Next up as we work our way through the ASWB exam content outline: Couples interventions and treatment approaches. Some--but not all--of this is likely familiar material. Let's review and then take a look at how the topic may look on the social work licensing exam.

Working with Couples

Social workers see couples to address communication problems, conflict resolution, intimacy issues, and other challenges in their relationship. Couples therapy often utilizes techniques such as active listening, role-playing, and homework assignments to help couples develop healthier patterns of interaction. ere are some common interventions and approaches:

  • Imago Relationship Therapy: Developed by Harville Hendrix, Imago therapy emphasizes the connection between childhood experiences and adult relationships. Couples explore their unconscious relationship patterns and learn techniques to enhance empathy, communication, and understanding within the relationship. More about Imago therapy.

  • Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT): EFT is a popular approach in couples therapy that focuses on understanding and reshaping emotional responses within the relationship. It aims to help partners identify and express their underlying emotions and attachment needs, fostering greater empathy and connection between them. More about EFT.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): While traditionally used for individual therapy, CBT can also be adapted for couples work. This approach helps couples identify and challenge negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to relationship distress. Couples learn to replace harmful communication patterns with more constructive ones and develop strategies to manage conflicts effectively. More about CBT with couples.

  • Solution-Focused Therapy: This brief and goal-oriented approach focuses on identifying and amplifying the strengths and resources within the relationship. Couples are encouraged to envision their preferred future and work collaboratively to identify practical solutions to their current challenges. More about Solution-Focused Therapy with couples

  • Narrative Therapy: Narrative therapy views problems within the relationship as separate from the individuals involved. Couples explore the stories they tell themselves about their relationship and are empowered to rewrite these narratives in a way that promotes growth and positive change. More about Narrative Therapy with couples

  • Gottman Method Couples Therapy: Developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, this evidence-based approach emphasizes building friendship, managing conflict, and creating shared meaning within the relationship. Couples learn specific skills and strategies based on extensive research into the factors that contribute to relationship success. More about the Gottman Method

  • Mindfulness-Based Approaches: Techniques drawn from mindfulness practices can help couples cultivate awareness, presence, and acceptance in their relationship. Mindfulness exercises can promote emotional regulation, reduce reactivity, and enhance overall relationship satisfaction.

  • Family Systems Theory: This theoretical approach views the couple as part of a larger system, including families of origin and broader social networks. Social workers may explore how family dynamics and intergenerational patterns influence the couple's relationship and work to address systemic issues. More about Family Systems via the Bowen Center

  • Psychoeducation: Providing couples with information about healthy communication, conflict resolution, and relationship dynamics can empower them to make positive changes in their relationship. 

Social workers typically integrate elements from multiple approaches based on the unique needs and preferences of the couple. 

On the Exam

Questions about couples therapy are likely to be both in vignette and more direct form. Something like this:

  • Which of the following is an important consideration for a social worker when conducting an initial assessment with a couple seeking therapy?
  • A social worker is providing couples therapy to a married couple. During an individual session, one partner reveals instances of infidelity. The other partner is unaware of these actions. What is the social worker's ethical obligation in this situation?
  • When developing a treatment plan for couples therapy, what should be prioritized?

Get questions like these about this topic and the wide range of ASWB exam topics when you sign up for SWTP's full-length practice tests.

Let's Go.

March 7, 2024
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