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Social Work Families
by
Heather Coleman

Introduction

This entry identifies family resources with reference to social work family theories. Given the multidisciplinary work in family therapy, this entry also includes works from related disciplines. Social work’s involvement with families has taken two paths, creating the necessity to present resources from both categories. The first category falls under what is known as family casework, family social work, or home-based family services, which unfold in the home and community of families facing ecological challenges. The second path is family therapy that occurs in offices and focuses on internal family dynamics. Social workers in both streams draw from similar family theory; however, family social work also integrates ecosystems theory. The origins of family social work can be traced to Mary E. Richmond, who advocated for a family approach. In the late 1950s allied disciplines took an interest in families of schizophrenics and developed family therapy as a method of intervention. Since then family therapy has undergone an enormous evolution, and ideas have been cumulative. Social workers have worked alongside allied disciplines, making it difficult to delineate social works’ stand-alone contributions.

Textbooks

Several textbooks introduce family social work and family therapy. Some texts overview family theory, while others integrate ecological and family systems theory. Nichols and Schwartz 2009 is an excellent graduate-level text that covers the major concepts of family therapy and traces the evolution of family therapy thinking. Becvar and Becvar 2009 is also a good text that can be used in both undergraduate and graduate classes. Those desiring a practical book with many exercises and a unique approach to diversity should refer to Coleman, et al. 2005. Collins, et al. 2009; Hull and Mather 2006; Kilpatrick and Holland 1995; Van Hook 2008; and Yanca and Johnson 2008 all approach family social work from a generalist perspective and are suitable for undergraduates.

  • Becvar, Dorothy Stroh, and Raphael J. Becvar. 2009. Family therapy: A systemic integration. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon/Pearson.

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    Can be used in either undergraduate or graduate classes. It uses a contextual approach to working with families and presents a range of family systems concepts and postmodern approaches. Students who use this book would benefit from having a generalist background in families.

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  • Coleman, Heather, Don Collins, and Tara Collins. 2005. Family practice: A problem-based learning approach. Peosta, IL: Eddie Bowers.

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    Presents key family concepts while showing how to use a problem-based learning (PBL) approach to learn about family social work in the classroom. It is designed as an undergraduate text and has many exercises and case studies to illustrate concepts. The chapter on diversity differs from other books that use a checklist approach.

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  • Collins, Donald, Catheleen Jordan, and Heather Coleman. 2009. An introduction to family social work. 3d ed. Florence, KY: Cengage.

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    This generalist family book is aimed at undergraduates and places family functioning within an ecological and strengths-based approach. Students will focus on the stages of work, using family systems theory as a foundation. It also presents an integrated approach to family work from major schools of family theories.

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  • Hull, Grafton H., and Jannah Mather. 2006. Understanding generalist practice with families. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks Cole.

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    A good undergraduate textbook designed to ground students in a theoretical foundation of basic family intervention, walk them through the stages of working with families, and help them understand the social policies that affect families.

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  • Kilpatrick, Allie C., and Thomas P. Holland. 1995. Working with families: An integrative model by level of functioning. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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    This is a good textbook for family social workers. It classifies families according to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and advocates for an ecosystemic and integrated approach.

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  • Nichols, Michael P., and Richard C. Schwartz. 2009. Family therapy: Concepts and methods. 8th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon/Pearson.

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    An excellent graduate-level book that situates major concepts within historical and current family therapy theories. Recent editions acknowledge social work’s contribution. The book depicts family therapy as a rich and vibrant field and traces evolutionary shifts in thinking over the last sixty years of the 20th century.

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  • Van Hook, Mary Patricia. 2008. Social work practice with families: A resiliency-based approach. Chicago: Lyceum.

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    Covers the major bodies of family therapy, articulating resilience and strengths-based family practice as a foundation. Both graduate and undergraduate students would benefit from using the book as a text.

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  • Yanca, Stephen J., and Louise C. Johnson. 2008. Generalist social work practice with families. Boston: Allyn and Bacon/Pearson.

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    A good undergraduate text that is grounded in generalist practice and promotes the use of ecosystems theory and ethnically sensitive practice with families. Case studies effectively illustrate key concepts.

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Reference Resources

Many excellent reference resources are available for family therapy and social work family practice. von Bertalanffy 1968, Bronfenbrenner 1981, Haley 1971, and Richmond 1965 are classics that offer a conceptual foundation of present family approaches. For example, students are referred to the classic work von Bertalanffy 1968 for a presentation of the conceptual basis of family systems theory. Students of family social work will recognize the ecological approach embedded in Bronfenbrenner 1981. Those interested in the rich social work history of family work should refer to Richmond 1965, which contains concepts that are only now appearing in other disciplines. Coontz 2000 is recommended for deconstructing social attitudes toward families, while Haley 1971; Piercy, et al.1996; and Sexton, et al. 2003 will connect students with seminal family therapy thinking. Walsh 2003 rounds out the list by moving family work into more positive territory by framing diversity as positive.

  • Bronfenbrenner, Urie. 1981. The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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    This landmark work places child development within family and larger ecosystems by showing how children and families are embedded within a larger social context. It provides a rationale and a foundation for ecological family social work practice.

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  • Collins, Don, and Karl Tomm. 2009. Karl Tomm: His changing views on family therapy over 35 years. Family Journal 17.2: 106–117.

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    A fascinating interview with Karl Tomm discussing the evolution of and influences on family therapy from 1969 to the present. It would appeal most to graduate students and practicing family therapists.

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  • Coontz, Stephanie. 2000. The way we never were: The American family and the nostalgia trap. New York: Basic Books.

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    Offers a refreshing viewpoint on families that unmasks the rhetoric behind “family values.” The author challenges family politics and shifts oppressive attitudes. Readers’ thinking will be challenged by diverse viewpoints and impeccable research that place problems of families in social, political, and economic contexts.

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  • Haley, Jay, comp. 1971. Changing families: A family therapy reader. New York: Grune and Stratton.

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    To understand the foundation of family therapy, students should read this compilation of seminal thinking featuring original journal articles and papers written by pioneering family therapy leaders. Chapters are presented in chronological order, revealing the evolution of ideas. Most chapters focus on techniques, and after reading this book, readers will understand the underpinnings of family therapy practice.

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  • Piercy, Fred P., Douglas H. Sprenkle, and Joseph L. Wetchler. 1996. Family therapy sourcebook. 2d ed. New York: Guilford.

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    Provides a comprehensive overview of the various schools of family therapy. Although a secondary source, it is well written and consistently organized, with each chapter on a specific school containing sections on history, clinical skills, and an annotated bibliography. Sections on key concepts provide definitions of some complex terms.

