Family Therapies 2nd Edition

Family Therapy 2ndHere is the cover design for the second edition of Family Therapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal. This was a fun book to revisit and update.

We looked at the various schools of family therapy and updated the research that has been conducted in support of the different approaches.

Our main focus was recognizing and reflecting the changing cultural landscape regarding family. The reader will pick this up throughout the book but especially in two new chapters. The first one is on cohabitation and how trends in living together before marriage (or just living together) affect relationship and family dynamics.

The other new chapter deals with LGBT+ couples and families and really expands how we interacted with sexual and gender identity experiences in the first edition of the book.

In any case, here is an overview of the book from the revised preface:

The book is divided into four parts. In part one (chaps. 1-2), we set the stage for the discussion of the first-generation models of family therapy. Chapter one is a discussion of a distinctively Christian perspective on the family. Chapter two is a discussion of the field of family therapy, how it developed and some key terms that will help the reader better understand the field.

Part two of the book (chaps. 3-12) devotes one chapter apiece to the major models of family therapy developed in what is sometimes referred to as the first generation of family therapists (e.g., structural family therapy). If each approach to family therapy is a “map” for getting families from a place of some kind of dysfunction to a place of better functioning, each chapter in this section contains an explanation of the map, followed by a discussion of the theoretical and philosophical assumptions and practical implications. We then focus on Christian critique and engagement of the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings and the practical issues involved in using specific techniques associated with that theory. We also provide brief reflections that tie back to the three foundational themes introduced in chapter one: family identity, family functioning and family relationships. In the closing chapter of this section of the book (chap. 12) we introduce a framework for integrative Christian family therapy.

Part three (chaps. 13-20) extends the discussion by taking topics that are commonly addressed in family therapy and inviting Christians to interact with the relevant materials. We introduce the reader to the issues (e.g., crisis and trauma, marital conflicts) and then review the literature in that area, followed by Christian engagement in light of what we see as particularly valuable from the first-generation models of family therapy and in light of what we propose for an integrative Christian family therapy. In the second edition we added a chapter on cohabitation and significantly revised the chapter on LGBT+ couples and families. We see cohabitation as an increasingly popular entryway into marriage as a a relationship status in and of itself. We want to help the reader grapple with that reality. An additional reality is the success of the marriage equality movement and the likelihood that Christian clinicians will work with LGBT+ couples and families in the years to come. We also want the reader to be familiar with those cultural shifts and to think deeply and well about some of the concerns that arise.  

Part four (chap. 21) reflects our desire to cast a vision for integrative Christian family therapy/counseling/ministry. In particular, we see the need for local family therapy to be influenced by a shrinking, global world in which family therapists will need to expand their understanding of family structure and relationships. Societal and cultural changes will have an impact on our work and the ways in which we think about and engage the families in ministry and service.

Book Contract Signing Party

marital conflictJim Sells and I just returned from what we dubbed a book contract “signing party.” Actually, it was breakfast. But we received our contract from InterVarsity Press for the book, Resolving Marital Conflicts. The book is for pastors, counselors/lay counselors, and others interested in an accessible model for helping couples resolve conflict.

The model itself can be found in more of an academic form in Chapter 14 (“Attending to Marital Conflict”) the book Jim and I wrote titled Family Therapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal, also from InterVarsity. This new book, Resolving Marital Conflicts, will unpack that model and apply it in practical ways to the kinds of issues pastors and lay counselors in particular address in their ministry.

Family Therapies Book Now Available

Many readers know that Jim Sells and I have been working on a book for the last year. It is now available from InterVarsity Press. The title of the book is Family Therapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal. I received my copy the other day. It is casebound and a little over 500 pages long. It is divided into four sections. The first section deals with foundational issues, including a Christian perspective on the family and historical roots of family therapy. The second section reviews first-generation models of family therapy (e.g., structural, bowenian, etc.) and offers a Christian critique and engagement. The first section addresses specific topics addressed in family therapy, such as marital conflict, trauma, divorce and remarriage, and substance abuse. The final section is a brief chapter looking at the future of family therapy from a Christian worldview.


The book received some nice endorsements on the back cover: 


“Mark Yarhouse and James Sells have written a very helpful book that is comprehensive, biblically based and well-written. I highly recommend it as an excellent text for those interested in a Christian approach to family therapy.”


—Siang-Yang Tan, Ph.D., professor of psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary, and senior pastor, First Evangelical Church of Glendale, California


“Yarhouse and Sells have created a masterpiece work analyzing approaches to family therapies. This is going to be a new classic, matching the accomplishment of Jones and Butman’s analysis of psychotherapies in their book, Modern Psychotherapies.


—Everett L. Worthington Jr., professor of psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University


“Yarhouse and Sells have written a practical, concise, invaluable, one- of-a-kind resource that integrates biblical, theological, psychological, theoretical, clinical and practical resources in ways that help the reader look at the family and family therapy through different lenses and better understand the individual in the context of their broader family system. This book will be read and reread by a broad audience.”


