Family therapy in the Middle Atlantic and Virginia divisions of the American Association of Marriage and Family Counselors

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


A committee of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP) surveyed family therapists in 1966. Those respondents consisted mostly of psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. Since that time, the number of therapists from other affiliations has increased. Those professionals had not previously been surveyed as to their theories and practices. A sample of 102 American Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (AAMFC) included clergy, educators, marriage and family counselors, pastoral counselors, and psychiatric nurses as well as psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. The AAMFC members were in agreement as to the theorists who were the most influential in their field, Satir having been the first choice.

Although the AAMFC therapists practice an average of only eight hours of family therapy per week, usually in combination with other therapies, they are fairly committed to it as a treatment modality, even to the point of considering it for their own families if an individual member were in distress. Many connected family therapy with problems appearing in children or adolescents and many saw all therapy as family therapy.

The respondents were flexible in relation to the number of people seen in and apart from family sessions, in relation to duration of treatment, and in relation to the idea that family therapy can be contraindicated in some cases·. The majority agreed that the interest of the family as a whole is of primary concern to the family therapist.

It was recommended by the GAP researchers and the current researcher that a theory of family therapy be developed integrating family and psychodynamic theories, that a definition for family therapy be formulated, and that continued clinical research be done in the area of family therapy.