Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

On Maps, Shapeshifting, and My Syllabus: Family Therapies Today

Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

On Maps, Shapeshifting, and My Syllabus: Family Therapies Today

Article excerpt

It is time to update my syllabus again. The course I teach in contemporary family therapies has usually been fairly easy to update. Basically, it included those family therapies that evolved from the social constructionist movement like narrative, solution focused, Milan, collaborative language systems, and variants of interventions like reflecting teams (Reichelt & Skjerve, 2013), and circular questioning (Chenail, 2014; Diorinou & Tseliou, 2014). It is harder today to limit my course to these topics alone. As editor of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, I see every day how the field is evolving in all directions. My so-called minor course update (ha!) is like over-laying a map of a new world over one reflecting interesting but more defined territory.

While applications of social constructionist theories continue to be alive and well (e.g., Sutherland, Dienhart, & Turner, 2013a; Sutherland, Fine, & Ashbourne, 2013b; Sutherland, Turner, & Dienhart, 2013c), contemporary family therapy are shapeshifting into ones with fewer gurus and more variation and accountability. Feminist family therapies, for example, have evolved to more overtly include, beyond gender and power, the intersectionality of race, culture, class, and sexual orientation (e.g., Williams, Galick, Knudson-Martin, & Huenergardt, 2013; George & Stith, 2014; Knudson-Martin et al., 2014; Seedall, Holtrop, & Parra-Cardona, 2014). Family therapy scholarship on diversity and oppression has expanded to include nationalism (Platt & Laszloffy, 2013) and to more directly address lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues (LaSala, 2014; McGeorge, Carlson, & Toomey, 2015a, 2015b). Also, those writing about cultural competence have expanded their clinical practices (e.g., McGoldrick, 1998; Bischoff et al., 2013), educational methods (Winston & Piercy, 2010), and research (Cole, Piercy, Wolfe, and West (2014).

Contemporary family therapies also now transcend the usual theoretical silos to include common factors (Fife, Whiting, Bradford, & Davis, 2014; Fraser, Karam, Blow, Sprenkle, & Davis, 2014), mindfulness practices (Gambrel & Piercy, 2015a, 2015b), the planful use of client feedback (Duncan & Miller, 2000; Sparks, 2014), and innovative supervision methods (Falke, Lawson, Pandit, & Patrick, 2014). Meanwhile, the effectiveness of relationship education with diverse and distressed groups expands our definition of and respect for psychoeducation in couple and family interventions (e.g., Barton, Futrís, & Bradley, 2014; Quirk, Strokoff, Owen, France, & Bergen, 2014).

One way I suppose I could update my syllabus is to organize it not just in terms of theory, but by the increasing literature on family therapies for specific presenting problems such as interpersonal violence (Oka, Sandberg, Bradford, & Brown, 2014; Schneider & Brimhall, 2014), homelessness (Harris-McKoy, Woods, Brantley, & Farineau, 2013), childhood mood disorders (MacPherson, Leffler, & Fristad, 2014), cyber issues (Blumer, Hertlein, Allen, & Smith, 2014) or on specific populations such as male adolescents who sexually offend (Keiley, Zaremba-Morgan, Datubo-Brown, Pyle, & Cox, 2014). Context is another possible organizing principle that includes international and cross-cultural initiatives (Parra-Cardona, Aguilar, Wieling, Domenech Rodríguez, & Fitzgerald, 2014; Seponski, Bermudez, & Lewis, 2013), medical family therapy (Falke & D'Arrigo-Patrick, 2014; Hernandez & Thomas, 2014), and issues of acculturation (Maciel & Knudson-Martin, 2014).

I also suppose I could organize my class in relation to the increasingly sophisticated statistical methods that MFT researchers are using to understand systemic family processes and change in therapy (e.g., Oka & Whiting, 2013; Wittenborn, Dolbin-MacNab, & Keiley, 2013; Cornett & Bratton, 2014; Macchi, Johnson, & Durtschi, 2014; Salis, Kliem, & O'Leary, 2014; Claridge et al. …

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