Parents and teens each develop their own relationship with a therapist during family therapy. The overall outcome of treatment is dependent not only on these relationships, but on the other family members’ relationships with the therapist, and their level of success. Myrna L. Friedlander of the University at Albany, State University of New York, and lead author of a new study examining which perspective predicts therapeutic outcome more accurately, believes these dynamics are all unique and important indicators of therapeutic outcome. Previous research has shown that the success of therapy is not predicted by reports of either the parent or teen, but rather a combined assessment.
In order to capture an integrated perspective, Friedlander and her colleagues used the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model (APIM) as a means to gauge the effect of self-reports on treatment outcome for the teen and the parent. Using the APIM, the researchers evaluated the actor element as the parent’s and teen’s outcome based on their individual perceptions of the therapeutic alliance. For the partner effect, the team examined how each family member’s perception of alliance influenced therapeutic outcome of the others.
The researchers interviewed 20 families at the end of three different sessions of family therapy. They found the actor effects to be similar for both teens and parents, with both parties seeing the treatment as positive when they felt the alliance was strong. However, the partner effects were quite different. “Notably, when adolescents saw the alliance as strong, the parents reported the session to be relatively less valuable,” said the researchers. “The latter finding suggests that, in judging the worth of a session, parents were closely observing their adolescent’s reaction to what was taking place. Apparently, very strong adolescent alliances were seen as relatively less productive by the parents.” Friedlander believes these findings have important clinical implications. “As demonstrated by this exploratory study, a systemic perspective is essential for understanding how family members are reacting to what goes on in conjoint therapy.” She added, “Skilled family therapists are not daunted by the complexity but rather use it to full advantage to do what needs to be done—maximizing each and every client’s personal and relational experience in the family.”
Friedlander, M. L., Kivlighan, D. M., Jr., & Shaffer, K. S. (2011, July 4). Exploring Actor–Partner Interdependence in Family Therapy: Whose View (Parent or Adolescent) Best Predicts Treatment Progress?. Journal of Counseling Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024199
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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