More than twenty years of research has led to an extensive body of evidence about the significant advantage of treating problems by working with relationships. This is the basis for the field of Couple and Family Therapy, and the learning gained forms the foundation skills and knowledge for Registered Couple and Family Therapists.

We've come a long way from Freudian psychoanalysis . . .

We’ve come a long way from Freudian psychoanalysis.

What does this mean for me if I am looking for a counsellor?

The field of counselling can be puzzling for people when they start looking for help. Many people I see in my practice share that the credentials and approaches advertised by counsellors are unfamiliar to them. Making sense of the differences between counselling options is difficult. While this post will attempt to clarify some of this confusion, I recognize there are some questions better asked of a third-party who can be counted on to be neutral and unbiased. This is why, at the bottom of this post, I reference an article that reviewed a decade worth of research on the subject of couple and family therapy. As a former supervisor who hired and trained clinicians, I have a sense of what various credentials mean, and how that translates into the experience people seeking counselling might be able to expect.

Whereas the earliest approach to helping people with distress was to analyze and prescribe interventions that were focused on the individual, current researchers can state with confidence that working with people while also considering and/or including their family or couple relationships adds value and improves results across many concerns that bring people to counselling (Sprenkle, 2012). The old ‘treatment as usual’ where an individual is psychoanalyzed in isolation is still featured in popular media, and maintains some popularity as a therapy modality among some clinicians in the field.  A growing body of evidence favors a couple and family therapy approach. Some of the areas with strong  evidence supporting couple and family therapy include:

  • Treatment of marital / couple discord
  • Treatment of depression in adults also facing couple discord
  • Treatment of bipolar disorder
  • Treatment of couple violence associated with alcoholism and drug abuse
  • Treatment of situational couple violence
  • Treatment of anxiety disorders in childhood and adolescence
  • Treatment of anorexia nervosa in adolescents
  • Treatment of type 1 diabetes for adolescents and children
  • Treatment of depression in adolescents
  • Treatment of adolescent delinquency and oppositional defiant disorder
  • Mobilizing alcohol and substance abusers to seek treatment
  • Treatment of Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Family management of schizophrenia
  • Coping for family members of alcoholics who are unwilling to seek help

* This list is not exhaustive. It represents a substantive overview of 12 topics reviewed in couple and family therapy research from about 2001 to 2011. Sprenkle, D.H. (2012) Intervention Research in Couple and Family Therapy: A methodological and substantive review and an introduction to the special issue. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 38 (1), 3-29.