CBT for Couples and Relationship Problems  - London & Sevenoaks

We provide Cognitive Behavioural couples therapy from our clinics in Sevenoaks  and London Bridge. You can also organise CBT for relationship problems with one of our forty therapists operating across London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex. CBT is a highly structured and practical approach for relationship problems and the research evidence shows that it works. To talk to one of our qualified and experienced Cognitive Behavioural Therapists about starting couples therapy, call 01732 808626 or email info@thinkcbt.com

 

What Is Cognitive Behavioural Couples Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioural Couples Therapy (CBCT) is a highly-structured approach for identifying, understanding and resolving unhealthy patterns of conflict, communication and emotional distress in close personal relationships. Unlike other forms of relationship therapy, CBCT provides an active problem solving approach to managing individual differences and developing a flexible, emotionally resilient and fulfilling partnership for the future.

 

The Benefits of Cognitive Behavioural Couples Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Couples Therapy has been shown to support improved emotional awareness, behavioural change, listening and communication skills, joint problem solving, conflict management, relationship resilience and the development of shared values.

Unlike some of the passive approaches to relationship therapy, CBCT focuses directly on the attitudes, skills, behaviours and emotional responses found in adaptive, fulfilling and resilient relationships. These benefits are not just anecdotal, extensive research conducted over the last twenty years has consistently demonstrated that CBCT can provide a practical and reliable approach for dealing with relationship disatisfaction, conflict, poor communication, emotional distress and crisis resolution in relationships.

 

How Relationship Problems Arise

Individual differences and disagreements are common in most relationships and the potential for friction and conflict is ever present. Where these relationship differences are not respectfully and assertively managed , communication breaks down, a negative emotional tone sets in and the focus shifts from partnership to resistance or withdrawal.

This can be maintained by a number of factors in the relationship. These factors include:

  • a loss of positive emotional reciprocity; caring or doing less for each other.
  • Unhelpful relationship demands or expectations from one or both partners.
  • unresolved differences in attitudes and values.
  • Communication difficulties and unhelpful communication patterns.
  • Emotional or physical abuse.
  • Resistance patterns involving cycles of persue-withdraw, attack-withdraw and withdraw-withdraw.
  • Distructive or adictive individual behaviours that damage the relationship.
  • Inappropriate relationship behaviours and infidelity.

Research by John Gottman a leading marital therapist, shows that the success or failure of a relationship can be predicted with 96% accuracy. This is based on the presence or absence of four types of hostile or destructive behaviours. These are referred to as the "Four Horses of the Apocalypse."

  • Criticism: Attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent of making someone right and someone wrong.
  • Contempt: Attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse him/her.
  • Defensiveness: Seeing one's self as the victim and continuously warding off a perceived attack.
  • Stonewalling: Withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict.

These negative cognitive, behavioural and emotional patterns are the primary reason why now almost half of all marriages / committed relationships end in divorce or separation and why it’s estimated that a third of all couple’s experience relationship distress in the first three years.

 

Where Relationships Work

Despite the high potential for conflict however, healthy relationships persist in the majority. This is based on flexibility, compromise, positive reciprocity, open communication and mutual respect for the differences that each person brings to the relationship.

Strong and enduring relationships are defined by shared personal values, a mutual understanding of each other's needs and most importantly, the willingness to negotiate, adapt, tolerate and accept individual differences.
If you want to talk to a Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist about how CBT for couples can help you to strengthen your relationship, follow this link to complete the simple contact form and we will organise a free initial telephone consultation.

You can also take our free confidential Couples Conflict Questionnaire by clicking on the following link and also the ECR-S which can be used to provide an insight into your adult attachment preferences:

Take the Free Couples Conflict Questionnaire

Take the Free Experiences and Close Relationships Scale (ECR-S)

The Cognitive Behavioural Couples Therapy Model

To help illustrate the interplay between individual, relationship and environmental factors, the CBT for couple’s model is drawn as a “butterfly” model. This shows how these interdependencies can maintain conflict and create a self-perpetuating cycle.

BUTTERFLY FORMULATION RELATIONSHIPS THINK CBT V 15.01.18CBT for couples works by identifying and altering the reaction to triggers, relationship rules, automatic thoughts, distressing feelings and destructive behaviours that maintain this cycle.

 

How the CBCT Process Works

The Cognitive Behavioural Couples Therapy process involves working on the inter-relationships between triggers, thoughts, feelings and behaviours. This is explored from three angles; the needs and expectations of each individual, external or environmental factors and the conduct of the relationship itself.


There are six steps in the CBT for couple’s process. These steps are generally applied on a sequential basis, however they can also be used to specifically focus in on and tackle specific problems.

  1. Undertaking a joint assessment to identify and acknowledge individual problems, relationship conflicts, external factors and expectations.
  2. Agreeing shared goals and values to set direction and guide future relationship changes.
  3. Using the CBT for couples model to explore the interdependencies between external factors, triggers, thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
  4. Identifying and practising new cognitive and behavioural strategies based on shared values, mutual respect, empathy, trust and tolerance.
  5. Practicing joint communication and listening skills to support positive behavioural change.
  6. Agreeing a new "relationship contract". This expresses the key principles that each partner commits to, supporting behaviour change and continuity following the completion of couple’s therapy.

 

Conditions of Engagement in Couples Work

It is essential that couples engage in relationship therapy with a view towards reaching a constructive outcome or resolution. Couples will therefore be actively encouraged to adopt a positive emotional tone by opening to mutual feedback, listening, promoting positive behaviours and tolerating differences. Relationship resilience is developed by shifting the focus from criticism, contempt, defensiveness and avoidance, to a willingness to value, respect and tolerate each other's contributions and differences.

During your couples work, you will be asked to agree a time period over which you act as if the relationship is truly valued and worth every effort to improve and save. Any question of separation is suspended until the end of this time. As the CBTC model is based on developing resilient and fulfilling relationships, our approach is focused on staying together in a healthy, fulfilling and resilient relationship.

Sometimes however, it may be more constructive for a couple to separate on a temporary or permanent basis. This is usually because abuse, hostilities, risks or incompatibilities are significant and sustained. Under these circumstances, the focus of the work will shift to mediation in the interests of a safe, healthy and constructive outcome for both individuals. This may also involve an agreed referral to another service or agency to help with this process.

If you want to talk about starting Cognitive Behavioural Couples Therapy, please contact us on 01732 808 626 or email us at info@thinkcbt.com to organise a free and confidential initial discussion. You can also find out more about our services by clicking this link.

 

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