CONDUCTING MARITAL AND
FAMILY THERAPY WITH
HARRY J. APONTE
Marital and family therapy is essentially systemic in approach to people problems (Goldberg & Goldberg, 1996). It views clients in the context of family life and the social environment. The therapist is considered part of the therapeutic milieu, “an acting and reacting member of the therapeutic system” (Minuchin, 1974, pp. 90–91). When the client is another therapist, the salient dimension of the therapy is that therapist and client share a common professional identity and, often, a common professional community. This closes the personal distance between them, creating a delicate emotional situation for both therapist and client.
Moreover, in marital and family work, therapist-clients bring into the context their marriage partners and children and consequently enter the therapeutic relationship more vulnerable than they would be as individual patients. A colleague (the therapist) is looking behind the screen of the client's public role directly into the latter's domestic circumstances. Over and above the common anxiety of clients that their psychological flaws will expose them as dysfunctional to their therapists, these clinician-clients confront the prospect that in the eyes of the therapist their domestic problems will reflect on their professional competence. For the clinician-clients the worries may take the form not only of “What will my therapist think of me personally?” but also of “Will I look incapable of helping others if my own family life is so troubled?”
Further complicating treatment, on the other side of this therapeutic relationship, therapists may feel their reputations are on the line when they treat a colleague. In that sense, they too may experience a unique kind of