Book Review: "Marriage and Family Therapy: A Practice Oriented Approach"

Reviewed by Louise H. Alderson, MS, LMFT, CFLE
CFLE Network
Content Area
Internal Dynamics of Families

Marriage and Family Therapy: A Practice Oriented Approach. Linda Metcalf, Ed. 2011. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company, LLC. ISBN 978-0-8261-0681-0.

Marriage and Family Therapy: A Practice-Oriented Approach, edited by Linda Metcalf, PhD, LMFT, is designed to teach the student who wishes to learn how systems thinking is employed in marriage and family therapy approaches currently used in the field of marriage and family therapy today.

The book provides an overview of each of the fourteen therapy models:

  • Bowen Family Systems Theory
  • Contextual Family Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Family Therapy Models
  • Rational Emotive Behavior Theory
  • Symbolic-Experiential Family Therapy
  • Satir Human Validation Process Model
  • Milan Systemic Family Therapy
  • Structural Family Therapy
  • Strategic Family Therapy
  • Solution-Focused Brief Therapy With Families
  • Narrative Therapy With Families
  • Emotionally Focused Therapy
  • Medical Family Therapy
  • Family Psychoeducational

A specific model is presented in a consistent manner, so that the student/therapist will better understand the underlying theories and practical distinctions unique to each theory. By understanding the basics of each theory, the student/therapist will be prepared to direct the tasks of therapeutic goal setting, task setting, directing the outcome of therapy, and the conclusion of the therapy consistent with the therapeutic model. Throughout the text, stories are used to illustrate the presentation of particular points of theory.

The history of the development of a specific theory, including the originators of the theory, theoretical assumptions and concepts, typical interventions and practices, and evaluation strategies for the specific therapeutic model is presented. This information aids the evolving therapist in developing the course of therapy and maintaining consistency with a specific theory in the therapeutic process.

As a result, students/therapists will: have a better understanding of his/her way of thinking, understand the basis for a specific marriage and family therapy therapeutic model, and, based on a specific model, understand how to evaluate a client's needs and develop a treatment plan to achieve the desired outcomes. The student/therapist will also become aware of cultural sensitivity, competency of oneself as a therapist, and ethics in therapy.

Each chapter provides realistic examples of marriage and family problems and shows how the particular therapeutic model used addresses the issues that are commonly faced by practicing marriage and family therapists. The therapist will learn how to choose the model that most appeals to him or her and discover who he/she is as an integral part of the process of becoming a marriage and family therapist.

Therapists in training will also learn some of the basics about choosing a supervisor, conducting research, facing ethical issues, and working effectively with multicultural families from a theoretical perspective.

The chapters in Part II contain templates for each Marriage and Family Therapy model as a guide to learning the process of working with couples and families in the model's unique way. These templates walk the therapist through the process of joining and building rapport, understanding the presenting issue, assessing family dynamics, setting goals with the family, amplifying change, and terminating therapy when appropriate.

Interviews with Master Therapists provide information regarding their process and experience in working with clients from a specific therapeutic perspective. Case Studies followed by a Master Therapist's response illuminates the Master Therapist's process in considering the Case Study. These examples help the reader understand the therapist's process involved in discerning the direction of therapy.

The presentation of each theory includes a listing of key terms and definitions, a listing of recommended book, articles and websites for additional information.

This book is an excellent resource for students studying to become marriage and family therapists and any seasoned marriage and family therapist who wishes to review and expand his/her therapeutic perspective. This book would also be helpful in the process of supervising therapists in private practice or other settings. Instructors Manual available: email Springer textbooks.

Reviewed by Louise H. Alderson, MS, LMFT, CFLE. Louise is a licensed marriage and family therapist and an approved supervisor in Colorado. She has been in private practice for over 20 years. She has been a member of NCFR since she was a student in the marriage and therapy program at Colorado State University.