Looking at the Picture by Stepping Outside: a Qualitative Study of Parents' of Adolescents Experiences in Family Therapy


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Virginia Tech


Parents with adolescents often find themselves caught in the stress and strain that normally accompanies this stage of life. It is when parents cannot meet the demands of troubled adolescents that they find themselves seeking family therapy. Most of what is reported about the process of therapy continues to be from the therapist's or reseacher's perspective. There has been an increased interest in what clients have to say about their experiences. The purpose of this study was to develop a detailed description of how parents of adolescents who attended family therapy in private practice settings viewed their experiences. Fifteen parents who had been to therapy with their adolescent were recruited by their therapist to be interviewed for this study. A multicase qualitative design and constructivist theoretical framework guided the investigation. The constant comparative analysis was used to develop four core categories that described the subtitles of parents' therapeutic experience.

Five case stories illustrated the core categories and parents' quotes were used to further embellish the findings. The findings included parents' experiences prior to beginning therapy, during therapy as well as reflections in retrospect. The pre-therapy presentation, based on expectations and past experiences in treatment, affected the way parents initially approached therapy. A supportive therapeutic climate was necessary for parents to trust and become open to possibilities and do the hard work required to make changes. The story of their current experience was part of the family therapy process. Parents recognized changes and what they valued about their experiences in family therapy.



clients experience, parents of adolescents, qualitative study