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Getting Comfortable as “Fish Out of Water”: Using Qualitative Research Methods Training to Enhance the Technical Capacity of Family Therapy Trainees


  • Laurie L. Charlés, PhD, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Medford; Paula Moebus MA, SouthShore Family Health Collaborative, Boston; Lisa Beechinor, MA, Safe at Home; Tyler Pearce, MA, Eliot Community Services, Boston; Heather Putney, MA, Turtle Creek Valley MH/MR.

  • This project was funded by a University of Massachusetts Boston Joseph P. Healey Grant. The authors express their gratitude to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions.

Address correspondence to Laurie L. Charlés, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Medford, MA; E-mail:


This article describes a qualitative research methods training project undertaken in a COAMFTE-accredited family therapy master’s-level program. Graduate students were trained to collect research data for a qualitative study on the resilience of families displaced to the United States because of war and politically motivated violence in their country of origin. By involving trainees in a research project with refugees, the project was intended to address a gap in clinicians’ training, specific to the refugee population (Miller, Muzurovic, Worthington, Tipping, and Goldman, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 2002; 72: 341). However, the training process was also a way to increase the students’ skills at interviewing in complex situations, develop their cultural sensitivity beyond awareness, enhance their capacity for routine self-reflection, and introduce them to basic practices of qualitative research methodology. In this article, we focus on the students’ experience of the training and discuss the potential implications of their feedback for family therapy training.