Cognitive-Behavioral and Emotion-Focused Couple Therapy: Similarities and Differences


  • Guy Bodenmann
  • Mirjam Kessler
  • Rebekka Kuhn
  • Lauren Hocker
  • Ashley K. Randall


Background: Couples and families often seek therapy to deal with relational distress, which is a result of external or internal factors of the relationship. Two approaches are acknowledged to be most effective in dealing with relationship distress or psychological disorders in couples: (a) cognitive behavioral couple therapy with new directions (CBCT) and (b) emotion-focused couple therapy (EFCT). In this article we investigate how much CBCT and EFCT really differ with regard to working with emotions, which is claimed to be a major focus of EFCT, and whether there exist significant differences in efficacy between these two approaches.
Method: This article critically reviews the theoretical background, process, techniques and outcomes associated with CBCT and EFCT in an effort to challenge the assumptions noted above.
Results: There is no evidence that EFCT is more emotion-focused than CBCT. Both approaches were repeatedly examined with RCT studies with follow-ups. In sum, no significant differences in effect size were found between CBCT and EFCT.
Conclusion: CBCT and EFCT are both effective in reducing couples’ distress.