Handbook of Family Therapy: The Science and Practice of Working with Families and Couples

By Thomas L. Sexton; Gerald R. Weeks et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8

Cognitive-Behavioral Couple and Family Therapy

FRANK M.DATTILIO, PhD, ABPP
Harvard Medical School

NORMAN B.EPSTEIN, PhD
University of Maryland, College Park


HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITIVE-BEHAVIOR THERAPY WITH COUPLES AND FAMILIES

Even though cognitive-behavior therapies (CBT) were initially developed to treat depression and anxiety, their application to problems with intimate relationships began over 40 years ago in writings by Albert Ellis (Ellis & Harper, 1961). Ellis and his colleagues have emphasized the important role that cognition plays in marital problems, based on the premise that dysfunction occurs when partners maintain unrealistic beliefs about their relationship and make extreme negative evaluations about the sources of their dissatisfaction (Ellis, 1977; Ellis, Sichel, Yeager, DiMattia, & DiGiuseppe, 1989). Also in the 1960s and early 1970s, behavior therapists were utilizing principles of learning theory to address individual problematic behaviors of both adults and children. Many of the behavioral principles and techniques that were used in the treatment of individuals were soon applied to distressed couples and families. For example, Stuart (1969), Liberman (1970), and Weiss, Hops, and Patterson (1973) described the use of social exchange theory and operant learning strategies to facilitate more satisfying interaction in distressed couples. Similarly, Patterson (1971; Patterson, McNeal, Hawkins, & Phelps, 1967) applied operant conditioning and contingency contracting procedures to develop parents' abilities to control the behavior of aggressive children. Later, behaviorally oriented therapists added communication and problem-solving skills training components to their interventions with couples and families (e.g., Falloon, Boyd, & McGill, 1984; Jacobson & Margolin, 1979; Stuart,

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