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  • Richmond, Mary E. 1965. Social diagnosis. New York: Free Press.

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    Originally published in 1917. Social workers who read this seminal work develop pride in their professional heritage and understand the seeds of modern family thinking, particularly family systems and ecological theories. Richmond was ahead of her time, suggesting that, even when working with individuals, the social worker’s influence extends to the family and that the family will affect the outcome of the work.

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  • Sexton, Thomas, Gerald Weeks, and Michael Robbins, eds. 2003. Handbook of family therapy: The science of working with families and couples. New York: Routledge.

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    The strength of this graduate-level reference resource is its comprehensiveness. It covers historical and recent family therapy theory and simultaneously covers theory, research, and practice issues.

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  • Von Bertalanffy, Ludwig. 1968. General system theory. New York: Braziller.

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    This classic book was the catalyst behind the adaptation of social systems theory to family systems theory. This book will help readers understand the genesis of family systems theory and could be used as an initiation to the field of family work and family therapy.

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  • Walsh, Froma, ed. 2003. Normal family processes: Growing diversity and complexity. 3d ed. New York: Guilford.

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    Offers a balanced perspective on families by departing from the pathologizing of many other resources. Walsh and colleagues take a refreshing look at normal and healthy families within the context of structural, sociocultural, and developmental diversity. Congruent with social work’s valuing of diversity, the book will stimulate an attitudinal shift to discover that health and normalcy can be found in diverse family experiences.

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Manuals and Guides

A number of manuals and guides are available for use by practitioners or families. Some manuals will assist social workers in planning interventions and writing reports. Some manuals, such as Bloomquist 2005 and Lock, et al. 2002, target specific areas and provide exercises and concepts for use with families in an easy-to-understand presentation. Foster 1993 is family focused and is a self-help manual for use by families. Burghuis and Jongsma 2004 and Dattilio and Jongsma 2000 are intended as guides for designing and writing up interventions.

  • Bloomquist, Michael L. 2005. Skills training for children with behavior disorders. New York: Guilford.

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    An invaluable manual for designing interventions with families who have “struggling” children. It demystifies behavioral intervention with children, utilizes a concrete, clear approach to working with children and families, and provides structured exercises for working with families.

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  • Burghuis, David J., and Arthur E. Jongsma Jr. 2004. The family therapy progress notes planner. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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    This workbook provides directions for writing progress notes. It is designed to accompany Jongsma and Dattilio 2000 and contains suggestions on writing case notes congruent with the treatment plan.

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  • Dattilio, Frank M., and Arthur E. Jongsma Jr. 2000. The family therapy treatment planner. New York: Wiley.

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    A useful guide designed to help plan family intervention. The book will help users develop focused formal treatment plans for relationship difficulties in families.

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  • Foster, Carolyn. 1993. The family patterns workbook. New York: Tarcher Perigree.

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    A workbook aimed at helping families work through family issues. It contains exercises accompanied by a simple explanation of family concepts. It is more of a self-help book than a book that can be taken into therapy.

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  • Lock, James, Daniel Le Grange, W. Stewart Agras, and Christopher Dare. 2002. Treatment manual for anorexia nervosa: A family-based approach. New York: Guilford.

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    The authors walk the reader through a step-by-step approach to family involvement in working with eating disorders. Of particular benefit is the explanation of the rationale for the approach and how to work with eating disorders.

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Journals

Many high-quality journals are available. Some, such as Family Process and the Family Therapy Networker, are multidisciplinary, contain cutting-edge discussions, and focus on family therapy. Journals from social work, such as Families in Society, Child and Family Social Work, and the Journal of Family Social Work, are more likely to focus on a combination of broad ecological and internal issues affecting families. The Family Preservation Journal focuses on one type of family casework, family preservation, designed to keep families together.

Therapy with Impoverished and Multiproblem Families

The books in this category draw from social work’s rich historical tradition of working with poor and disadvantaged families. They differ from family therapy texts by including a balanced focus on working with both ecological issues and family dynamics. Geismar and La Sorte 1964, while older and often not well known to social workers, offers a solid foundation for work with multiproblem families today. Wood and Geismar 1989 is a classic that provides a solid conceptual and empirical foundation. Hartman and Laird 1983 marks a shift in social work thinking that had preoccupied the profession for a number of decades and stemmed the tide of the focus on individuals by shifting social work back to a focus on families. Minuchin, et al. 2006, although not social work specific, is unique in that it weaves into family practice working with family-serving institutions. Garbarino 1992 does a good job of incorporating Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecosystems theory into work with children and families.

  • Aponte, Harry J. 1994. Bread and spirit: Therapy with the new poor. New York: Norton.

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    This book will enlighten students who have little experience working with low-income and underorganized families. It underscores the necessity of understanding oppressive living conditions and advocating for strengths-based and structural approaches. It is also a useful resource to help those new to the field understand diverse client families.

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  • Garbarino, James. 1992. Children and families in the social environment. 2d ed. New York: Aldine Transaction.

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    An easy-to-read book targeting undergraduates that blends child development with ecosystems theory within a family context. It is user-friendly and includes research on each layer of the ecosystem, building upon Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecosystems theory. It takes a humane approach to working with families at every level of the ecosystem.

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  • Geismar, Ludwig L., and Michael A. La Sorte. 1964. Understanding the multi-problem family: A conceptual analysis and exploration in early identification. New York: Association Press.

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    Provides a solid foundation for working with multiproblem families. It has a strong research base, compares stable and multiproblem families, and presents factors associated with family disorganization. While published forty-five years ago, the concepts presented remain relevant.

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  • Hartman, Ann, and Joan Laird. 1983. Family-centered social work practice. New York: Free Press.

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    A classic that would appeal to all levels of students as well as practitioners. It sets family-centered practice within a systems framework while assuming an ecological perspective. The book makes good use of diagrams and does a good job of integrating theory with the practicalities of assessment and intervention.

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  • Kaplan, L. 1986. Working with multiproblem families. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

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    A practical book that examines ecological and family systems theories and related skills pertinent to multiproblem families. It has a good section isolating the skills needed to work with complex families. The concepts of family strengths and collaboration have been around for decades, keeping this book relevant.

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  • Madsen, William C. 2007. Collaborative therapy with multi-stressed families. New York: Guilford.

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    A practical and clearly written book about working with families in crisis that “speaks to” readers. The strength of the book is its emphasis on collaboration with families while advocating for a narrative and strengths-based approach.

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  • Minuchin, Patricia, Jorge Colapinto, and Salvador Minuchin. 2006. Working with families of the poor. 2d ed. New York: Guilford.

