychological Association estimates that around 40-50% of initial marriages result in divorce. 

While it’s natural for couples to experience these ups and downs, investing in actively nurturing and sustaining the marriage is crucial. 

For this purpose, couple therapy can be incredibly beneficial for couples experiencing difficulties or challenges within their relationships. 

One of the forms of therapy couples could invest in is cognitive-behavioral couple therapy. The American Psychological Association estimates that around 40-50% of initial marriages result in divorce. 

Read on to learn more about cognitive behavioral couple therapy techniques.

Start your therapeutic journey by connecting with one of the numerous qualified therapists on BetterHelp

These counselors have professional experience in using standard clinical approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy, emotional-focused therapy, and other forms of therapy. 

Cognitive Behavioral Couple Therapy (CBCT) aims to tackle relationship distress by targeting detrimental thought patterns and behaviors. 

It is a structured and goal-oriented approach that combines cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) elements with techniques specifically tailored for couples. 

CBCT aims to identify and challenge these negative thought patterns, helping couples develop more realistic and constructive ways of thinking about their relationship.

Cognitive Behavioral Couple Therapy Techniques

Sad-Couple

Cognitive Behavioral Couple Therapy (CBCT) utilizes various techniques to address dysfunctional thinking, negative attitudes, and emotional experiences within a relationship.

The methods focus on modifying cognitive distortions to tap into the emotional exchange between partners. Here are some key techniques used in CBCT:

Techniques Used

1. Modifying Cognitive Distortions: CBCT focuses on identifying and modifying cognitive distortions, such as negative and unrealistic attitudes towards the partner, to address their impact on emotional experiences and behaviors within the relationship.

2. Behavioral Interventions: Therapists use behavioral interventions to help couples change problematic behaviors and learn to accept each other’s behaviors that have been sources of conflict. 

This combination of acceptance and change strategies aims to effectively enhance intimacy and resolve differences.

3. Identifying Unhelpful Patterns of Behavior: CBCT teaches individuals to identify unhelpful behavior patterns and develop new, more effective responses within the relationship.

4. Emotion-Focused Techniques: Therapists can access repressed or minimized emotions by encouraging partners to describe specific experiences in detail, using reflections or questions, and normalizing the expression of positive and negative emotions. 

This approach aims to help partners care for and support each other when expressing emotions.

Outcomes

Cognitive-behavioral couple therapy interventions have been shown to have several outcomes and benefits for couples experiencing relationship distress and psychological disorders. 

Here are the key outcomes of using cognitive behavioral couple therapy interventions:

1. Alleviating Relationship Distress: CBCT has strong empirical support for alleviating relationship distress. 

It effectively improves relationship functioning and addresses dysfunctional thinking and information processing that impact emotional experiences and behaviors within the relationship.

2. Effectiveness Across Psychological Disorders: When tailored to specific issues, CBCT matches or surpasses the efficacy of one-on-one cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for various psychological conditions. 

It frequently proves more impactful, particularly when significant others actively participate in treatment.

3. Unique Added Benefit: Couple-based interventions have the unique added benefit of improving relationship functioning. 

This suggests that CBCT addresses individual psychological issues and contributes to the relationship’s overall health.

4. Enhanced Effectiveness: Studies have shown that cognitive-behavioral couples therapy is effective about 75% of the time, which is higher than the effectiveness of traditional couples therapy.

Emotion-Focused Couple Therapy: Addressing Emotional Issues

Emotion-Focused Couple Therapy (EFCT) is a humanistic, evidence-based approach to psychotherapy that draws primarily from attachment theory to facilitate secure, vibrant connections with self and others. 

It’s crafted to tackle difficulties within adult intimate relationships, earning acclaim for its remarkable success rates, particularly in couples therapy, reliably producing enduring positive results. 

The approach is based on the premise that human emotions are connected to human needs and that emotions have an innately adaptive potential that, if activated and worked through, can help people change problematic emotional states and interpersonal relationships.

Moreover, this couple therapy is structured to work on identity issues and self-regulation before changing negative interactions. 

