Having “relationship problems” is very general expression, and can cover a multitude of situations and issues. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective therapy for relationship problems, and can include either individual or couples therapy.
CBT for Couples:
There are several CBT therapies for couples that are well- researched and highly effective in bringing people together, and getting past obstacles to intimacy. Through CBT, couples can improve communication, increase rewarding relationship behaviors, and reevaluate harmful assumptions that may be driving a wedge between partners.
CBT can help improve any number of relationships, including anything from interactions with casual acquaintances at work, to those with significant others, such as spouses or family members. There are a number of well-researched methods to improve the quality of relationships.
Broadly speaking relationship difficulties might include
Problems with existing relationships (including marriage).
Potential issues are complex but can include affairs, boredom, breakdowns in communication, break ups, conflict, dealing with jealousy, strongly drawn to another, emotional abuse, erectile difficulties, lack of physical or emotional intimacy, physical abuse and sexual abuse, use of pornography etc.
Problems with managing romantic relationships in general.
This can again be split into a couple of categories. Some people find it very difficult to meet potential partners. Others might find when they get into a relationship issues become apparent that make it hard for them to maintain that relationship. Individuals quite often come to therapy not being certain about the reasons why they are struggling.
For some it might be about self-confidence and esteem. Others might have had difficult experiences in the past that make it hard for them to trust. Some might be unaware of how their values and beliefs are hindering them. CBT can help bring to light whether there are underlying causes to these difficulties, whilst also assist in bringing about changes necessary to enhance people’s chances of success in the future.
CBT works to improve difficulties in relationships through looking at
- Empathy (understanding)
- Intimacy (closeness)
- Expressed affection
When couples come for CBT they are given an assessment which measures the above variables to get a clear blueprint for therapeutic treatment. The therapist first looks at what brought clients together and the first stage or honeymoon period of the relationship.
Clients become aware that there were a series of expectations which each person brought to the relationship (often unexpressed), and it is only when there is a relationship breakdown that this script or internal contract becomes apparent.
In the second stage of the assessment clients identify the presenting problems in the relationship, and five or six things they would like to change in themselves, their partner and/or the relationship. This problem list forms the basis of the aims and objectives for treatment.
The third part of the programme is to design a new marital contract in all areas of marital life i.e.: –
- household chores
- shared-child rearing
- physical intimacy
- time together
- time apart
which better reflects each partners expectations in the marriage. Each of these is negotiated between partners. Then this is drawn up as a document which both clients can refer to.