Brief Therapy and Family/Couple Therapy: An Essential Redundancy

Authors

  • Alan S. Gurman

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Wisconsin Medical School
      Address correspondence to Alan S. Gurman, Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin Medical School, 6001 Research Park Boulevard, Madison, WI 53719.
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Address correspondence to Alan S. Gurman, Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin Medical School, 6001 Research Park Boulevard, Madison, WI 53719.

Abstract

“Brief” therapy and “family/couple” therapy are largely overlapping and redundant. Although there are almost no family/couple therapies that explicitly set time limits on treatment as a matter of course, the four central technical factors of brief therapy almost inevitably lead to therapeutic brevity in systems-oriented treatment. In this paper I emphasize that family/couple therapists tend to adhere to the dominant treatment values of brief individual therapists and set out the therapeutic values among family/couple therapists that increase the likelihood of most family/couple therapy being brief. Finally, I propose that families' and therapists' expectations about the length of treatment serve an important role in establishing the therapeutic alliance. The empirical study of the components of such expectations, and discrepancies in such expectations between therapists and families, may provide a fruitful approach for optimizing the therapeutic alliance and thus positively influencing treatment outcomes.

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