Collaboration in Family Therapy


  • This manuscript was supported by grants R01DA019892, R01DA017487, and R01DA019708 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and grant No. 96.2013 from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

  • The authors wish to thank Dr. Sylvia Rowlands and the BlueSky program staff at the New York Foundling for sharing their clinical experiences and providing thoughtful contributions to this article.

Please address correspondence to: Scott W. Henggeler, Family Services Research Center, Medical University of South Carolina, 67 President St., Suite McB406, MSC 861, Charleston, SC 29425.


This article summarizes and illustrates the collaboration strategies used by several family therapies. The strategies used within multisystemic therapy (MST) are emphasized because it has demonstrated high rates of treatment completion and favorable outcomes in multiple clinical trials. Many of the collaboration strategies in family work are common to other forms of evidence-based psychotherapy (e.g., reflective listening, empathy, reframing, and displays of authenticity and flexibility); however, some strategies are unique to family systems treatments, such as the identification of strengths across multiple systems in the youth's social ecology and the maintenance of a family (versus a child) focus during treatment. A case example illustrates collaboration and engagement in the context of MST.