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Book Review: Working Therapeutically with Families

Working Therapeutically with Families: Creative Activities for Diverse Family Structures.

Are you a mental health and counselling professional who works with families? Do you get stuck sometimes and need extra tools in your toolkit?  As a Clinical Psychologist and Family Therapist having worked in the field for 20 years, I still feel as though I need more ideas, tips, strategies, techniques and activities to help me better serve my clients.  And I am fussy!  Which means that any tools or techniques that I integrate into my practice must meet certain criteria: grounded in theory and research, compliment my existing tools in some way, be experienced as valuable to my clients, and must be easy for me to understand and implement in my clinical practice.

The “Working Therapeutically with Families” book meets all of my criteria and exceeded my expectations.

Working Therapeutically with Families 

This book is the perfect blend of education for the practitioner, links to extra resources and websites for further reading, specific questions that can be used in sessions, and then a variety of activities to choose from to match the needs of diverse family structures.  Most importantly, the activities are designed to target the major challenges and vulnerabilities identified by research that typically affect these various family structures, with a focus on strengthening that system.  The diverse family structures include single-parent families, separated families, families with grandparents as carers, families experiencing grief, blended families and many more.

My favourite activity in the Blended Families chapter is “Merging Cars”, aimed at normalising the difficulties children experience with accepting new family members.  I have had lots of smiles from parents as their young one’s grapple with the question “What happens if the cars on the road do not let the merging car in?”

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As a teacher, trainer and mentor in the field of Family Therapy, I also appreciate the effort the authors have gone to in writing a book that is versatile enough to be a valuable resource for practitioners at any stage of their career.  And I especially love the “Counselor Cautions” section in each chapter as this draws attention to systemic process considerations, and not just content delivery.  For example, highlighting the importance of boundaries when working with single-parent families due to the invitation for therapists to fill the gap left by an absent parent.

Whilst the additional links and resources tend to be US based, and the activities fit more congruently within the first generation schools of Family Therapy, I will use this book in my clinical practice and supervision toolkit on a regular basis. 

Reviewed by Dr Kate Owen presenter of Key Skills in Family Therapy. 

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