Running Head: Contribution of Research to Marriage and Family Counseling

Contribution of Research to Marriage and Family Counseling

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Research contribution in Marriage and Family Counseling


Marriage and Family Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves all the members of a family. It is based on researches that have shown that individuals and their problems are best

Contribution of Research to Marriage and Family Counseling

handled within the context of their relationship. In this treatment the focus is not only the individual but the family as a whole. This therapy is being used to treat a wide range of mental sickness such as depression, anxiety and individual psychological problems. It is also being used to handle marital problems and parent-child problems. Marriage and Family Therapy, as a form of treatment of psychological problems, is new. Research on Marriage and Family Therapy have supported the use of this method and given insight on the use of this method.

Research on Marriage and Family Therapy

The practice of MFT had for sometime not been based on research. It was being based on personal intuition and speculation. Some of the literature and essays on Marriage and Family Therapy have been speculative. Their propositions are not supported by research finding (Brock, Gregory, Whiting, Jason, Brianne, 2009) but based only on behavioral treatment for marital communication. A scientific base for practice of MFT was needed. The first work to establish a scientific foundation of MFT was published in the 1980s. From a number of studies, MFT has been established as a science based discipline and practice (Pinsof& Wynn, 1995). Currently there is incorporation of science in clinical treatment of Marriage and Family problems. Most Literature material on MFT is now being based on research (Sprenkle, 2005).

Marriage and Family research bring insight on the family and marriage problems. Such problems include family parent-child problem, issues concerning drug use and other psychological problems affecting the family. The finding from the research helps the MFT therapist to interpret problems affecting a family and also administer treatment. A bank of these research literature materials is shared.

Family therapists must be able to integrate research, theory and clinical practices in their practice (Olson, 1976). A good relationship between research and theory must be established so as to give a good base for the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT). The practice of MFT has been for a long time been based on intuition rather than research (Douglas, 2005). There has been a gap between research and the practice of MFT. Most MFT therapists insist on continuing practicing their work the way they have been doing without reference to research. In the recent past there has been call for promotion of research in MFT (Pratt, 2003). There is call for

Contribution of Research to Marriage and Family Counseling

collaboration in research and sharing of research information. However research on MFT has shown the effectiveness of this therapy in solving individual’s psychological problems. The research has shown that MFT is better than lack of it (Douglas, 2005, p3). Research in MFT uses qualitative and quantitative methods to make conclusion on the best treatment to give.

Research gives an objective base for making conclusion on the subject of study. Various researches on various issues that affect the family have been done. These researches range from effect of alcohol to family relationship, Effect of drug, Family communication etc. MFT research takes a family as a unit and looks for correlation on the patients’ states and their family background.

Scientific methods are used for collection and analysis of data during these researches. Objective conclusions are able to be derived from these researches. These conclusions are very important in prescribing treatment to the patient. There is availability of various research literature materials on various studies made by various researchers. These literature materials give a rich reserve for reference and sharing of information. The integrity of these literature materials should however be verified since some of the literature materials available are not reliable (Brock, Gregory, Whiting, Jason, Brianne, 2009).

Individual research may be made. An MFT therapist may make research on an individual patient of individual family unit. Research gives a MFT therapist a basis for decision making. From the research the researcher is able to interpret observation made on a patient. In addition He is able to give a therapy prescription to the patient or client. An example of a treatment model derived from research is interpersonal trauma model. This model combines individual and relational issues in a three-stage model for treatment (Hecker, Wetchler, 2003). Research on Many Mental illness has shown correlation between the illness and family back ground thus an MFT research is aimed at the family as a unit.

Research has become an important issue in these therapies. Evidence based scientific conclusion is used (Sprenkle& Douglas, 2003). In addition to traditional treatment of marriage

Contribution of Research to Marriage and Family Counseling

and family problems, which rely on victims’ disclosure, scientific research method critically analyses various parameters. Various methods are used to collect and analyze these data. Both qualitative and quantitative data are collected and analyzed during the research.

Researches in MFT have resulted in marriage and family interventions that are supported by empirical findings. These treatments are referred as empirically supported treatment. There is availability of empirically supported treatment for a variety of marriage and family problems (Sprenkle, 2002). These empirically supported treatments have been of great help in treatment of Family problems such as drug problems and severe mental problems. Availability of information from various researches is important. Researches have been shown to inform and support the use of Marriage and Family counseling in treatment of various psychological problems.

Research tools and methodology

For good and objective results, proper research tool and methodology have to be used. The researcher has to plan the research in advance. A statement of hypothesis, which anticipates the result, is formulated. This hypothesis statement is derived from theoretical analysis which the researcher should do prior to the research (Fred, 2005). The methodology to use is determined by whether the researcher wants to make a qualitative or a quantitative research. A quantitative study tries to test a hypothesis, make causal explanation and generalize across samples (Ellioit et al, 1999). On the other hand qualitative study tries to understand the experience of people (Ambert, 1995). Some of the methods that the researcher can use to collect data include Questionnaires and personal interviews. The quality of information derived is determined by the sample taken. Proper sampling should thus be applied.

The data collected is analyzed. Analysis of data summarizes the data and gives it meaning. The data analysis applied is determined by the kind of data, whether qualitative or quantitative. Knowledge of data analysis method would be of great help to the researcher. Data analysis gives the general trend on the observation (Babbie, 1998, p24). Various tools could be used for analysis of the observed data. Computer aided Qualitative data analysis software could be used in the analysis (Douglas, 2005).

Contribution of Research to Marriage and Family Counseling

One of such tools is SPSS, which simplifies analysis of statistical data.

The information derived from the research is then interpreted and conclusions made. The hypothesis statement is tested against the observations. Care should be taken when interpreting the information since the interpretation would determine the course of action to be taken (Pratt, 2003). The observations and conclusions made from a research should be evaluated against the observations and conclusions from similar research from other researchers.


Marriage and Family Therapy has been seen as an important approach to psychological problems that involves an individual. For any field, research is very important. Research on MFT gives objective information for practice. Research should, thus be encouraged and the outcome be implemented. Malpractice in research should be discouraged and any research material should be verified for any cheating. Marriage and Family Therapy involves many issues that depend on each other. Research on the MFT could thus be deceiving. Interpretation of these observations should therefore be brought down to the family setting taking in consideration the differences in family settings. Marriage and family therapy have been seen to be an effective way of solving individuals’ psychological problems. Improved research would thus be of great help to further development and use of this method.


Douglas, Sprenkle and Fred (2005) Research Methods in Family Therapy (2nd Ed.) (Eds.), New York: Guilford Press, pp03-55, pp235-239

Contribution of Research to Marriage and Family Counseling

Goldenberg (2000) 7th Edition Family therapy;-Thomson Brooks;-pp223-234

Hewcker, Wetchler (2003) An introduction to marriage and family therapy;-New York Guilford press,

Stephen, Gregory, Whiting, Broke (2009) Integrity of the marriage and family therapy research literature: perception and recommendations;-Journal of Marriage and Family Therapy; Retrieved from

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Pratt (2003) Marriage& Family Therapy Student Learning Qualitative Research a Frameworks Identified through Participatory-Observation;-Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA pp333-335 retrieved from

Sprenkle& Douglas (2002);-Effectiveness of Research in Marriage and Family Therapy;-

New York Guilford press pp176-235;-