Your Marriage Counselor

How We Use Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): In Couples & Marriage Counseling

Cognitive Behavior Therapy, known as CBT, focuses on issues that a couple is facing currently. CBT does not get lost in the past but endeavors to focus on the present with a goal of building a better future. The past may be discussed or referenced, but only as much as it is necessary to understand the present. It is not dwelled on. This approach will see the counselor taking an active role to teach positive ways to relate to your partner during sessions as a trial run for using those approaches outside of therapy.

How Effective is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

CBT is a short-term therapy based on thousands of hours of research findings. Google, the internet Guru says: CBT is 50 – 75% effective.People who come to the office are very worried about the future of their relationship and they want specific tools and strategies, CBT offers them that type of therapeutic approach. It is a valuable resource that can help a couple to get past the rough spots they are struggling with.

This article will go into depth about exactly what’s involved in CBT for folks in committed relationships.

 A Dive Into CBT: We Will Explore

  • What exactly is CBT?
  • What Does CBT Do To Help A Relationship?
  • What does it focus on?
  • How does CBT actually work “it’s magic”?
  • What are the “tools” that CBT uses?

What CBT Does To Help A Relationship.

  • It identifies problems clearly
  • It teaches couples to become aware of automatic negative thoughts, which become self-fulfilling prophecies
  • It helps people distinguish between facts and irrational assumptions
  • It teaches couples how to get past negative history that affects present feelings and beliefs
  • It shows individuals how not to catastrophize
  • It teaches couples to view a situation from different points of view
  • It teaches how to understand other people’s actions and motivations
  • It helps develop a more positive way of thinking and seeing situations
  • It increases self-awareness of feelings and moods
  • It teaches people how to manage expectations
  • Couples learn not to generalize and have all-or-nothing thinking
  • Take responsibility for their action
  • CBT helps people face their fears rather than avoid them
  • People are encouraged to understand their partner rather than judge them.

 Working Definition of CBT

CBT develops goals for both individuals and for the couple. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy needs an individual’s active participation both during and between sessions. It deals with: issues, thoughts, and behaviors that are happening today.

How CBT works.

We all have stories or narratives in our head. CBT helps us to identify those stories and helps us to create new ones.  For example, you might think your partner is angry with you. Then you build a whole story around that assumption and consequently act as if they are angry with you. In reality, what is happening is that they are tired and had a bad day at work.  This is where learning communication skills can help reduce friction and help bring a couple together; for example, learning to keep communication short and focused as well as spending as much time listening as you do talking.

CBT teaches couples how to approach each other so as to minimize a defensive response so that differences of opinion become discussions, not arguments.

CBT shows couples how to get a negative message across without their partner feeling attacked. It shows people how to recognize and deal with difficult feelings like anger, rejection, and sadness. It is well constructed to help a couple get past resentment of past history, The practicing of CBT creates a close relationship, one marked by a warm friendship that is caring and respectful of each other.

 Anger Management/ Anger Reduction

When couples get to the stage of coming into my office most of them have some level of anger. Though anger is a valid and common feeling, too much of it will sabotage and stop constructive communication and will make it impossible for a couple to reconnect, so it is important that a couple learn how to deal with any anger that overshadows the connection in the relationship.

Dealing with anger is usually identified as “Anger Management” I like to think of it as “Anger Reduction” I want to focus on what needs to be done to reduce your anger, more than to help you manage your anger.

4 Important Tools of CBT

  1. Homework

Much of the work/progress of CBT is done outside of the office.  When a session ends I will give couples specially designed assignments to do between sessions. For example: Find something that you appreciate about your partner and tell them once a day. Too often couples take each other for granted, this assignment begins to encourage the positive awareness of each other.

  1. Journaling

Too often days slip by unnoticed except for negative exchanges. Even in these exchanges the couple forgets the issue but remembers the bad feelings. Journaling helps couples remember things more accurately so that strategies can be developed to deal with negative situations when they occur.  Also, journaling helps people develop insight as they have to stop and reflect to make entries in their notes.

  1. Relaxation Techniques

If folks are stressed they will probably not behave well. They are more likely to be negative, angry, or withdrawn.  Learning how to be calm is a great starting point for connecting with your partner.

  1. Increase of Emotional Intelligence.

It is helpful for a strong relationship to be emotionally intelligent; that is to be sensitive to feelings that are going on inside of ourselves and with our partner. Emotional Intelligence allows couples to learn how to handle their own impulses and how to react in a constructive way to our partner’s negative response.

Though CBT is not an answer for everyone its techniques can go a long way to help bring a couple together.