Termination: how families experience the end of family therapy

Grant, Henry
Major Professor
Harvey H. Joanning
Committee Member
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Human Development and Family Studies

Families who experienced a successful outcome to family therapy appeared to be ready to terminate when they had made a paradigm shift in their thinking about family problems and how to resolve them. In this study families communicated two signs of readiness to terminate therapy: (1) the family stopped focusing on the child as a problem and viewed the child as growing up; (2) the parental dyad expressed a renewed sense of confidence in themselves to handle any relationship problems that might arise in the family. Families who remain focused on the problems of the child were not confident in their own ability to handle relationship problems and frequently sought an outside agent, e.g., therapist, to create and/or maintain a solution for the family, i.e., to "fix" the index person. The families who remain focused on the index person were often ambivalent about termination. Furthermore, families who showed a readiness to terminate use a three-stage process, (1) the family relied on the therapist to initiate the suggestion, (2) the family eventually claimed ownership of the idea, and (3) the family negotiated with the therapist how to terminate therapy. A good therapeutic alliance between family and therapist did not appear to influence the decision to terminate. Ambivalence by families towards the social worker also did not appear to influence the family's readiness to stop family therapy. Three areas of further research are suggested by this study. How might therapists gauge readiness to terminate in families? Are there early signs of readiness to stop therapy by which to predict when to stop? What family qualities could best aid the parent in becoming confident about handling family relationships?