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    A good undergraduate resource that describes how to work with poor families who are experiencing multiple crises. It differs from other books in this genre in that it looks at institutions and systems of care, particularly focusing on foster care, mental health issues, and substance abuse. The book makes good use of case studies.

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  • Wood, Katherine M., and Ludwig L. Geismar. 1989. Families at risk: Treating the multiproblem family. New York: Human Sciences.

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    This classic work blends theory with practice with multiproblem families. It contributes to the field by balancing research and practice and building on early social work theories. The uniqueness of the book is its critique of the traditional social work approach to the multiproblem family and the provision of practice principles.

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Models of Family Therapy

This section examines the collaboration of social work and allied disciplines since the 1950s and breaks down the major schools of family therapy since then. Because family therapy entered a renaissance between 1975 and 1985, many selections are old but are classical original works. By referring back to the original references, readers will appreciate the evolutionary and cumulative nature of family theory, particularly how each emergent school is differentiated primarily by nuances. While many available books are secondary sources of classic works, it is important to refer to original sources to synthesize them rather than allow others to filter the ideas. Because social workers worked collaboratively with other disciplines, discipline-specific boundaries cannot be made. However, family systems theory is the unifying theory of most family interventions.

Psychoanalytic Family Therapy

While some might question the logic behind tracing family theory so far back, developing a comprehensive understanding of family theory necessitates an understanding of psychoanalytic family theory, which originated to explain the link between schizophrenia and family dynamics, particularly communication and relationships. Tracing early theory can aid students in understanding the social construction of theories and therefore contain biases and shortcomings. Readers will also discover that some current concepts are rooted in early theory. Understanding these issues will foster critical thinking in the classroom about current theories. Early works, such as Lidz, et al. 1965 and Wynne, et al. 1958, focused on family dynamics as they pertained to schizophrenia. Ackerman 1958 is pioneering as it was one of the first books bringing psychoanalysis into the family forum. Both Boszormenyi-Nagy and Framo 1965 and Framo 1982 are classic works that bring object relations theory into the family realm, while Scharff and Scharff 1987 updated object relations into its current form.

  • Ackerman, Nathan Ward. 1958. The psychodynamics of family life: Diagnosis and treatment of family relationships. New York: Basic Books.

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    As one of the first books to connect individual problems with family dynamics, this pioneering work is a classic that would benefit graduate students and practitioners. It presents some foundational arguments on the connection between family life and a person’s problems.

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  • Boszormenyi-Nagy, Ivan, and James L. Framo, eds. 1965. Intensive family therapy: Theoretical and practical aspects. New York: Harper and Row.

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    Aimed at graduate students and seasoned practitioners, promotes a comprehensive understanding of the transition from individual psychotherapy to family therapy. The book contains original chapters by such family therapy pioneers as James L. Framo, Murray Bowen, Nathan Ward Ackerman, Lyman Wynne, and Carl Whitaker. Students with a prior grounding in family therapy concepts would benefit most from this book.

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  • Framo, James L. 1982. Explorations in marital and family therapy: Selected papers of James L. Framo. New York: Springer.

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    Details the use of object relations theory in family therapy, integrating intrapsychic and interpersonal issues into a family context. Graduate students will deepen their knowledge on object relations family therapy and recognize how early thinkers determined how the family was the context to individual problems.

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  • Gerson, Mary-Joan. 1996. The embedded self: A psychoanalytic guide to family therapy. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic.

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    A sophisticated piece of work updating the interface of psychoanalysis with family therapy that would appeal to graduate students and those who align with psychoanalytic thought.

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  • Lidz, Theodore, Stephen Fleck, and Alice R. Cornelison. 1965. Schizophrenia and the family. New York: International Universities Press.

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    Would appeal to historians of family therapy and teachers of critical thinking. Although the psychoanalytic family theory of schizophrenia departs from current thinking, readers can deconstruct this book for sociocultural biases. Doing so can enhance critical thinking skills and make students more cautious about jumping on theoretical bandwagons.

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  • Scharff, David E., and Jill Savege Scharff. 1987. Object relations family therapy. Northvale, NJ: Aronson.

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    Graduate students and practitioners interested in object relations family therapy can refer to this book, which presents the theoretical framework underlying object relations family therapy, building upon the work of William Ronald Dodds Fairburn.

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  • Wynne, Lyman C., Irving M. Ryckoff, Juliana Day, and Stanley I. Hirsch. 1958. Pseudo-mutuality in the family relations of schizophrenics. Psychiatry 21:205–220.

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    This is an early essay examining the dynamics of family “pseudo-mutuality,” thought to be a contributing factor in the development of schizophrenia. Readers interested in epistemology should read this article. Others can access it from a critical thinking perspective.

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Family Systems Family Therapy

Because family systems theory (FST) informs most existing family theory, a solid understanding is essential. FST proposes that individual problems originate from and are maintained by family relationships. Readers can take a practical, historical, epistemological, or critical stance when referring to these resources. Students should start with Bowen 1978, which examines family emotional systems over two or three generations. Bowen’s thinking was instrumental in the development of the genogram, which is now one of the most widely used tools in family social work. McGoldrick, et al. 2008 brings intergenerational practice into a practical, hands-on arena for students and is guaranteed to capture students’ interest through its depiction of fascinating genograms of famous people; the one on Sigmund Freud’s family is particularly enlightening.

  • Bowen, Murray. 1978. Family therapy in clinical practice. New York: Aronson.

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    Often credited with the first conceptualization of family systems theory to family functioning, the work of Bowen is still highly regarded. The book demonstrates the genesis of current family systems concepts. All students and practitioners serious about family therapy should read the original works of Bowen. This book is a good start in that it contains a collection of papers that demarcate the beginning of family systems theory (FST).

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  • Bowen Center for the Study of the Family.

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    The center advocates for the use of Murray Bowen’s family systems theory in work with individuals, families, and communities through understanding and improving human relationships. It contains information on family theory, training, and clinic services.

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  • Framo, James L. 1992. Family-of-origin therapy: An intergenerational approach. New York: Brunner/Mazel.

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    This is a practical book that focuses on family-of-origin issues, using case studies to illustrate the work with a connection to object relations theory. Framo suggests that unfinished business with parents and related family-of-origin issues influence relationships. Includes application to individual, couple, and marital therapy.

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  • Freeman, David S. 1992. Multigenerational family therapy. New York: Haworth.

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    An excellent resource for anyone interested in intergenerational family therapy. It articulates the theory and practice of multigenerational family therapy and offers practical directions on helping a variety of family subsystems with a range of issues. Transcripts of therapy sessions underscore the theory and capture the interface of theory and practice.

