Competency-based therapy: a case study

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Virginia Tech


Competency-based therapy as developed by Marianne Walters is a theory-based, systemic approach modified by a feminist perspective. This thesis presented the theoretical foundations of competency-based therapy and applied them to therapy with a female-headed single-parent family with three young-adult daughters.

The theory of competency-based therapy encompasses five major concepts which taken together distinguish it from other approaches to therapy. (1) Human behavior must be understood in its social context and the therapist needs to address problematic social stereotypes. (2) People have the capacity for functional behavior and the therapist's task is to focus on clients' competence to engender change. (3) The therapist sets the context for change by creating a new perspective and by working with process. (4) The therapist uses his or her own response to the family process as a guide to interventions. (5) The goal of therapy is empowering the client to make choices about how her or she will live and behave.

The dysfunction which brought this family to therapy was related to the wider social context which socializes women in ways which create special difficulties for the female single-parent. The emphasis competency-based therapy places on addressing the social inequities women face and on empowering women through a systematic search for competence is illustrated by the case study.