Academic journal article Family Relations

Reconceptualizing the Domain and Boundaries of Family Life Education

Academic journal article Family Relations

Reconceptualizing the Domain and Boundaries of Family Life Education

Article excerpt

Many scholars have defined family life education (FLE), and some have differentiated it from other family-related fields. For example, Doherty (1995) provided a definition of the boundaries between FLE and family therapy; however, we believe those criteria can be improved. We explore the professions of family life education, family therapy, and family case management using the questions why, what, when, for whom, and how? After examining these questions for each role, we introduce the domains of family practice to differentiate among them. The approach defines FLE and encourages appropriate collaboration among the fields. Suggestions are made for using this model for career exploration, reviewing job requirements to assess role consistency and clarity, and for determining the need for and appropriateness of referral and collaboration.

Key Words: domains of family practice, family case management, family life education, family therapy, professional development.

What is Family Life Education (FLE) and how is it similar to and different from other family-related fields? We begin to answer these questions by sharing the following comments that were among those posted on the Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) listserv in 2010. They are included to illustrate the struggle experienced by many professionals in the field:

"I am bothered by the correlation of FLE with therapy.... Certainly the two have similarities, but they are not the same." Esther Schiedel, MS, CFLE

"For years, we have struggled with developing a clear definition for 'Family Life Education.'" Amelia Rose, CFLE

"While there is a difference and there is a boundary that goes up at some point between CFLEs and doing clinical work, I do see room for both to work together. I think it depends on the service itself that is being delivered." Tammy Whitten, LMFT, CFLE

"While there are some similar topics dealt with in FLE as in clinical work, they are different, should be different and need to be different - What might it look like if CFLEs were part of a team approach to addressing family needs? How would this be done? How would we work to clarify roles and responsibilities [and] respect each profession's contribution to family health? ... I hope that in 10, 25, and 40 years we see both more recognition of our field and a better collaborative approach to family health." Jennifer Best, CFLE

These quotes reflect the frustrations of many of us in a developing field and provide the context for this- paper. The field of Family Studies emerged out of a concern in the mid 19th century regarding the abilities of families to address the social problems of their times (Doherty, Boss, LaRossa, Schumm, & Steinmetz, 1993). Family Life Education provided the means by which professionals worked with families to help them learn to solve these problems (Kerckhoff, 1964; Mace, 1971). This work continues. But, what is FLE? For more than 50 years family scholars have composed stipulative definitions of FLE, descriptions that define the concept according to the particular author for his or her current purposes regardless of other definitions (Thomas & Arcus, 1992). Authors have provided definitions that focus on individuals, couples, and families; relationship development and maintenance; sexuality; personal development; and so forth. Many continued with the focus on problems and problem solving; however, over the decades, descriptions of FLE have shifted to include and even emphasize prevention of problems within families. More recently, FLE has begun to focus on assisting families in identifying and developing their strengths to meet their potentials (Arcus, Schvaneveldt, & Moss, 1993).

Currently, the definition of Family Life Education as accessed on the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) website for the CFLE program presents the profession's function as using information about healthy family development within a preventive, familysystems perspective in order to teach knowledge and build skills so that individuals and families may function at their optimal levels (National Council on Family Relations, n. …

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