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Low self-esteem can cause the four dishonest ways of communicating
Experiential Therapy Powerpoint
Family Therapy as an Emotional Encounter
Zoe Robinson, Brittany Tigner & Cindy Porta
History of Experiential Therapy
❖ Emerged from humanistic-existentialist movement of
❖ Drew from:
● Gestalt Therapy
● Encounter-group movement
Innovators and History
❖ Carl Whitaker (1912-1995)
● Among the first to do psychotherapy with families
● Encouraged family members to be themselves
❖ Virginia Satir (1916-1988)
● Individual self-expression
● Root cause of family problems is emotional suppression.
● Parents regulate their children’s actions by controlling their feelings; as a result, children learn to blunt their
emotional experience to avoid criticism.
● From this perspective, attempts to bring about positive change in families are more likely to be successful if
family members first get in touch with their real feelings- their hopes and desire as well as their fears and
● Treatment is designed to help family members find fulfilling roles for themselves, with less concern for the
family as a whole.
● The assumption is that opening up individuals to their experience is a prerequisite to breaking new ground
for the family group.
● When people express their vulnerability directly, they’re are likely to elicit a compassionate response from
Normal Family Development
● Experiential therapist share the humanistic faith in the natural wisdom of
● According to this point of view, if people are allowed to follow their own
instincts they tend to flourish.
● Society enforces repression to tame people’s instincts and make them fit
for group living.
● Parents appreciate their children, accept their feelings, and validate their
● Healthy families offer its members the freedom to be themselves.
Development of Behavior Disorders
● Denial of impulses and suppression of feeling are the root of family
● Dysfunctional families
o fearful of conflict
o cling to routines
o lack of warmth
o parents find children to be annoying/children don’t respect themselves
Development of Behavior Disorders Cont’d
● 4 Dishonest ways to communicate
o Being irrelevant
o Super reasonable
● Attachment injuries:traumatic occurrences that damage the bond between
partners and, if not resolved, maintain negative cycles and attachment
Goals of Therapy
Experiential Therapist believe that the way to emotional health is to uncover deeper levels of
experiencing. Satir (1972) puts it this way:
Through Experiential Therapy, Therapist attempt to make three changes within the family system
1. First, each member of the family should be able to report congruently, completely, and honestly
on what he sees and hears, feels and thinks, about themselves and others, in the presence of
1. Second, each person should be addressed and related to in terms of their uniqueness, so that
decisions are made in terms of exploration and negotiation rather than in terms of power.
3. Third, differentness must be openly acknowledged and used for growth.
Conditions for Behavior Change
● Breakthroughs occur:
o more separate
● Therapist must be genuine (provocative and warmly supportive/give and
● Clients come in wanting to change but thinking they can’t
● Satir believed: Caring and acceptance were key
● Experiential therapists believe that there are no real techniques, only
● Evocative Techniques
-Family Puppet Interview
-Family Art Therapy
-Conjoint Family Drawings
Family Sculpting Technique
An activity in which family members place themselves in postures symbolic of
the family dynamics.
- Each person – the mother, father and each child - sculpted how they see
the family at that moment.
- They followed by showing how they wanted it to be.
- The ‘physical movements’ between the two scenarios show the possible
changes people could make to create their ideal family.
Experiential Family Therapy Technique
Family puppet interviews- Ask a family member to make up
a story using puppets. It is useful in determining conflicts
Animal attribution- A story-telling technique that requires
family members to attribute an animal counterpart to each
member of the family and then tell a short story about the
- The use of art and creativity may lead to greater self-knowledge.
- Accessing creativity may be helpful in identifying emotional issues and can
help in the healing process.
- Art therapy is a serious technique that uses the creative process to help
improve the mental health of clients.
- Art therapy can be used on children and adults to treat a wide range of
Family Art Therapy Technique
Conjoint Family Drawings Technique
“Draw me a picture of your family, make sure everyone is in the picture, have everyone
- Following this would be discussion by the family and the therapist of what was
drawn and why, what these may show of how different family member’s perceive
the family, and possible alternative patterns the family might wish to explore.
Play Therapy Technique
Generally for children ages 3 to 11, although adults can benefit also. Using puppets,
playhouses, dolls, sandboxes, fingerpaints or other media to assist children in
expressing their thoughts and emotions.
Role Playing- Technique
Past events or hoped for or feared future developments can be made more immediate
by role-playing them in the “now” of therapy.
Use of techniques such as the “empty chair” to address emotional content surrounding
those not present in the therapy.
Two recent emotive approaches to family therapy that represent a more
sophisticated understanding of family dynamics are emotionally focused
couples therapy and the internal family systems model
❖ Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (Johnson, 1998)
● Emotionally focused couples therapy works on two levels in succession:
A. Uncovering the hurt and longing beneath defensive expressions of anger and withdrawal.
B. Helping couples understand how those feelings are played out in their relationship.
❖ Internal Family Systems Therapy (Schwartz, 1995,2001)
● In the Internal family systems model, conflicting inner voices are personified as
subpersonalities or parts.
● Founded on the belief that underneath peoples’ emotionally reactive parts lies a healthy
The Process of Therapeutic Intervention
(Johnson, Hunsley, Greenberg & Schindler, 1999)
1. Assessment- or creating an alliance and
explicating the core issues in the couple’s
conflict using attachment theory.
2. Identifying the problematic interaction cycle
that maintains attachment insecurity and
3. Uncovering the unacknowledged emotions
underlying interactional positions.
4. Reframing the problem in terms of a
problematic cycle with underlying emotions
and attachment needs
5. Encouraging acceptance and expression of
disowned needs and aspects of the self.
6. Encouraging acceptance of the partner’s new
7. Encouraging the expression of specific needs
and wants and creating an intimate emotional
8. Facilitating new solutions to unresolved
9. Consolidating new positions and more honest
expression of attachment needs.
Pros and Cons of Experiential Family
o Helps individual discover inner thoughts, feelings, and fears
o Committed to emotional well-being
o Discussing feelings can help family members get pass the
o Help families re-connect and relate on a more genuine level
o Limited appreciation for role of family structure
o Less concerned with problem solving
o May be more suited for encounter groups
Nichols, M., (2013). Family therapy concepts and
th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education.