Working with the Well Sibling: The Perspective of the Marriage and Family Therapist

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Virginia Tech

Recent research on working with families in which one child is suffering from a developmental disability has indicated a need for more focused clinical attention on the well sibling or neurotypical sibling experience. Research has also suggested that a systemic approach to the therapeutic process would be the most beneficial to all members of the family system, including the well sibling. Although the literature supports the use of systemic interventions in supporting the well sibling, there is a gap between what the research is suggesting and the clinical application. In an effort to fill this gap, this study sought to explore how Marriage and Family therapists are working systemically with families in which one child has a disability to incorporate the needs of the well sibling. After conducting four qualitative interviews and analyzing the data, three central themes emerged: 1) stabilization; 2) involving the well sibling; and 3) methods of support. Clinical implications as well as suggestions for future research are also addressed.

developmental disability, well sibling, therapeutic process, systems theory