Individual Perspectives in Family Therapy: a Comparison of Perspectives
There has been relatively little robust research investigating the experience of family therapy from a client’s perspective. Much of the literature fails to make clear their methods for analysing the data, and takes an ‘either or’ approach to family and individual perspectives. Thus, either whole family perspectives, or the perspectives of a particular group are sought, making it difficult to understand the impact of the family context on individual perspectives or vice versa. The present research seeks to understand the family therapy experiences of individuals within their familial context. Two families of three were interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide and interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Results are presented as two family case studies. One over-arching theme of ‘the safety of the therapeutic relationship’ emerged from the accounts of both families. The therapeutic relationship provided the safety to talk and explore problems and relationships. This was described as cathartic and helped family members to see themselves and each other differently. Varying degrees of exploration of individuals was associated with differing levels of engagement with therapy. Being able to explore relationships for both families allowed them to develop new understandings of each other. Gender also emerged as an important theme and this is discussed in relation to issues of power and gender. Some key methodological limitations of the research including the small number of participants and the impact of an overly detailed interview schedule on the data are discussed. As this study involves two case studies of three family members each, it is not easily transferable, but points to some key themes and processes which have implications for practice and future research.