Cognitive Therapy with Couples

  • Norman Epstein


Although behavior therapists who treat distressed marriages traditionally have acknowledged that spouses’ cognitive appraisals of each other’s behavior play a role in relationship dysfunction, interventions focusing on cognitive components of relationship problems clearly have played a secondary or even a minor role in formal behavioral approaches. However, due to the influence of a general growth of interest in cognitive variables in behavioral models and to the recognition that spouses’ negative beliefs and attitudes easily can undermine even the best conceived behavior-change programs (Jacobson & Margolin, 1979), significant attention now is being paid to the development of assessment and treatment procedures for cognitive factors. In the general cognitive model, an individual’s emotional and behavioral responses to a stimulus (internal or external) are mediated by his or her perception and interpretation of the stimulus rather than elicited directly by objective characteristics of the stimulus (Beck, 1976; Meichenbaum, 1977). In an interpersonal system such as a marriage, the members of the relationship continuously provide stimuli for each other and actively construe the behaviors they exchange. Because marital satisfaction is a subjective state that is related to proportions of idiosyncratically defined pleasing and displeasing behaviors exchanged by spouses (Jacobson & Margolin, 1979; Weiss, 1978), understanding and changing a distressed relationship necessitates attention to cognitive events in the marriage.


Cognitive Therapy Marital Satisfaction Irrational Belief Marital Conflict Unrealistic Expectation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norman Epstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Cognitive TherapyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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