—Gary J. Oliver, Th.M., Ph.D., professor of psychology and practical theology, John Brown University


“In Family Therapies, Yarhouse and Sells provide an important resource for Christian scholars and therapists. The first two sections provide a thoughtful foundation and Christian critique of existing therapy models, reminiscent of what Stanton L. Jones and Richard E. Butman accomplished in their classic book, Modern Psychotherapies, but with a focus on models of family therapy. The third section, which could have been a book on its own, looks at contemporary issues in relation to a Christian perspective on family therapy. The final section casts a vision for an integrative model of family therapy. This is a significant book that will help shape the training and practice of Christian therapists.”


—Mark R. McMinn, Ph.D., ABPP, professor of psychology, George Fox University, and coauthor of Integrative Psychotherapy 



Social Contract or Covenant Love?

In Family Therapy this spring we are reading theological reflections on the family drawn from On Being Family: A Social Theology of Family by Ray Anderson and Dennis Guernsey. Here is a quote:
Is marriage, then, a social contract that can be broken when one or both of the contracting parties violate the contract, or is it a covenant partnership that, once entered into, can never be dissolved? Well, it is both. While a social contract based upon mutual conditions of good will and reciprocity does not contain within it the quintessential aspect of covenant love, covenant love can come to expression through a social contract. It is our opinion that all humans can express a dimension of covenant love because they are created in the divine image and likeness. But God is the source of covenant love, which he expressed through his actions of bonding with Israel and then with all humanity through Jesus Christ. From the human perspective, the essence of a marriage is the social contract explicitly grounded in a relation of human sexuality, male and female, which in finds its implicit source of covenant love in God’s own commandmenat and gift of love. (p. 90)

Parenting By Analogy

From our “opening reflections” in Family Therapy:

Human parents stand in a relation to their children in a way analogous to the way in which God is related to his people, as Father. The seniority of parents over their cihldren is relative, not absolute. Also, both parents, the mother and father, equally bear the resopnsibilty of fulfilling, by analogy, that which is represented by the Fatherhood of God. That is, it is impossible, from a theological perspective, to equate the male role in parenting with the concept of God as Father. Whatever distinctive aspects belong to the male role in parenting, they must be established on other grounds. God’s fatherhood includes all the nuances of parenting represented by analogy in human parents. For example, both nurture and discipline, both compassion and chastisement are exemplifiied by the Fatherhood of God, as generally portrayed in the Old Testmaent. (p. 61)

Again, these are theological reflections on the family drawn from On Being Family: A Social Theology of Family by Ray Anderson and Dennis Guernsey.

Tests of Parenting

Here is another quote from the “opening reflections” in Family Therapy. Again, these are readings on family from a Christian worldview. The quote is from On Being Family: A Social Theology of Family by Ray Anderson and Dennis Guernsey.  

Perhaps one of the greatest tests of parenting is the capacity to allow significant development and change in personality without breaking contact with the person being parented. A professional therapist must learn how to do this if the therapy is to be effective. But this is not a matter of professional training: it is actually a matter of love. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” wrote the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 13:7). Love “takes hold” of the other person without letting go, and thus frees the other from all other determinations…. The only mark left upon another person who becomes a free and whole person through parenting is the capacity to love. Because this mark is not an imprint of the personality of the one who parents in love, the significant link is the covenant that is remembered and kept. Not to forget one’s parents but rather to honor them is both the responsibility and the joy of one who has become free through parenting. (p. 65)

Update: We actually discussed this quote at the beginning of class today. The part that resonated with one student in particular was the line “But this is not a matter of professional training; it is a matter of love.” It is hard as a parent to “let go” as children get older. The authors want to say that the therapist has a similar task – to “let go” – to be in a relationship in which people grow and get better and move on. Someone once remarked that the role of the therapist is to work themselves out of a job.

Spring 2008: Family Therapy

We are into the Spring semester, which means for me the opportunity to teach Family Therapy and Ethics. Family Therapy introduces various family assessment and interventions and provides students with an overview of the major models of family therapy, such as Bowenian, Experiential, Structural, Strategic, Narrative and so on. Students also complete a family genogram where they map their own family back three generations and learn to interpret the genogram and identify salient themes.This semester we will also read chapters from a book I am completing with a colleague of mine, Dr. James Sells. The book is titled Family Therapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal. This material will form the basis for much of our integration discussion this semester. Each chapter provides an overview of a model of family therapy (e.g., Psychodynamic) followed by a section on Christian critique and engagement. Towards the end of the semester we will read a few chapters on specific issues often addressed in family therapy, such as divorce, remarriage, and blended families.Students will also make a group presentation based upon readings from Ethnicity and Family Therapy by Monica McGoldrick and her colleagues. I have found this to be one of the best resources on culture/ethnicity and family therapy. Preparing for this presentation provides students the opportunity to learn how to take cultural issues into consideration in family therapy case conceptualization and treatment planning.