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  • GenoPro.

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    Rather than having to construct genograms by hand, this website allows students and practitioners access to free genogram software for a time-limited period. It is a hands-on site that walks users through genogram construction that can be used in the classroom and in practice. After 180 days, users can purchase the software from GenoPro.

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  • McGoldrick, Monica, Randy Gerson, and Sueli Petry. 2008. Genograms: Assessment and intervention. 3d ed. New York: Norton.

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    This excellent book should be in the libraries of students and practitioners. It takes an in-depth look at genograms, a family therapy tool that most family social workers use. The book describes the mechanics of constructing and interpreting the genogram and its clinical application.

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Experiential Family Therapy

Readers interested in how the personality of the therapist affects family practice combined with opening the potential of family strengths appreciate experiential family therapy, best embodied by Carl A. Whitaker and Walter Kempler. Operating from the belief in human growth and potential and emphasizing the positive capacities that exist within individuals and families, Whitaker’s (Napier and Whitaker 1978, Whitaker and Bumberry 1988) unorthodox approach to family therapy shines through. Kempler 1974, with roots in Gestalt therapy, is focused on awareness of self and of impact on others as well as feelings.

  • Kempler, Walter. 1974. Principles of Gestalt family therapy. Oslo, Norway: Kempler Institute.

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    One of the few books to meld Gestalt therapy with families, emphasizing awareness, direct communication, honesty, and spontaneity.

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  • Napier, Augustus Y., and Carl A. Whitaker. 1978. The family crucible. New York: Harper and Row.

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    This is a dynamic and highly engaging book that demystifies family therapy through the presentation of a narrative on family intervention with a family. Throughout the book, the personality and thinking of the therapist shine through. This book is a good resource and is the closest experience to being in the room of a family session.

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  • Whitaker, Carl A., and William M. Bumberry. 1988. Dancing with the family: A symbolic-experiential approach. New York: Brunner/Mazel.

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    Useful for readers who would like to understand the rationale behind family intervention. It contains transcripts of a family intervention accompanied by reflections on the process.

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Communicative-Interactive Family Therapy

If all behavior is communication, then the work by the communicative family therapists constructs a solid foundation for family therapy. Communication theory focuses on patterns of communication within the family, premised on the belief that problems within the family arise out of problematic communication patterns. Satir 1983 is particularly straightforward and easy to understand and will satisfy those interested in pioneering and enduring social work family theory. No knowledge base in family theory would be complete without reading Bateson 1972, a classic in which Gregory Bateson imports and interprets cybernetics, a theory about communication, into family therapy theory. Tomm 1980 on circular causality, adapted from cybernetics theory, is one of the most influential tools in family therapy, one that serves as a useful explanation of patterns of communication while creating controversy in its application to family violence. Jackson 1968 is another seminal piece of work, while Watzlawick, et al. 1967 laid the foundation for the use of communication theory in family therapy.

  • Bateson, Gregory. 1972. Steps to an ecology of mind. San Francisco: Chandler.

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    Graduate students will appreciate Bateson’s work, which is extensively cited in family therapy literature. It takes a technical and scientific look at communication and cybernetics. Bateson clarifies patterns, forms, and relationships, in this case the laws and principles regarding information processing and patterns of communication. Cybernetics was the precursor to circular causality.

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  • Jackson, Don D., ed. 1968. Communication, family, and marriage. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior.

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    Students and practitioners interested in early communication theory in families will appreciate this compilation containing a comprehensive array of articles by communication pioneers. It is worth reading if only to understand the historical work in family therapy since many concepts are embedded in current theory.

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  • Satir, Virginia. 1983. Conjoint family therapy. 3d ed. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior.

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    Originally published in 1964, this is a seminal book written in bullet form. It contains a wealth of information on communication theory within families, stressing the dynamics behind marriage and communication problems and depicting parents as “architects of the family.” The book addresses normal family issues, including mate selection, stresses of family life, communication problems, and solutions within the family.

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  • Satir, Virginia, and Michele Baldwin. 1983. Satir step by step: A guide to creating change in families. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior.

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    Advances Satir’s model through a step-by-step analysis of a therapeutic session with a family accompanied by a presentation of the beliefs underlying her approach. Recommended for those who already have a foundation in general principles of family work.

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  • Tomm, Karl. 1980. Towards a cybernetic systems approach to family therapy at the University of Calgary. In Perspectives on family therapy. Edited by Don D. Freeman, 3–18. Vancouver, BC: Butterworth.

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    Circular causality is a fundamental communication concept in family therapy. This chapter presents a practical way of working with cybernetic theory, integrating cognitions, affect, and behavior in repetitive communication patterns. Both graduate and undergraduate students will develop practical intervention skills after reading this chapter.

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  • Watzlawick, Paul, Janet Helmick Beavin, and Don D. Jackson. 1967. Pragmatics of human communication: A study of interactional patterns, pathologies, and paradoxes. New York: Norton.

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    This fascinating book is seminal reading. It is a technical but classic book that details four axioms of communication and how communication structures relationships. It will serve as a foundation for understanding communication within families. The use of transcripts makes the points more concrete.

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  • Watzlawick, Paul, John H. Weakland, and Richard Fisch. 1974. Change: Principles of problem formation and problem resolution. New York: Norton.

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    Another seminal book that should be on the bookshelves of serious students of family therapy. It advances family theory by examining the principles of change, why change is difficult, the use of reframing, and the concepts of first- and second-order change. Segments of therapy sessions bring the technical nature of the discussion more down to earth.

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Strategic/Milan Family Therapy

Communication theory formed the foundation for strategic family therapy. Its goal is to solve the family’s problem by altering the sequences of interaction that maintain the problem. Madanes 1981 was written by the cofounder of strategic family therapy. Haley 1976 is probably the clearest and most readable book in the list. Selvini Palazzoli, et al. 1980 is an advanced book describing the team approach, whereby the family therapist consults with an observing group of therapists.

  • Boscolo, Luigi, Gianfranco Cecchin, Lunn Hoffman, and Peggy Penn. 1987. Milan systemic family therapy: Conversations in theory and practice. New York: Basic Books.

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    Contains a compilation of transcripts of cases accompanied by interviews with Boscolo and Cecchin, who outline their methods and theory. After reading the book, readers will understand the use of language, hypothesizing, circular questioning, and positive connotation.

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  • Haley, Jay. 1976. Problem-solving therapy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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    This fascinating book paved the way for the development of strategic therapy. It is practical and full of concrete suggestions for working with families and contains concepts of structural, communication, and intergenerational family therapy. Readers can contrast the tenets of this book that suggest that the therapist must take charge of the process with postmodern approaches that advocate collaboration and partnerships with families.

