The Practice of Family Therapy: Key Elements across Models

By Rambo, Anne | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, April 2011 | Go to article overview

The Practice of Family Therapy: Key Elements across Models


Rambo, Anne, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy


Hanna, S. M. (2007). The practice of family therapy: Key elements across models. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, 368 pp., $87.35.

The latest work by Suzanne Hanna adds a fresh and integrative approach to the challenging and often contradictory task of training competent therapists while simultaneously preparing them for passing state licensure exams and practicing in an increasingly complex mental health field. Her book is divided into three main sections: "From theory to practice," "The assessment stage," and "Matching interventions to clients and settings." Within the first section, "From theory to practice," six models of family therapy are discussed and reviewed as first-generation models (structural, Mental Research Institute, strategic, intergenerational, experiential, and behavioral); three more models are discussed and reviewed as postmodern, second-generation models (Milan, solution focused, and narrative), and four models are discussed and reviewed as evidence based and third generation (cognitive-behavioral, multisystemic, multidimensional, and emotionally focused couples therapy). After this rapid but comprehensive review of models, the reader moves into section two, "The assessment stage," which breaks down basic clinical skills all beginning family therapists should know, such as handling intake and referral sources, what to do if you suspect a client has alcohol issues, how to handle concurrent medical issues, and so on. These are presented in the tone of voice of a competent, experienced supervisor, as indeed Dr. Hanna is, and without reference to any specific model. Finally, in section three, "Matching interventions to clients and settings," Dr. Hanna attempts the fascinating task of integrating models, describing what interventions and skills a therapist could take from each set of models. Collaborations with other professionals, such as art therapists, school officials, and health care professionals, are also discussed in this section.

This is an ambitious attempt to put together a reference work that would guide beginning therapists through models to actual encounters with clients, and to an integrated practice. I applaud the scale and sincerity of this effort. As with any project so ambitious, the author cannot please everyone, and I did have a few quibbles, relating to my own understandings and preferences in the field. While I appreciate the effort to group the most common models of family therapy into groups as first, second, and third generation, the unfortunate effect of this is to obscure historical influences on the more recent models. Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg met at the Mental Research Institute while both were training as MRI therapists (http://www. …

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