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Lexicon of Couples and Family Counseling

D - F


Dattilio, Frank. The foremost cognitive-behavioral family therapist practicing today.


Davis, Sean D. Professor and researcher at Alliant International University; Director of AIU’s Marriage and Family Therapy Program; co-author of Common Factors in Couple and Family Therapy.


decentered position. Michael White’s term for narrative therapists when they put themselves in a not-knowing, curious position that approaches the client-as-expert.


DeClaire, Joan. Co-author with John Gottman of The Heart of Parenting. Their work with children focuses on emotion coaching.


deconstruction. The breaking down of meaning or events in a manner that allows them to be re-examined: In narrative therapy, deconstruction often precedes the creation of space in which new meanings can be constructed.


defense mechanism of the ego. The defenses that the person uses to protect a sense of wholeness and psychological wellbeing, to protect the self.


defensive communication patterns. Satir identifies blaming, placating, super-reasonable, and irrelevant as defensive communication patterns.


defensiveness. Verbally and emotionally protecting oneself from the negative feelings or experiences of another; one of the Gottmans’ four horseman of the apocalypse, a predictor of the end of a marriage.


definitional ceremonies. Based on the work of Barbara Meyerhoff and developed as a therapeutic process by Michael White for narrative therapy, definitional ceremonies call a community audience together to witness the telling of a story by an individual or family; to participate in a re-telling (or thickening) of the story; and to witness again the re-telling of the re-telling of the story.


demand. Baumrind’s word for rules, requirements, order, and expectations in families.


democratic childrearing. Dreikurs’ description of effective parenting based on a leadership model that uses encouragement and natural and logical consequences, similar to authoritative-responsive parenting.


demonstration of adequacy. The first goal of adults faced with raising children who sometimes misbehave.


demonstration of inadequacy (assumed disability). Dreikurs’ fourth goal of children’s misbehavior. A goal that invites a parental response of despair. Also, the fourth goal of neglectful adults faced with misbehaving children.


denial of reality. An early defense mechanism common in the oral stage.


de-pathologize. Feminist therapists reframe pathology in relation to the experiences people have within a dominant culture and take away the stigma of pathology from normal reactions to dehumanizing life experiences.


depressive position. Melanie Klein’s second phase of development, starting around 5 months of age, in which the child’s ego is increasingly able to relate to whole, external objects rather than part objects.


Derks, Jim. Early colleague of Steve de Shazer, Insoo Kim Berg, and Eve Lipchik at the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


desensitization (or systematic desensitization). A counter-conditioning process used by behaviorists to help people overcome fears, phobias, and anxiety.


de Shazer, Steve. The founder and co-developer of solution-focused therapy.


detriangulation. Bowen’s process for removing oneself from a negative emotional triadic relationship.


development. How individuals and families grow and change over time, including the challenges facing individuals and families at different points in life. A prominent family developmental model is called the family life cycle; one of the metaframeworks.


Dewey, John. An American philosopher, psychologist, and educator who provided the foundational thinking for the democratic education and rearing of children.


dichotomous thinking. A type of cognitive distortion: classifying experiences as all or nothing, always or never, complete success or failure, totally good or totally bad, absolutely right or absolutely wrong. This kind of polarization is evident when one spouse says, “I wish you would have picked up some ice cream when you went shopping,” and the other spouse thinks, “Nothing I ever do is good enough.”


Dickerson, Vicki. Created Bay Area Family Therapy Training Associates, a narrative therapy center in San Francisco, California; co-author of If Problems Talked.


differentiation of self. Bowen’s term for a functional human being who is able to use reason to overcome emotional reactivity and is able to remain calm and observant in an emotionally charged family atmosphere.


Dinkmeyer, Don C. An Adlerian therapist who wrote with Rudolf Dreikurs and who joined with Gary McKay and his son, Don Dinkmeyer, Jr., in merging Adlerian childrearing principles and parent effectiveness training in the development of Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP).


Dinkmeyer, Jr., Don C. An Adlerian therapist who co-authored with his father, Don C. Dinkmeyer, and Gary McKay the parent training program called STEP.


directives. Interventions used by structural, strategic, and brief therapists to assess or change systemic family processes or to interrupt problem-maintaining behaviors.


discouraged. Adler’s and Dreikurs’ word for adults and children who had lost a sense of value and connectedness with others and were acting in problematic or symptomatic ways.


disengaged/disengagement. Withdrawal and psychological isolation. Structural and strategic therapists believe that disengagement results from rigid boundaries established by individuals or subsystems (often while allowing more diffuse boundaries for the system as a whole). Disengaging family systems promote individuation at the expense of bonding, intimacy, support, and loyalty.


distracting. Another word for Satir’s irrelevant stance.


Dobson, James. An ultra-conservative, Christian promoter of “family values,” and the author of several books and newspaper columns on parenting that include support for spanking and other aversive interventions.