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  • Haley, Jay. 1990. Strategies of psychotherapy. Harrisburg, PA: Triangle.

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    First published in 1963. Building upon communication theory, Haley advances strategic family therapy, detailing the use of paradoxical communication. Haley describes psychotherapy as a struggle for control and psychotherapy as a mechanism to gain control. This is graduate-level reading.

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  • Madanes, Cloé. 1981. Strategic family therapy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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    Uses case studies to highlight the main tenets of the strategic family approach and discusses the use of strategic family therapy for marital problems, problems of children and adolescents, and problems with parents. A good book for graduate students with a foundation in basic family theory.

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  • Selvini Palazzoli, Mara, Luigi Boscolo, Gianfranco Cecchin, and Giuiana Prata. 1980. Paradox and counterparadox. New York: Aronson.

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    Discusses the use of paradox and nonlinear approaches in family therapy and the need to implement tasks that will force the family to change. Authors link change to family theory and practice rather than just being an isolated set of techniques.

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Structural Family Therapy

Social workers have been accused of abandoning their primary clients—those who are disadvantaged. Perhaps more than any other approach to family therapy, serious students should study structural family therapy, because it bridges the gap between family therapy and family social work. Originating with Salvador Minuchin, who worked with poor, disadvantaged, and disorganized families, structural family theory situates problems within family structure (organization), patterns of family transactions, family subsystems, and boundaries. The therapy offers a number of concrete approaches to working with families. Minuchin, et al. 1967; Minuchin 1976; and Minuchin and Fishman 1981 all explain the research and theory behind structural family therapy.

  • Minuchin, Salvador. 1976. Families and family therapy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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    Those interested in the original tenets of structural family therapy will learn firsthand about the concepts of boundaries, power, and alignment. The book also contains transcripts of family sessions and presents strategies for assessing and intervening in addition to techniques for restructuring families.

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  • Minuchin, Salvador, and H. Charles Fishman. 1981. Family therapy techniques. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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    Readers who wish to access a concrete structural family therapy resource are referred to this book, which presents structural family therapy techniques, illustrated through clear examples. Many of the techniques refer directly to the theoretical issues embedded in structural family therapy, such as boundaries, restructuring, enactment, and spontaneity. Analyses and rationale of techniques are also provided.

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  • Minuchin, Salvador, Braulio Montalvo, Bernard G. Guerney Jr., Bernice L. Roseman, and Florence Schumer. 1967. Families of the slums. New York: Basic Books.

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    The 1960s was a fertile time for examining multiproblem families. The book is a starting point for understanding the research and theoretical development of structural family work, using case studies and keen insights on families with delinquent children, and the authors focus on disorganized and low-income families. The theoretical emphasis is on family structure, dynamics, assessment, and intervention.

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Behavioral Family Therapy

Anyone working with children will appreciate a clear explanation of the development and maintenance of problematic behaviors. It is particularly useful for undergraduates conducting family work in homes. Behavioral family therapy is especially useful for in-home support work and is based on clearly defined principles of behavior change and operant conditioning. It is used primarily in families where children have behavior problems and in marital therapy. It is in behavioral family therapy that child behavior problems take the form of behavioral parent training, where parents become their children’s therapists. It can also appear in the form of sex therapy and communication skills training. The strength of behavioral family therapy lies in the sophistication of its research and its concrete explanation of the development of behavior problems. After reading Patterson 1982, readers will be impressed by the extent of the research that laid the foundation for behavioral family work with aggressive children. Anyone specializing in working with children should read Kazdin 2005, a leading authority in the field of children and adolescents. Patterson, et al. 1991 details the early development of antisocial behaviors and presents a clearly articulated path toward delinquency, starting from the early formative years.

  • Jacobson, Neil S., and Gayla Margolin. 1979. Marital therapy: Strategies based on social learning and behavior exchange principles. New York: Brunner/Mazel.

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    Graduate students are the primary targets of this book, in which Jacobson and Margolin present the use of behavioral principles for intervening with marital distress.

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  • Kazdin, Alan E. 2005. Parent management training. New York: Oxford University Press.

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    This is a comprehensive book about working with children’s at-risk behaviors in the family using behavioral principles of operant conditioning and should be accessed by anyone working with conduct disorders. It is both theoretical and practical, referring to theory and discussing how to implement a program to help parents manage their children’s problematic behavior.

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  • Oregon Social Learning Center.

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    Students wanting to understand children with behavioral difficulties will find that this website contains a gold mine of information and resources targeting parents, clinicians, and researchers. It also contains a database and a bibliography on the center’s research publications, which are extensive.

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  • Patterson, Gerald. 1982. Coercive family process: A social learning approach. Eugene, OR: Castalia.

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    This is an impressive but highly technical work detailing research on the molecular communication patterns in the family. While the communication patterns uncovered in this research resemble the circular causality described by cybernetic theory, it specifically focuses on families with coercive communication patterns that lead to the development of child behavior problems. Most suitable for graduate students.

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  • Patterson, Gerald, Deborah Capaldi, and Lew Bank. 1991. An early starter model for predicting delinquency. In The development and treatment of childhood aggression. Edited by Debra J. Pepler and Kenneth H. Rubin, 139–168. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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    Those working with children and adolescents will recognize the life course of these children. Although the statistics are technical, the life path of antisocial children speaks for itself. This chapter presents years of cumulative research on the early development of antisocial behaviors, highlighting three interwoven processes: lack of parental supervision and monitoring, peer group influence, and social and school failure.

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Feminist Family Therapy

Students and practitioners alike are encouraged to read the groundbreaking critiques of family therapy by feminists, who changed the course of thinking in family therapy. Myers Avis 1992 illustrates how to deconstruct theory for socially constructed and misogynist biases. In addition, Goldner 1988 and Hare-Mustin 1978 criticize the gender blindness in family systems theory (FST) and raise awareness of the sociopolitical role of gender in families and the failure of FST. Explanations of family violence have failed to take gender into account, particularly through circular causality that attributes equal responsibility to all members of the family for family violence. Reading the groundbreaking feminist family therapy works will help students grasp the expectations surrounding critical thinking required in assignments and classroom discussions. Students could learn from the feminist critiques to critique current theory. McGoldrick, et al. 1991 will shed light on the practice of feminist family therapy.

  • Goldner, Virginia. 1988. Generation and gender: Normative and covert hierarchies. Family Process 27:17–33.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.1988.00017.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Goldner argues that gender dynamics are a fundamental organizing principle in families and as such should be a primary focus of family intervention.

