Using CBT Specific to Couples for Evidence-Based Treatment 

Relationships are built on trust, effort, and communication. It’s a “give and get” situation – and sometimes, you may feel like you’re giving more than you’re getting. When relationship problems come up, cognitive behavioral therapy for couples can help. 

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you run into issues during your relationship. Life changes, health issues, and other extenuating circumstances can get in the way. But, how you address and overcome these challenges is a key component for the health of your relationship going forward.

If you feel like you’re not as close as you used to be, are having more fights than normal, or see your partner suffering from a condition like addiction, reach out to the mental health and addiction specialists at South Shores Detox.

South Shores Detox offers couples therapy programs that include mental health and addiction treatment. You’ll meet with mental health professionals and groups of others to learn more about yourself, your partner, and the psychology of relationships as a whole while addressing any other issues that may be affecting your relationship.

Keep reading to learn how cognitive behavioral therapy for couples can strengthen your relationship and how South Shores can help.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that’s used to help address a wide variety of mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, depression, addiction, and marital problems. CBT focuses on changing how you think and react, allowing you to control your emotions and act less impulsively.

Your goal is to recognize distorted thoughts and unhelpful patterns of thinking, challenge your negative initial reaction, and take a step back to fully process the situation.

For couples, cognitive behavioral therapy is about improving the way you convey and receive emotions. You’ll work to better understand your partner’s intentions and how to most effectively talk to them without letting your emotions take control. CBT is an integrative behavioral couple therapy that fosters collaboration instead of conflict, preaching accountability, and listening to your loved one instead of making irrational assumptions.

CBT has been shown to benefit up to 80% of couples, making it a critical element in resolving relationship problems or strengthening communication as a whole.

What’s The Difference Between CBT and Traditional Psychotherapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy, but it takes a different approach to helping you overcome mental health issues and psychological disorders.

CBT is a short-term, emotionally-focused couple therapy that focuses on the present. It helps you prepare for future stressors by teaching you how to reframe them as they happen instead of looking at their root cause.

Traditional psychotherapy often focuses on the past, intending to discover why you think or act a certain way. It can be helpful with addressing past trauma and give you insight into current struggles, but it can take more time to see results in the present and is usually best for individual therapy programs.

Who is Couples CBT For?

Couples Therapy

You may think that couples therapy is just for partners on the verge of breaking up or divorcing. But, not everyone attends couples cognitive behavioral therapy for negative reasons.

Should You Go To Couples Therapy If Nothing Is Wrong?

Couples CBT is for anyone who actively wants to improve communication in their relationship. There may be certain sensitive topics about your future that you need to discuss, or you may just want to be sure you’re effectively communicating your feelings in a fair way that makes your partner comfortable.

Proactively attending couple therapy helps prevent problems that stem from a lack of communication or disordered thinking, makes it easier to set goals to achieve together, and shows your commitment to being the healthiest partner possible.

What Situations Can Couples Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help With?

CBT for couples is also used to help you overcome struggles in your lives and relationships. It can stem from interpersonal issues or be based on circumstances out of your control, making effective communication even more important.

Couples CBT can help with:

  • Coping With Health Issues: An unexpected diagnosis can shake the foundation of a relationship. Changes in the needs and expectations that come with chronic illness or life-threatening health problems can put a strain on a relationship, so couples therapy helps you build a plan that’s fair to both partners.
  • Grieving A Family Member: Loss can weigh heavily on you, making it hard to maintain the same relationship as before. If you or your partner are struggling to communicate while grieving, a couples therapist can help you learn how to lean on and support each other.
  • Processing Infidelity: Cheating is a violation of trust that is hard to overcome. It can change a relationship dynamic forever and turn into a blaming game, so a neutral third-party couple therapist can help you process these emotions and learn how to overcome them going forward.
  • Overcoming Past Relationship Trauma: If you’ve been in an abusive relationship in the past or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, you may react negatively to certain forms of communication or acts that aren’t meant maliciously. For example, if you use a firm tone or yell at your partner jokingly and they react by shutting down, couples therapy can help you identify what triggers that response and help them process your communication less critically.
  • Calming Anger Issues: Anger can be devastating to a relationship. Whether it’s lashing out violently or becoming verbally abusive, uncontrolled anger issues require professional help. CBT can help you or your partner learn to process the thoughts and interpretations that cause anger, which can help prevent anger and resolve it sooner.
  • Addressing Substance Use Concerns: Substance abuse takes a toll on both partners in a relationship. The constant worry about their health and safety is damaging to your mental health, so working with a therapist to identify why they’re self-medicating and how you can help gives your relationship a chance to succeed.

Most relationship issues or situations that put a strain on your relationship can benefit from the emotional regulation and communication skills learned during cognitive behavioral couples therapy.

What’s The Goal of CBT for Couples?

Goal of CBT for Couples

The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy for couples is to improve your communication and strengthen your relationship. During treatment at South Shores, you’ll work on identifying with your partner, taking their feelings into account, and controlling the way you communicate emotionally.

Seeing Each Other’s Perspective

It can be hard to put yourself into your partner’s shoes when you’re having a disagreement. However, it’s important to remember that they’re also trying to do what’s right in their mind.