This brief therapy seeks to enhance couple connections by reigniting the physical and emotional bonds often strained by disappointment and detachment, typical in troubled relationships. 

Emphasizing emotional experiences and reactions, it draws from attachment theory, highlighting the significance of interpersonal connections for feelings of security and growth.

Techniques Used

The techniques used in Emotion-Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) are collaborative, respectful of clients, and focused on shifting blame for the couple’s problems to negative patterns between them instead of individual partners. 

These techniques, developed by Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg in the 1980s, help couples regain their closeness and strengthen their bonds by tapping into the innate power of emotions and motivations for connection. 

Here are some key techniques used in EFT:

1. Normalizing Experiences and Self-Disclosure: EFT involves normalizing the clients’ experiences and using self-disclosure cautiously to avoid oversharing and damaging the therapeutic alliance.

2. Coaching in Expression of Attachment Needs and Emotions: Partners are coached in expressing attachment needs and emotions while learning to discuss issues likely to cause conflict.

3. New Communication Styles and Solutions: The therapist coaches the couple to use new communication styles to discuss old problems and develop new solutions.

4. Practice and Gradual Exploration: EFT is a process-oriented approach that encourages partners to gradually taste and savor their relational experience, exploring the power of attachment longings and strivings.

5. Open Discussion of Fears and Attachment Needs: Under the therapist’s direction, couples learn to openly discuss their fears and identify the attachment needs that drive their negative patterns.

Outcomes

Emotion-Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) has demonstrated numerous positive outcomes for couples, supported by extensive research findings. 

First, it enhances attachment and bonding in adult relationships, fostering stronger emotional connections and improving marital adjustment, even in couples facing challenges like infertility. 

Second, EFT contributes to better marital adjustment and overall quality of life, particularly evident in infertile couples navigating marital conflicts, resulting in improved communication and emotional security. 

Also, the therapy effectively reduces distress within relationships and facilitates more successful partner interactions, with its beneficial effects persisting long after treatment concludes.

Comparing the Similarities and Differences of Both Approaches

Though they employ distinct methodologies, cognitive behavioral couple therapy (CBCT) and emotion-focused couple therapy (EFCT) aim to enhance relationship dynamics and functioning. 

Both therapies prioritize addressing present issues and fostering communication, understanding, and problem-solving within the relationship rather than delving extensively into the past. 

Emphasizing active participation from both partners, CBCT and EFCT acknowledge the collaborative nature of relationships, encouraging shared responsibility and commitment to the therapeutic process to achieve common goals.

Efficacy of CBCT & EFCT 

While CBCT focuses on improving communication and problem-solving by understanding the interplay between partners’ cognitions, behaviors, and emotions, EFCT emphasizes emotional expression, regulation, and processing to establish a secure bond and address emotional wounds within the relationship. 

Despite claims of EFCT’s emphasis on emotions, the evidence doesn’t significantly support its superiority over CBCT. 

Research suggests CBCT’s long-term efficacy, with an effect size slightly surpassed by Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy (ICBT), indicating its effectiveness in improving relationship outcomes over time (Christensen & Glynn, 2019).

List of Well-Known Couples Therapists

therapy

Regarding well-known couples therapists, several prominent figures in the field have made significant contributions to couples therapy. 

Here are a few notable names you can find on reputable platforms like BetterHelp:

1. Beth Stratton, LCSW-R

Beth Stratton is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-R) holding license number 074164 in New York. 

With over two decades of professional expertise, she excels in supporting individuals dealing with depression, stress, anxiety, and relationship hurdles and navigating through grief and loss. 

Additionally, she dedicates her expertise to addressing guilt and shame, managing panic disorder and panic attacks, overcoming post-traumatic stress, fostering self-love, addressing women’s issues, and resolving workplace-related challenges.

2. Julie Aquilato, LCSW

Julie Aquilato, LCSW, NY LCSW 048566, brings over 30 years of therapeutic expertise to her practice. 