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  • Hare-Mustin, Rachel. 1978. A feminist approach to family therapy. Family Process 17:181–194.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.1978.00181.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article is groundbreaking in that it was the original article that first brought the issue of gender in family organization and family therapy into the open. A key theme of the article is that family therapy blindly colludes with traditional gender roles but therapists can change sexist patterns in the family.

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  • McGoldrick, Monica, Carol M. Anderson, and Froma Walsh, eds. 1991. Women in families: A framework for family therapy. New York: Norton.

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    Discusses working with women experiencing a range of issues. It discusses the life of women in families and the application of feminist theory and practice in family therapy. It contains groundbreaking works from feminist authors and is divided into three sections: theories and therapy, women and families in context, and special issues.

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  • Myers Avis, Judith. 1992. Where are all the family therapists? Abuse, violence within families, and family therapy’s response. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 18:225–232.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.1992.tb00935.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A classic and highly cited article in which the author challenges family therapy and its conceptual failures in working with family violence, particularly how family therapy has ignored gender. She gives suggestions for working with gender-based family violence.

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Postmodern Approaches

No discussion of family therapy would be complete without a discussion of postmodern approaches, which have emerged as an exciting paradigm shift in the field. Since the 1990s work in family therapy has departed from a “one size fits all” approach expressed through “grand narratives” (especially family systems theory [FST]). Freedman and Combs 1996 discusses the paradigm shift, outlining the rationale and providing some approaches for practice. The current impetus reinforces social work’s appreciation of diversity and specialized issues within clearly defined populations and suggests that families rather than therapists are experts in their lives and that perceptions of reality are subjective. Leading thought in narrative therapy is captured by White and Epston 1990. Their work can be found on the Dulwich Centre website. Another emerging theory, solution-focused theory, is epitomized by De Shazer, et al. 1986. Applications of solution-focused theory in the child welfare field are captured in Berg and Kelly 2000. No discussion of postmodern approaches would be complete without reference to “reflecting teams,” formulated by Andersen 1991.

  • Andersen, Tom. 1991. The reflecting team: Dialogues and dialogues about the dialogues. New York: Norton.

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    Contains a compilation of chapters discussing the “reflecting team,” wherein a family observes family therapists behind a two-way mirror talking about the family issues. The use of reflecting teams is a new way of enhancing family intervention, and this classic book opened the method to family therapists.

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  • Berg, Insoo Kim, and Susan Kelly. 2000. Building solutions in child protective services. New York: Norton.

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    This book would be of interest to those practicing in child welfare. It provides concrete and practical suggestions for enhancing and revising child protective services using a family-based, solution-focused model from the opening of a case to termination.

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  • De Shazer, Steve, Insoo Kim Berg, Eve Lipchik, Elam Nunnally, Alex Molnar, Wallace Gingerich, and Michelle Weiner-Davis. 1986. Brief therapy: Focused solution development. Family Process 25.2: 207–221.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.1986.00207.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article is important in that it marked the beginning formulations about solution-focused therapy. It contains case examples and a discussion of the approach to therapy.

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  • Dulwich Centre.

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    This website is the home site of narrative therapy. It contains information about narrative therapy, community work, training, conferences, and publishing and will direct the reader to books, downloadable articles, bibliographies, and journals.

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  • Freedman, Jill, and Gene Combs. 1996. Narrative therapy: The special construction of preferred realities. New York: Norton.

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    This easy-to-read book would appeal to graduate students and workers. It describes the clinical application of the ideas and techniques of narrative therapy. The use of case examples makes this book practical and hands-on.

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  • Minuchin, Salvador. 1998. Where is the family in narrative family therapy? Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 24.4: 397–403.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.1998.tb01094.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Minuchin critiques postmodern approaches to family therapy and challenges how postmodern therapists neglect looking at the family system.

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  • White, Michael. 2007. Maps of narrative practice. New York: Norton.

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    The appeal of this book lies in its practical approach to learning narrative therapy. White updates narrative therapy using transcripts and skill training exercises for therapists. Topics include reauthoring, conversations, remembering and scaffolding conversations, definitional ceremony, externalizing conversations, and rite of passage maps and would appeal to graduate students and advanced undergraduates.

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  • White, Michael, and David Epston. 1990. Narrative means to therapeutic ends. New York: Norton.

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    This book is a seminal piece on narrative therapy, appealing to graduate students. It presents the narrative approach through examples and speaks to the need to deconstruct problem-saturated stories. The authors describe externalization as a technique and illustrate the use of letters and the political implications of therapy.

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  • White, Michael, and Alice Morgan. 2006. Narrative therapy with children and their families. Adelaide, South Australia: Dulwich Centre.

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    Details the authors’ work with children and families. It explains the concepts of externalizing the problem, scaffolding conversations, and the positioning of the therapist, all of which will give students at any level a good understanding of narrative therapy.

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Family Therapy with Diversity

Diverse families have been ignored by historical and classical family therapy theories. New developments in the field of family therapy support curricular requirements of social work programs for an appreciation of diversity combined with anti-oppressive practice. As such the resources presented in this section can be required reading for all social work students. The critique of an all-encompassing family theory led to new understandings of nontraditional family forms, apart from the Eurocentric bias and heterosexism that have marginalized families that fall outside of the traditional nuclear family structure. New theory takes a multicultural perspective and advocates for a wide appreciation of family diversity from the perspectives of ethnic and life cycle diversity. Boyd-Franklin 2003, Boyd Webb 2001, Falicov 2000, Jung 1998, Fong 2004, Flores and Carey 2000, and McGoldrick, et al. 2005 take a unique perspective on the nuances of culture and ethnicity as they pertain to family life, parenting practices, and specific cultural issues. Laird and Green 1996 takes the forefront in addressing lesbian and gay families, and Carter and McGoldrick 2005 breaks new ground in examining the family life cycle.

  • Boyd-Franklin, Nancy. 2003. Black families in therapy. 2d ed. New York: Guilford.

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    Provides a solid look at issues facing African American families, points out diversity within the culture, and cautions about stereotyping. Based on a philosophy of empowerment and a multisystems approach with families, the points are illustrated through case examples and practical suggestions.

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  • Boyd Webb, Nancy, ed. 2001. Culturally diverse parent-child and family relationships: A guide for social workers and other practitioners. New York: Columbia University Press.

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    This book will help students and practicing social workers understand diverse parenting practices with a number of cultural groups. It is a useful guide that promotes cultural sensitivity and also offers concrete suggestions on understanding, engaging, and working with diverse families.