Dolan, Yvonne. Solution-focused therapist and author whose work addresses sexual abuse; co-author with Steve de Shazer of More Than Miracles (2007).


dominant culture. That culture or aspect(s) of culture which are privileged in any given society. In the United States, the dominant culture is white, male, heterosexual, Christian, young adult, abled, and rich.


dominant family story (or narrative). From narrative therapy, the story or narrative in which the family is stuck. Dominant family stories carry immense power and are often problem-saturated stories.


dominant knowledge-position. Michel Foucault’s belief that knowledge is power and that certain knowledge-positions gain power and work to reinforce themselves and eliminate or minimize alternative knowledge positions.


double bind. The experience of being locked in a significant relationship, characterized by contradictory messages and from which neither escape nor comment is possible.


downward arrow technique. Used by cognitive-behavioral family therapists to develop a cognitive map that leads from automatic thoughts to cognitive distortions to underlying core beliefs in the individual’s private schema.


Dreikurs, Rudolf. A child psychologist and family counselor who developed a systematic approach to Adlerian therapy.


drive. In psychoanalysis, another word for instinct: A biological process that has an origin, impetus, and aim (tension reduction).


dual relationships. A situation in which a helping professional is seeing a client or family and also has another kind of relationship or contract with the client(s): Sexual or romantic relationships with clients are always harmful dual relationships, but purchasing products or services from a client may or may not be a harmful dual relationship.


Duhl, Bunny. A family therapist who focused on metaphor and sculpting—and was closely associated with Virginia Satir. She was one of the original founders and co-directors of the Boston Family Institute.


Duhl, Fred. A family therapist who was one of the original founders and co-directors of the Boston Family Institute. With David Kantor, his scholarship contributed to the development of the field of family therapy.


Dulwich Centre in Adelaide, South Australia. Michael and Cheryl White’s training center for narrative therapy.


dyadic models. Therapeutic processes that focus on the relationship of any two people, as in couples therapy. Dyadic models seek to understand relationships based on an assessment of the interactional processes that characterize those relationships.


dyads. Any two people or entities in a relationship.


dysfunctional. An evaluative term used in multiple systemic models to indicate non-functional or non-productive structures, interactions, or behaviors.


early recollections. Adler’s use of early memories as individual projective tests that reveal the client’s phenomenological world.


ecostructural model. The structural family therapy approach developed by Harry Aponte. Focuses on the influences that macro-systems have on families and attempts to engage other social resources in aiding the family.


efficacy research. Research that aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of models or approaches in the delivery of services to clients.


egalitarian relationships. A relationship between equals and expressed in collaborative processes.


ego. In psychoanalysis, the ego is the executor of the will; it is the part of the psyche in charge of balancing the desires of the id with the restraints of the superego.


ego-ideal. The part of the superego that contains a sense of who the person is when they are behaving and acting well; the ego-ideal is associated with the feeling of pride, and it guides the individual in positive directions.


electra complex. Carl Jung’s term for the female oedipal period in which the girl represses love feelings for her father for fear of losing her mother’s love.


Ellis, Albert. The founder and developer of rational-emotive behavior therapy.


embedded messages. de Shazer used embedded messages within the directives of paradoxical interventions. In essence, his directives would join with what the family was already doing, but would use pauses to emphasize doing something different.


embeddedness. The third stage of a feminist identity development model in which women endorse the value of women in general and seek women friends and colleagues. They may reject men as representing the dominant group that has oppressed them. They are female-focused, and they begin to identify with a “feminist culture.”


emotional cutoff. Bowen’s term for fearing and rejecting emotional attachment; the other end of the continuum from emotional fusion; indicative of a lack of differentiation.


emotional fusion. Bowen’s term for excessive emotional involvement or connections: A contamination and blurring of psychological boundaries. The other end of the continuum from emotional cutoff; indicative of a lack of differentiation.


emotional honesty. Satir’s description of a communication in which the speaker’s words and feelings match and are congruent.


emotional reactivity. Bowen’s term for automatic emotional responses that were learned in old experiences with one’s family-of-origin and are triggered in the present by similar people or circumstances.


emotional tracking. Also see tracking: used by object relations family therapists to mean the following and uncovering of emotional content in often hidden from but present in individual family members.


emotion coaching. John Gottman’s term for parenting that involves teaching young children the language of emotions and then listening for, acknowledging, and reflecting the feelings that arise in their children’s lives. Paying attention to the emotions of hurt and anger are considered especially important.


Emotion-focused therapy. A model developed by Les Greenberg and Susan Johnson.


