The objectives of session 5 are the following:
To learn about automatic thoughts associated with couple conflict and parenting
To learn how to challenge automatic thoughts during potentially conflictual situations
As you learned in previous sessions, if you struggle with couple conflict and parenting you will often experience a number of negative thoughts related to certain situations. This may happen whether you’re in the situation, or simply think about it. It is important to identify these thoughts for yourself because they influence the emotions you feel and their intensity, and, in turn, your behaviors with both your partner and your children. Ultimately, your patterns of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors have either positive or negative consequences for your family life. Thus, a major key to overcoming these problems is targeting and changing your related thoughts.
Thoughts that are instantaneous and immediate in response to a situation are called automatic thoughts. Within cognitive behavioral therapy, those which are negative are often referred to as automatic negative thoughts or ANTs for short. These types of thoughts may happen so quickly that you are unaware of them. However, if you spend time thinking about what happens when conflictual family situations occur (i.e, the ANTs that you experience) you can identify these and work on changing them in the moment.
In the next section, we delve a little deeper into the nature and effect of ANTs, provide some examples related to couple conflict and parenting, and demonstrate how ANTs can be challenged.