Cognitive behavioural therapy for couples

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What is cognitive behavioural therapy for couples, and how does it work?

Many couples struggle with taking the first step and finding couples therapy. You may feel nervous and unsure of what to expect – however, understanding more about the techniques commonly used can help you to feel more comfortable with what comes next.

CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is one of the most popular methods used in couples therapy. Here, we look at how CBT for couples (also known as couples behavioural therapy) works, what issues it can be useful for and what you can expect. We also address common concerns to guide you through the process of CBT for couples and help you to feel more comfortable with pursuing couples counselling.

What is cognitive behavioural therapy for couples?

Cognitive behavioural couples therapy is an approach for identifying, understanding and resolving unhealthy patterns of conflict, communication and emotional distress in close personal relationships.

CBT for couples focuses on your thoughts, and how they can impact both your emotions and your actions. Using CBT, a therapist will help you to identify negative or inaccurate thought patterns that have been learned throughout your life and aid you in replacing them with more accurate and positive thoughts. This will aim to help you develop better behavior patterns.

When this applies to couples, your therapist will support you in identifying negative thoughts and patterns that you may have towards your partner, address these and seek to help you overcome these obstacles to having a healthy relationship. This can be used as one part of an eclectic approach, which involves many different therapeutic approaches to best suit the individual needs of the couple.

A CBT technique may often be used as the primary therapy, where the main focus is working through emotions and thoughts and developing positive thought patterns.

You can find out more about cognitive behavioural therapy here.

What types of issues is couples behavioural therapy ideal for?

Cognitive behavioural therapy is especially useful for helping couples to identify and correct problematic behaviours and can be a positive part of getting past negative thought patterns about your partner. It can also be useful for exploring counter-productive triggers and beliefs that can cause conflict or defensive behaviour.

CBT can also be helpful when it comes to a lack of trust or communication issues, as it can provide tools in order to help you return the warmth and sense of intimacy to your relationship. If you are perhaps considering how your relationship and how you communicate might impact your children, this can be helped by CBT. Cognitive behavioural therapy may also help you to identify issues that might crop up later on in your relationship.

Find out more about the issues that are commonly brought up in couples therapy here.

What cognitive behavioural therapy tasks might be recommended to you by your therapist?

During therapy, one of the main facets is setting tasks – this can even be one of the most helpful parts of couples therapy. CBT tasks will typically involve identifying negative behaviours and thoughts in order to reframe these into positive thoughts and behaviour. For example, the tasks might involve acknowledging a negative thought pattern in an argument or discussion, as well as making note of when a conversation runs smoothly without these negative patterns.

Your CBT therapist may also give you some specific behaviours from your list of behavioral goals to practice and work on. For example, this could be handling a situation more calmly, or trying to understand your partner’s point of view better.

If your therapist feels it could be particularly helpful – you may also be asked to keep a relationship journal, which each partner will keep separately and then discuss with your therapist.

Remember that there is not a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to couples counselling, so your cognitive behavioural therapist will provide tasks that they feel will benefit your specific situation and problems you want to address.

Find out more about what to expect in a couples therapy session here.

How successful is cognitive behavioural therapy?

CBT is highly effective, with over 50% of patients making a noted improvement during therapy. It is important to be aware that to get the most out of your therapy, it can help to be open-minded and engage with the tasks set by your therapist. This will increase the likelihood of the therapy making a positive impact within your relationship.

Finding a couples therapist for cognitive behavioural therapy

It’s highly recommended that you choose a therapist who is experienced in couples counselling. However, bear in mind that a therapist will only offer a cognitive behavioural therapy approach if they feel this is the best choice for your specific situation. Counsellors are experienced in tailoring their approach to best fit your circumstance – so have confidence that you will be provided with the best approach for you. The British CBT and Counselling Service can offer you a wide variety of treatment options to suit your unique needs.

British CBT’s experienced psychologists, psychotherapists and therapists have experience dealing with countless different relationship issues, and will be able to suggest the best approach for you. Our psychologists have spent between seven and nine years training to enable people to overcome their emotional difficulties, and many hold senior positions in the NHS. Our online therapy enables clients to receive counselling over skype calls or other platforms, which can save you from travelling and help you fit therapy into a busy schedule. You can find out more about our relationship counselling services here.

Get in touch with us to find out how we can help

Couple undergoing cognitive therapy

Frequently asked questions

What techniques are used in cognitive behavioural therapy?

CBT is used to track your thoughts and emotions regarding hard situations in your life or relationship. You can identify which thoughts are true and which are not and can then discover new ways to frame the situation.

What are the benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy?

CBT can help you to reframe situations and understand how you have come to believe things or view things in a certain way. It can also help you to communicate more effectively in your relationship.

What is an example of cognitive behavioral therapy?

One example of CBT is role-playing a difficult conversation with your therapist that you may need to have with your partner, including likely outcomes rather than the outcomes you might assume.

What types of disorders are best treated by CBT?

The types of disorders best treated by CBT include anxiety, insomnia and depression. However, many different mental health disorders can be helped by CBT.

What happens in CBT sessions?

During your CBT sessions with your therapist, you will work to break your problems into your thoughts and feelings, how these problems impact you emotionally and physically, and how these impact your actions.

Can CBT help with trust issues?

CBT can help with trust issues by exploring which of your thoughts or assumptions are true and which are not.

What causes lack of trust in a relationship?

Lack of trust in a relationship can be caused by issues such as miscommunication, financial issues, infidelity and partners being unreliable.