Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Ethnographic Content Analysis of Couple and Therapist Perceptions in a Reflecting Team Setting

Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Ethnographic Content Analysis of Couple and Therapist Perceptions in a Reflecting Team Setting

Article excerpt

An ethnographic content analysis was used to examine couple and therapist perspectives about the use and value of reflecting team practice. Postsession ethnographic interviews from both couples and therapists were examined for the frequency of themes in seven categories that emerged from a previous ethnographic study of reflecting teams (Sells, Smith, Coe, Yoshioka, & Robbins, 1994). The study demonstrated that quantitative numerical data and qualitative narrative data can examine the same phenomenon from multiple perspectives and allow for greater accuracy and stability in study findings. Ethnographic content analysis is briefly contrasted with conventional modes of quantitative content an analysis to illustrate its usefulness and rationale for discovering emergent patterns, themes, emphases, and process using both inductive and deductive methods of inquiry.

Since their introduction by Tom Andersen in 1987, reflecting teams or reflecting process have become a popular topic among family therapists in manuscripts, workshops, and practice. However, reflecting team literature has been primarily dominated by theoretical discussions and case studies from the clinician's perspective (Andersen, 1987; Miller & Lax, 1988). Within these studies, many differences exist about the use and process of reflecting team practice. Many clinicians argue that a reflecting team is useful when a family system is "stuck" or needs new information (Andersen, 1987; Kassis & Matthews, 1987). Some clinicians have stated that they prefer the use of the reflecting team to begin therapy, and others have argued for its use in later sessions to open up additional discussion topics (Davidson, Lax, Lussardi, Miller, & Ratheau, 1988; Gottlieb & Gottlieb, 1990). Contraindicated use has been suggested when the problem is of low intensity (Kassis & Matthews, 1987) or when therapy sessions are continuing in a useful manner without the reflecting team present (Smith, Winton, & Yoshioka, 1992; Smith, Yoshioka, & Winton, 1993). The process of change in reflecting team practice has been discussed by Andersen as the family's ability to hear the same problem in a slightly different fashion. Prest, Darden, and Keller (1990) describe this process as a unique "fly on the wall" phenomenon in which someone experiences him or herself being talked about (while observing the reflecting team) without being part of the discussion (i.e., being at a meta-level to the process).

Although these case studies are helpful to practitioners in forming hypotheses about the success or failure of cases, these studies are not explicitly tied to theory. Important conceptual differences exist about the use and process of reflecting team practice (Jenkins, 1992). This is a significant omission in a treatment model because unclear concepts and assumptions result in families suffering from untestable treatment modalities (Wynne, 1988). Testing treatment models is necessary for a reflexive practice mindset that will prevent dogmatic adherence to faddish practice techniques. Without grounding in data, any theory generated will be speculative, hence ineffective (Strauss, 1987). Research is therefore needed to develop a theory base that would guide the practice and understanding of a reflecting team approach to family therapy.

A first step in this process was ethnographic studies by Smith et al. (1992), Smith et al. (1993), and Sells et al. (1994) in which a rich description of reflecting team practice was created from couple and therapist interviews over a 2-year period. When little is known about a particular phenomenon, a qualitative analysis of data is an optimal beginning to discover theory and generate hypotheses that can be tested empirically (Moon, Dillon, & Sprenkle, 1990; Strauss, 1987). An ethnography is qualitative in character and an appropriate first step for the discovery and development of "grounded theory" that emphasizes the need to convert diverse material (i. …

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