A Summary of CBFT’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Cognitive behavioral family therapy (CBFT) is the most popular treatment modality among marriage and family therapists focusing on marital problems and problem behaviors within the family (Dattilio, 2010). CBFT focuses on thoughts and behaviors, particularly by looking at how the thoughts and behaviors of one family member may influence behaviors, emotions, and cognitions in other family members.
Moreover, CBFT focuses on the core beliefs or schemas held by family members with the aim of understanding how individuals construct thoughts based on erroneous information. In so doing, cognitive behavioral therapists can help their clients to recognize errors in their thinking so that they can change their distorted beliefs and behaviors that may cause conflicts within the family (Dattilio, 2010).
The CBFT approach has contributed to the advancement of the field of family therapy by adding a couple of new components into the existing family therapy interventions. For instance, many traditional family therapists began to embrace the CBFT approach because it comprised the communication and problem-solving skills training components. These two components are very important to different family therapy interventions because they play a central role in supporting family interactions, and lack of any of these components, especially the communication component, may lead to the development of conflicts within the family (Dattilio, 2010).
Moreover, CBFT provides more comprehensive and appealing methods to most clients, particularly because the CBFT approaches enable the clients to develop effective problem-solving skills required to cope with family difficulties (Dattilio, 2010). Additionally, CBFT approaches extend the contextual factors that are considered when solving the problems facing families and couples, especially those factors that occur within the extended family as well as the workplace among other physical and interpersonal environments (Dattilio, 2010).
More importantly, CBFT is an empirically validated theoretical approach, which integrates very well with other theoretical approaches such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) among therapies. The main theoretical foundations of CBFT arise from Liberman’s and Stuart’s operant conditioning techniques as well as Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck’s theories on cognitions (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008). These early behavioral theorists take credit for developing effective ways of modifying behaviors and cognitions to resolve conflicts within the family.
More specifically, Ellis’ rational-emotive therapy (RBT) and Beck’s cognitive therapy propose that different emotional and behavioral problems observed among family members arise from the existence of dysfunctional, disruptive, or irrational cognitions (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008). Based on these two theories, it is evident that CBFT is based on specific cognitive behavioral constructs including irrationality, negative thoughts, and social problem skills, which are implicated in the development of emotional and behavioral problems (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008).
In order to address various emotional and behavioral problems within the family, cognitive behavioral therapists employ different strategies and techniques. For instance, cognitive-behavioral assessments involve functional analysis of an individual’s inner thoughts, beliefs, and expectations. Moreover, cognitive-behavioral therapists gather data on various internal experiences of their clients using self-report questionnaires, interviews, and direct behavioral observations.
On the other hand, cognitive-behavioral therapists use specific individual treatment procedures such as skills training without necessarily including other family members. However, in cases where individual treatment procedures fail, members of the extended family may be included in the therapy. This approach is effective in cases whereby the other family members help to reinforce the client’s problem behaviors (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008).
However, during therapy, the cognitive-behavioral therapist must maintain the role of working in collaboration with the client to identify pertinent issues that should be addressed. More importantly, the therapist’s role should involve encouraging the client to recognize and restructure maladaptive behaviors, perceptions, and thoughts, which might influence behavior, emotions, and thoughts among other family members (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008). Lastly, it is important to note that cognitive behavioral family therapy (CBFT) is an effective treatment approach that can be used with clients who exhibit different emotional and behavioral problems, particularly anxiety, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) among others (Dattilio, 2010).
Dattilio, F. M. (2010). Cognitive-behavioral therapy with couples and families: A comprehensive guide for clinicians. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Goldenberg, H., & Goldenberg, I. (2008). Family therapy: An overview (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.