Pre-congress workshop “Cognitive Behavioural Systems Approach to Couple Problems”
One of every two to three marriages end up in divorce and many other negative consequences emerge following an unsuccessful marriage. This presentation will start by discussing the differences between love and marriage and the reasons why people insist on marrying despite the high (45-50%) divorce rates. Surprisingly, following the divorce, the majority will choose to repeat the experience as the breakdown is seen as the other partner’s fault. The presentation will carry on by discussing whether the problem in a failing relationship is the number of problems or the problematic partner and what makes the distinction between happy (successful) and unhappy marriages.
Cognitive behavioural systems approach to relationship problems involves a therapeutic view to reframe the problem as a result of interaction between the partners rather than arising from one of them. This is to shift the couple’s thinking from the illness model to the interactional model. In this approach, the focus of therapist attention is the relationship rather than the individual and thus communication training, reciprocal negotiation and mutual problem solving become very important components of treatment. The workshop will progress by explaining how the therapist may at one moment be working behaviourally trying to help the couple communicate better and solve their problem directly or working at a cognitive level to teach couple to identify automatic thoughts, distorted thinking and how to modify the cognitive processes that lead partners to exhibit certain repetitive patterns of behaviour. It will also discuss the advantages of working on a systems level to explain their lack of co-operation and progress and provide meaning to what seems meaningless for the couple and therapists. Different types of couple problems demand different therapeutic skills and responses. Whatever treatment approach is used, a good assessment and formulation is of great importance for a successful interventions. Making conceptualizations, setting targets and homework assignments with the couple will also be discussed.