Chapter 16 - Research and Assessment in Family Therapy


Focuses on dimensions of particular families and usually includes the administration of formal or informal tests or evaluation intstruments along with behavioral observations.
Dependent on having a theoretical model of how families function and the ways in which their functioning may become faulty.

Research and Assessment in Family Therapy

Have a long association with family therapy that dates back to the 1950s
Pioneers of the filed include Bateson, Wynne, and Minuchin
1960s - therapists and researchers became two distinct groups
21st century - research in family therapy is growing again and is becoming increasingly sophisticated.
Assessment focusing on the family unit is growing .
Good assessment instruments are based on theoretical models.

Research is important for what?


Research Findings in Family Therapy

Family therapy is as effective as other psychotherapies.
Deterioration in family therapy is related to poor skills and timing on the therapist's part
Brief family therapy (20 sessions or less) is as effective as long-term family therapy.
Participation by the father in family therapy makes it more likely to have a positive outcome.
Less severe family problems are most successfully treated.
Some family therapies are more suited to certain types of problems than others.
The research of Jose Szapocznik is good example of how research results can have practical application.

Two types of Family Therapy Research

Qualitative and Quantitative


Research that is characterized by its open-ended approach. Uses small samples, with the participant/observer/researcher gathering and analyzing data simultaneously in a narrative manner.


Research that is characterized by its closed-ended questions, large sample sizes, objective data reporting, and numerical data analysis after the data are collected.

Difficulties in Family Therapy Research

Where to focus?
What environment to use?
What research design to use?
Random or nonprobable sampling?
Self-report or behavioral open-ended instrumentation
Procedure - outcome or process based?
Statistics - Descriptive and clinically relevant or not?
Validity - content, criterion, and construct
Reliability - the consistency/dependability of a measure.

The importance of assessing a families

*Related to diagnosis and treatment plans.
*The basis for third-party providers
*Necessary for survival, as well as a matter of being responsible.

Dimensions of Assessing Families

*Conducted at a systemic level.
* Related to :
Pressures on the family
Family History
Family Structure
Family Process
*A continuous process

Methods Used in Assessing Families

*Both informal and formal
*Informal include family assessment forms and observations.
*Formal methods include more than 1000 assessment instruments available to family therapists.

Offset Effect

The phenomenon of people reducing the health care after therapy.

Brief Strategic Family Therapy

A short term family treatment model developed for youth with behavioral problems such as drug use, sexual risk behaviors, and delinquent behaviors.

Structural Ecosystems Therapy

An ecological extension of BSFT to address the need for extra-familial as well as within-family intervention with Hispanic and African-American adolescents.

Strategic Family Systems Rating

A research tool that objectively measures and evaluates family functioning ons ix dimensions: structure, resonance, developmental stage, identified patienthood, flexibility, and conflict resolution.

One-Person Family Therapy

Strategic family therapy is offered to any person who comes to therapy in order to help that person make changes in the family system.

Jose Szapocznik - Research Contributions

*Brief Strategic Family Therapy
*Structural Ecosystmes Therapy
*Strategic Family Systems Rating
*One-person Family Therapy
*A comparison of outcome in boys and in their families of the efficacy of individual, psychodynamic, child therapy versus family therapy.
*The formulation of SET for HIV-seropositive African American women.


Represents a general loss of faith in ultimate truth, a "knowable" reality, certainty, and determinancy.

The five categories of research


Probability Sampling types

Simple random sampling
Systematic random sample
Stratified Sample

External validity


Construct Validity

Measuring what they report to measure

Self-report instruments

Provide family members an opportunity to systemically understand what the other members' concerns are and to self-disclose through paper and pencil rather than their usual method.

Direct Observational Assessment

Characterized by the use of coders, raters, or judges who usually are not participants in the interpersonal system being studied and whose task is to unitize and assign meaning to some aspects of the family therapy process.

Interrater Reliability

The degree to which raters agree on what they observe and other types of bias that may slip into reports.


How families are studied


Worldview, means of gathering knowledge

Content Validity

how ell a measure taps the full range of dimensions or meaning of some underlying construct.

Criterion Validity

Relates to how well a measurement predicts or correlates with external criteria, especially behaviors.
The degree to which what is measured actually relates to life experience.

Construct Validity

Relates to how well a measure correlates with measures of similar construct.
The degree to which a measured performance matches a theoretical expectation.


The consistency or dependency of a measure.

Assessment Procedure

Any method used to measure characteristics of people, programs, or obects.