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  • Carter, Betty, and Monica McGoldrick, eds. 2005. The expanded family life cycle: Individual, family, and social perspectives. 3d ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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    Emphasizes the progression of alternative family forms through their own family paths. Its comprehensive array of chapters covers a range of topics affecting “normative” family development. This book is a gold mine and should be on the bookshelf of anyone working with families.

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  • Falicov, Celia Jaes. 2000. Latino families in therapy. New York: Guilford.

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    A comprehensive book that “avoids essentialist ethnic descriptions” (p. 1) while emphasizing the importance of context in working with Latino and Latina families. It is comprehensive in that it examines the immigration experience and the context and issues specifically pertaining to Latino and Latina families. Though focused on Latino and Latina families, the book would be of use to anyone working with cultural issues within families.

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  • Flores, Maria T., and Gabrielle Carey, eds. 2000. Family therapy with Hispanics: Toward appreciating diversity. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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    Targeting therapists and students, this book emphasizes cultural issues that impact treatment and focuses on people in the culture, the therapist, relationships, and acculturation. The strength of the book is that it acknowledges similarities and differences within the Hispanic culture.

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  • Fong, Rowena, ed. 2004. Culturally competent practice with immigrant and refugee children and families. New York: Guilford.

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    This book is a much-needed resource on family therapy with diversity as it comprehensively discusses issues related to immigration and refugees and provides guidelines on how to incorporate indigenous strategies into family therapy.

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  • Jung, Marshall. 1998. Chinese American family therapy: A new model for clinicians. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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    Students and therapists will appreciate this book that infuses Chinese traditions, such as religion and family values, into treatment with Chinese families.

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  • Laird, Joan, and Robert-Jay Green, eds. 1996. Lesbians and gays in couples and families. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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    The topic of gay and lesbian families has largely been ignored. This excellent resource fills the gap and is both practical and insightful, dealing with current and family-of-origin relationship issues.

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  • McGoldrick, Monica, Joe Giordano, Nydia Garcia-Preto, eds. 2005. Ethnicity and family therapy. New York: Guilford.

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    A comprehensive resource that should be read by students and family social workers. By highlighting culture as a crucial factor in family functioning, the book is seminal. It challenges culture blindness and places ethnicity and culture at the forefront. It surpasses other discussions of culture and family therapy, which present cultures as a checklist of characteristics.

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Family Therapy with Spirituality and Resilience

Many early family therapy models imply problems and pathology in families. However, a significant shift challenges these views and advocates looking at all families more positively by understanding family strengths, resilience, and spirituality. The resources in this section could be used as an antidote to the pathologizing theories that have overshadowed the understanding of family functioning. In particular, Walsh 2003, Walsh 2006, and Walsh 2008 and Becvar 1998 and Becvar 2006 are seminal works on family resilience that gave this shift a voice and that point social workers in the direction of family strength and health. Spirituality has been a neglected topic in family therapy, and Becvar 1998 and Becvar 2006 and Walsh 2003, Walsh 2006, and Walsh 2008 are good starting points. Frame 2001 offers a practical approach to training on spirituality.

  • Becvar, Dorothy S. 1998. The family, spirituality, and social work. New York: Routledge.

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    Published simultaneously in the Journal of Family Social Work 2.4 (1997). Covers a wide range of spiritual issues in families. Although the quality of the articles is quite diverse, readers can select chapters that are personally meaningful. The book can be a useful springboard for a stimulating class discussion about the merits and drawbacks of incorporating spirituality into family practice.

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  • Becvar, Dorothy S. 2006. Families that flourish: Facilitating resilience in clinical practice. New York: Norton.

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    This book will help students and workers understand how to integrate resilience into practice with a variety of families. Becvar does a good job of capturing the characteristics of families that do well despite obstacles.

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  • Frame, Marsha Wiggins. 2001. The spiritual genogram in training and supervision. Family Journal 9.2: 109–115.

    DOI: 10.1177/1066480701092004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article would be useful for training of both graduate and undergraduate students to help them understand and overcome their spiritual issues and blind spots through the use of a spiritual genogram.

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  • Walsh, Froma. 2003. Family resilience: A framework for clinical practice. Family Process 42.1: 1–18.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.2003.00001.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is a clearly written article overviewing concepts related to family resilience and clinical applications. Students and practitioners would appreciate the clarity and practicality of this article.

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  • Walsh, Froma. 2006. Strengthening family resilience. 2d ed. New York: Guilford.

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    This book should be required reading in the classroom or office as it forged a change in how we think about families. Walsh builds upon earlier work and challenges pathologizing approaches to families by emphasizing that all families have strengths that can be tapped into to stimulate change. She discusses the theory behind family resilience and presents belief systems, organizational processes, and communication processes as three factors in family resilience.

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  • Walsh, Froma, ed. 2008. Spiritual resources in family therapy. 2d ed. New York: Guilford.

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    Walsh’s book will deepen understanding about spirituality in family therapy, which has emerged as a new emphasis in the field. It contains thought-provoking chapters on spirituality in family therapy and presents a myriad of issues that social workers might encounter in work with families.

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Evaluation

Due to the emphasis on the art of family practice and the complexities involved in measuring some of the complexities of family dynamics and change, evaluation has only taken shape over the last decade. Evaluation of family work provides a scientific balance to the “art” of family work. Workers and students can be reminded of the importance of evidence-based practice while they are tackling the conceptual bases of family work. Evaluation of family work has taken many forms. For example, Lambert 2004 provides a synthesis of the most up-to-date research on families. Roy and Frankel 1995 discusses reasons for the lack of strong evaluation and analyzes the complexities involved in research in family therapy. Nevertheless Sexton, et al. 2004 does an excellent job of consolidating family therapy research.

  • Lambert, Michael J. 2004. Bergin and Garfield’s handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change. 5th ed. New York: Wiley.

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    This book should be a staple in the libraries of practitioners, graduate students, and researchers. It is a gold mine for anyone who values practice outcome research and empirically based practice. In particular, the chapter compiling up-to-date research on family interventions with specific populations is most pertinent to this entry.

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  • Roy, Ranjan, and Harvy Frankel. 1995. How good is family therapy? A reassessment. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

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    Useful for both graduate students and researchers. Roy and Frankel discuss the difficulties inherent in evaluating family therapy: the lack of assurance that the methods are different, how to define success, the narrowness of the measures, and the absence of controlled studies. The book includes studies with alcoholism, juvenile delinquency and conduct disorders, children, and family-based approaches.

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  • Sexton, Thomas L., James F. Alexander, and Alyson Leigh Mease. 2004. Levels of evidence for the models and mechanisms of therapeutic change in family and couple therapy. In Bergin and Garfield’s handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change. 5th ed. Edited by Michael J. Lambert, 590–646. New York: Wiley.