She graduated from New York University in 1992 and has extensive experience across various disciplines. 

Having earned the ‘R’ designation, signifying advanced post-master’s training, she, as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, has completed six years of supervised practice under an LCSW. 

This qualifies her to bill under Medicare and Medicaid. She specializes in addressing stress, anxiety, relationship dynamics, grief, intimacy, and depression. Julie also offers support in LGBTQ+ issues, family conflicts, trauma recovery, and lots more.

3. Nendler “Dee” Michel, LCSW

Nendler “Dee” Michel, LCSW, is a licensed clinical therapist and a credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor. 

With over 25 years of experience in the human service field, Dee employs a diverse range of therapy styles. 

Drawing from motivational conversation techniques and life coaching skills, Dee creates a personalized approach for each individual. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is utilized to help clients shift their perspectives, while elements of mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation are incorporated to foster self-improvement in a supportive environment.

4. Georgina Cortez, LMFT

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with License: CA LMFT 113275 in California, Georgina Cortez has over a decade of experience offering direct mental health and behavioral counseling. 

Her practice spans individuals aged 5 to adult, addressing a diverse range of concerns such as parent-child dynamics, anxiety, depression, adjustment disorders, and self-care.

Also, she integrates elements from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Person-Centered Therapy into my therapeutic style and approach.

5. Henry Venter, Psychologist

Dr. Henry Venter, a seasoned psychologist holding a license PSY18428 in California, boasts over 25 years of expertise in the field. 

Specializing in a variety of areas, including LGBT concerns, family conflicts, intimacy-related issues, parenting challenges, anger management, career hurdles, depression, and coping with life transitions, he offers comprehensive support to his clients. 

Also, Dr. Venter employs a range of clinical approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Attachment-Based Therapy, Client-Centered Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT), Existential Therapy, and Jungian Therapy. 

He is fluent in English and Afrikaans and ensures effective communication and understanding with his diverse clientele.

6. Lynnetta Hawkins

Lynnetta Hawkins with CA LMFT 93110, earned her Master’s degree in 2012 from the University of Phoenix and is currently finalizing her AASECT certification in sex therapy through The Buehler Institute. 

With over 12 years of experience, she has worked with diverse populations, specializing in assisting individuals, couples, and families in overcoming various challenges. 

Additionally, she has extensive experience aiding individuals and couples with sex-related issues such as non-traditional relationships, kink, and painful sex, as well as addressing relationship obstacles. 

Her clinical approaches include Client-Centered Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Mindfulness Therapy. 

Throughout her 12 years in practice, she has focused on areas including stress, anxiety, intimacy, self-esteem, motivation, bipolar disorder, and depression. 

Furthermore, she specializes in addressing addictions, LGBT issues, relationship conflicts, family dynamics, trauma and abuse, eating disorders, parenting challenges, and anger management.

FAQ’s:

What are the three pillars of CBT?

1. Cognitive Restructuring: CBT focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and cognitive distortions.
2. Behavioral Experiments: CBT utilizes behavioral experiments to test and identify negative thought patterns.
3. Problem-Solving Skills: CBT emphasizes the development of problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations.

Who should not use CBT?

CBT may not be recommended for individuals who:
1. Are diagnosed with severe mental health conditions that require immediate medical intervention and stabilization.
2. Are unable or unwilling to engage in the active participation and collaboration required for CBT.
3. Have cognitive or intellectual impairments significantly limiting their ability to engage in CBT’s cognitive restructuring and problem-solving aspects.

Can CBT help with cheating?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be beneficial for addressing relationship issues, including those related to trust and infidelity.
CBT can help individuals and couples address underlying cognitive and behavioral patterns that contribute to relationship challenges, such as insecurity, communication difficulties, and trust issues. 

Does CBT include family?

CBT can be adapted to include family members in the therapeutic process, particularly in the context of addressing family dynamics and interpersonal relationships

Emma Loker

I attribute my extensive knowledge to a 1st Class Honours degree in Psychology and my current studies to become a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist at the University of Cambridge.

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