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Uniqueness Of Family Therapists as Family Business Systems Consultants: A Cross-Disciplinary Investigation


  • Jinhee Lee, MA, doctoral candidate in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), and Sharon M. Danes, PhD, Professor, Department of Family Social Science, University of Minnesota.

Address correspondence to Jinhee Lee, Department of Family Social Science, University of Minnesota, 290 McNeal Hall, 1985 Buford Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108; E-mail:


The purpose of this study is to address how the consulting approaches of family therapists working with family businesses differ from those of business consultants. The logic of analytic induction was used to analyze qualitative data from family business consultants with and without training in family therapy. Consultants were asked to respond to two vignettes: one emphasized primarily family system problems, whereas the other emphasized business problems with influencing issues at the family/business intersection. Both similarities and differences were found in reference to problem assessment, consulting goal orientation, intervention strategy focus, consultant role and function, and consulting setting preference between consultants with and without family therapy training. Results indicate that consultants of each discipline provide a unique perspective and expertise that allow them to successfully address the spectrum of issues that family firms face. Further, findings highlight the unique contribution of family therapists to an interdisciplinary consulting team.