Emotionally-focused therapy provides a setting where your partner can share their feelings and outline their thought process so that you can understand where they’re coming from. Putting yourself in their shoes can help prevent resentment or conflict from arising as you work together to solve problems.

Learning How to Express Your Feelings Without Negativity

Communication is about both the words you choose and the way you deliver the message. Word choice and tone can drastically change how a statement is interpreted. 

One of the most common examples of this is “I feel” statements, which qualifies your statement as expressing your feelings as an opinion instead of sounding like an accusation. “I feel like you don’t want to spend time with me” is less likely to feel confrontational when compared to “you never spend time with me” or another definitive statement.

Learning How to Control Emotional Reactions to Communication

Controlling your reaction is just as important as expressing your feelings positively. If someone insults you, it would be reasonable to get mad. However, if your reaction is to scream at them or throw a punch, especially to a partner, your response is unreasonable.

Couple therapy using CBT helps change the way you think, so you’ll be less likely to take an innocent statement seriously or misconstrue a joke when you take the time to process and challenge your immediate reactions.

What to Expect from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Couples

Expectation from CBT for Couples

Getting started with couples therapy can be intimidating. It’s not always easy to admit that you need help or talk to a stranger about your relationship. But, if you know what to expect from your sessions and how cognitive behavioral therapy for couples can help, it can make things less stressful.

Here’s what you can expect from couples CBT.

A Neutral Third-Party Facilitator

Just like in individual therapy, the couples therapists don’t pick sides or tell you what to do. They act as a third party that can remove the emotion from stressful situations and provide a fresh perspective. They’ll give you the freedom to share your feelings, explain them, and hear how your partner feels so that it becomes a conversation instead of a statement.

Guided Communication Through Arguments

If you’re having disagreements, arguments, or fights with your partner, you may not be in the mood to talk to them. But avoiding important conversations or differences in opinion because you feel differently than someone else won’t resolve the issue – it will just cause it to grow out of proportion.

A therapist can guide you through the conversation, ensuring you highlight your thoughts, feelings, reasoning, and goals relating to the argument while making it a conversation instead of a lecture. They’ll also help your partner receive your statement correctly and formulate a response to give you some insight into their thoughts.

Identifying Important Beliefs, Needs, and Expectations

Fundamental differences are a major cause of breakups and divorces. Religious beliefs, family plans, emotional support needs, financial expectations, and many other core concepts can create a rift between partners.

Attending CBT with your partner can highlight some of these essential details and help you discuss them. You’ll be able to see what you disagree on, what you need, and what you’re expected to do, making it easier to assess your compatibility going forward and identify things to work on if they’re negotiable.

Creating a Future Plan

The long-term goal of couples therapy is to build a better relationship for the rest of your lives. Once you’ve identified the core concepts and beliefs your partner holds, you can begin to plan for your future. Your therapist will likely have you set some short-term and long-term goals that you want to accomplish individually and together, in addition to creating a plan for achieving them.

By building a future plan together, you’ll be more likely to commit to completing it.

What Are The Benefits of Couples CBT?

Benefits of Couples CBT

Cognitive behavioral couples therapy has numerous benefits for both stable relationships and those that need some help.

Happier Relationships

Attending an emotionally-focused couple therapy with your partner can make you feel closer as you continue to learn more about each other, which leads to happier relationships. You’ll also know what each other values in a partner, your needs, and your expectations so you can work to fulfill them.

Improved Faithfulness

Poor communication can lead to feeling unappreciated, losing sight of the future together, and, ultimately, cheating. You can’t meet your partner’s needs if you don’t know what they are, so cognitive behavioral therapy provides an environment to share these needs and evaluate whether you’re meeting them. Then, instead of holding resentment, you can take it as an opportunity to become a better partner.

Fewer Arguments

CBT helps you and your partner to speak more respectfully and listen more actively. When you learn how to communicate effectively, there are fewer misunderstandings and emotional reactions that escalate to disagreements or arguments.

More Trust

Envisioning and building a future with your partner as part of couples CBT can help to build a closeness that improves trust. Once you know you’re in it together, you can have faith that they’re acting in your best interest.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you begin to work together as a team instead of two individuals. You’re able to overcome past experiences and build the basis for a better future together. You can align your goals, learn how to best connect with your partner, become a mindful communicator, and improve the health of your relationship while avoiding fights or arguments.

Overcome Your Relationship’s Hurdles with Couples CBT from South Shores

Overcome Your Relationship With Couple Therapy

Relationships are complex, complicated, and a lot of work to maintain. They rely on honest and effective communication between partners to build happier, healthier relationships that have the other person’s best interests in mind. But no relationship is perfect.

At South Shores Recovery, you and your partner can benefit from the insight of a mental health professional who can help improve or even save your relationship. They offer both mental health and addiction treatment programs that can help you and your partner address any substance use disorders that are impacting your relationship.

Our team will also help you improve your communication skills with collaborative therapy that utilizes cognitive behavioral therapy strategies for couples.

You can build a better future with your partner by improving as communicators. Get in touch with a care coordinator today to see how South Shores can help!


  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32031866/