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    Students and family social workers will benefit from reading this chapter, which presents an analysis of published research on the effectiveness of family therapy up until the date of publication. The entire book provides up-to-date research on psychotherapy, but this chapter in particular focuses on family therapy. Students will understand which models simultaneously research their interventions.

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Family Intervention Techniques

Integrating theory with practice can be overwhelming for students and new clinicians. While many books provide a theoretical overview of work with families, some also demystify the skills necessary for family work. In particular, Tomm and Wright 1979 breaks down skill sets related to perceptual, conceptual, and executive skills, making the process less intimidating. Similarly, Haley and Hoffman 1967 demonstrates the skills necessary through the use of reflection upon interview transcripts. Patterson, et al. 2009 is an easy-to-read primer that examines the skills through the phases of family work. Burford and Hudson 2000 and Pennell and Anderson 2005 present a relatively new approach to working with children and families in the child welfare system, family group conferencing, designed to empower families and organizations through the creative use of the group process. Finally, Tomm 1987a, Tomm 1987b, and Tomm 1988 on intervention interviewing can help newcomers become more mindful in the use of questioning and help them differentiate between questioning to obtain information and questioning to produce change.

  • Burford, Gale, and Joe Hudson, eds. 2000. Family group conferencing: New directions in community-centered child and family practice. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

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    Presents ways to empower families involved in the child welfare system through family group conferencing.

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  • Haley, Jay, and Lynn Hoffman. 1967. Techniques of family therapy. New York: Basic Books.

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    Aims to help newcomers to family work understand the conceptual and perceptual skills underlying family therapy interviews. It is structured by five experts explaining the logic of their interventions as applied to transcripts of their interviews.

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  • Patterson, JoEllen, Lee Williams, Claudia Grauf-Grounds, and Larry Chamow. 2009. Essential skills in family therapy: From the first interview to termination. 2d ed. New York: Guilford.

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    This updated edition would appeal to students and new practitioners who would like to learn about current skills and theories needed from the first session with families through termination. It is particularly useful for new social workers who are concerned about where and how to start and has a chapter on what to do when the worker feels stuck.

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  • Pennell, Joan, and Gary Anderson, eds. 2005. Widening the circle: The practice and evaluation of family group conferencing with children, youths, and their families. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.

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    This book would appeal to researchers, child welfare workers and administrators, and policy makers who would like to understand the basic concepts and principles behind family group conferencing.

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  • Tomm, Karl. 1987a. Interventive interviewing, Part 1: Strategizing as a fourth guideline for the therapist. Family Process 26:3–13.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.1987.00003.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the importance of strategizing and making decisions in working with families.

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  • Tomm, Karl. 1987b. Interventive interviewing, Part 2: Reflexive questioning as a means to enable self-healing. Family Process 26:167–183.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.1987.00167.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A technical discussion of the use of reflexive questioning to facilitate change through altered cognitions and behaviors.

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  • Tomm, Karl. 1988. Interventive interviewing, Part 3: Intending to ask lineal, circular, strategic, or reflexive questions? Family Process 27:1–15.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.1988.00001.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Along with Tomm 1987a and Tomm 1987b, this article is prominent in the literature. Although technical, it will help new and seasoned family therapists alike differentiate the types of questions that can be used with families, each with a specific purpose—obtaining information or facilitating change.

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  • Tomm, Karl, and Lorraine M. Wright. 1979. Training in family therapy: Perceptual, conceptual, and executive skills. Family Process 18:227–250.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.1979.00227.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article is extremely useful for both graduate and undergraduate students. It identifies what workers need to look for in families, how to make sense of what they observe, and what skills are necessary. The information is valuable for both family therapists and family social workers.

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Family Assessment

Without an accurate family assessment, the work that follows will be flawed. The focus of family assessment depends on the family issue and the theoretical orientation of the worker. Some resources, such as Holman 1983, are quite eclectic and offer a range of practical ways of assessing families. Thomlison 2006 provides an assessment framework on both the family’s external and internal environments and the relationship of an individual’s functioning to the family and its environment and is for undergraduate students. Other packages approach assessment from a particular theoretical framework. These include Epstein, et al. 1983; Beavers and Hampson 1990; and Olson, et al. 1979. Corcoran and Fischer 2000 is particularly indispensable in that it contains numerous instruments with which to assess families and evaluate the outcome of family work.

  • Beavers, W. Robert, and Robert B. Hampson. 1990. Successful families: Assessment and intervention. New York: Norton.

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    Describes the Beavers model of family assessment on two axes: the stylistic quality of family interaction and the structure, available information, and adaptive flexibility.

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  • Corcoran, Kevin, and Joel Fischer. 2000. Measures for clinical practice. Vol. 1, Couples, families, and children. 3d ed. New York: Free Press.

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    This book is a must-have for students, practitioners, and researchers of family work. It contains a range of measurement instruments, each accompanied by a description of psychometric properties and scoring instructions. In particular, the volume offers a range of instruments that can be applied to specific family issues.

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  • Epstein, Nathan B., L. M. Baldwin, and D. S. Bishop. 1983. The McMaster family assessment device. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 9:171–180.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.1983.tb01497.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Those new to family work will appreciate this comprehensive and concrete tool that provides a clear framework for family assessment. It is based on a problem-solving approach to assessing families. It includes problem solving, affective responsiveness, affective involvement, communication, roles, autonomy, modes of behavior control, and general functioning.

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  • Holland, Sally. 2004. Child and family assessment in social work practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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    Targets child welfare workers to aid in the assessment of children and families. As such, undergraduate students primarily would benefit it. It contains exercises and offers a practical guide to family and child assessment by addressing issues related to why, who, and how.

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  • Holman, Adele M. 1983. Family assessment: Tools for understanding and intervention. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

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    A practical and foundational book for family workers to aid in a range of family assessment approaches. It includes an eclectic array of assessment tools (ecomaps, genograms) and offers concrete guidance on using observation and checklists.

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  • Olson, David H., Douglas H. Sprenkle, and Candyce S. Russell. 1979. Circumplex model of marital and family systems: Cohesion and adaptability dimensions, family types, and clinical applications. Family Process 18:3–28.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.1979.00003.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on the circumplex model of family functioning, this article presents family functioning on the dimensions of cohesion and adaptability. It is quite prevalent in the research and the literature.

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  • Thomlison, Barbara. 2006. Family assessment handbook: An introductory practice guide to family assessment and intervention. Boston: Cengage.

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    This is a good undergraduate resource on family assessment that contains exercises, case studies, and tools to enhance learning.

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LAST MODIFIED: 12/14/2009

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195389678-0106

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