Emotion-focuses therapy with couples. A model based on the application of attachment theory to couples counseling developed by Susan Johnson.


empowerment. Interventions designed to help clients feel in charge of their own lives. A process central to the work of Adlerians, Satir, and feminists.


enactments. A structural family therapy directive to engage in a set of behaviors or interactions that will allow the therapist either to assess family process or work on restructuring or re-aligning the family.


encouragement. To build courage in others; to have faith in people and be able to communicate that faith in them.


enmeshed/enmeshment. A family structure characterized by diffuse internal boundaries with one or more family members being emotionally reactive, overly concerned, and overly involved in other members’ lives. Paradoxically, enmeshed families are often closed systems in relation to other systems.


Enns, Carolyn. A feminist family scholar who has helped to define the continuum of feminist therapy.


entropy. A systems theory concept that suggests that change in the order of things will move toward greater disorder, randomness, and a loss of distinctive states of being.


epistemology. The study of knowledge; also used by Bateson to indicate worldview or beliefs.


Epston, David. A founder and developer of narrative therapy. Living in New Zealand, he is a collaborator with Michael White from Australia.


equifinality. A complex system’s ability to reach a specific goal in many ways and from many different directions.


equilibrium. A steady state of a system held in balance. Similar to homeostasis.


equipotentiality. A systems theory concept that suggests different outcomes can result from similar origins.


Erickson, Milton H. A psychiatrist specializing in medical hypnosis and family therapy, he was the founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis and was a major influence on strategic family therapists, especially Jay Haley. His influence can also be found in the work of some solution-focused therapists and some Satir therapists too.


Erikson, Erik. A Freudian psychologist who projected Freud’s developmental model into adolescents and young adulthood.


ethnicity. Groups who share values and customs based on common ancestry.


evidence-based practice. Therapy approaches that are supported by efficacy research.


evolving a crisis. Whitaker’s term for escalating a crisis beyond what even the family is prepared to handle. If a kind of meta-event with the power of a psychological orgasm occurs within the therapy session, then stimulating it—to evolve into a full-blown crisis—is one way to release the family into a greater sense of becoming.


exception questions. Questions asked by solution-focused or solution-oriented therapists about times or events that are different from normal occurrences in clients’ lives.


existentialism. A philosophy of existence that stresses freedom, authenticity, and responsibility in the face of anxiety and chaos.


exosystem. The impact on the child’s development that results from a link between environmental systems that do not directly involve the child or person. Example: Mother gets a promotion at work and is not at home as much; dad decides to quit working and be a stay-at-home parent. The child is affected by the mother’s promotion and the father’s termination of employment.


experience. What individuals or families do or what happens to them; central to Satir’s model and to Gestalt therapy.


experiential therapy. A term often applied to Satir’s human validation process model and Whitaker’s symbolic experiential model. It is also applicable to Gestalt therapy and other models with individuals and families that emphasize experience and change rather than teaching or reorganization.


experiment. Trying something out; one form of experience; central to Gestalt therapy.


extended family. Family members beyond the nuclear family, including aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc.


externalization. A narrative therapy intervention designed to name problems and locate them as outside agents working on individuals or families.


external resources. Satir’s concept of outside agencies or agents, perhaps including counselors, therapists, or family practitioners, who offer help to people in need.


extinction. Eliminating the reinforcement of a behavior so that it gradually ends.


facilitating change. Generally the last phase of a family therapy process in which the therapist—having formed a relationship with the family, conducted a family assessment, and offered a hypothesis about family process—intervenes in a variety of ways designed to support needed or desired change in the family system.


Fairbairn, W. R. D. An object relations theorist from England.


family assessment. Generally the first or second phase of a family therapy process in which the therapist attempts to understand the dynamics of the family through observation, engagement or enactments, genograms, or formal testing.


family atmosphere. An Adlerian description of the mood, feeling, or human climate maintained in the family.


family constellation. Adler’s term for family system. Toman’s name for birth order descriptions: It is Toman’s model that was incorporated by Bowen in multigenerational family therapy.


family games. The term the Milan strategic therapists used for dysfunctional family patterns.


family group therapy. Developed by John Elderkin Bell at Clark University in Massachusetts.


family hierarchy. A structural family therapy concept that addresses how the leadership and power in the family is organized. It also addresses decision making in families.


family homeostasis. Keeping the family the same; also, the tendency of families to resist change in an effort to keep things the same.


family lifecycle. Developmental stages in a family’s life as proposed by Betty Carter and Monica McGoldrick, and often used as a foundation for Bowen family therapy. The original family life cycle began when an individual separated from her or his family, then entered into marriage, had children, grew older, entered retirement, and finally faced death.


family life-fact chronologies. Satir’s process for relating multigenerational family life and experiences to an individual-in-focus, as well as to historical events.


family mapping. Satir’s process for drawing the structural-emotional relationships in a family. Satir’s process is similar to genogram work except that she did not like to differentiate gender in her diagrams or limit people to single roles within families. Family mapping is also a process used by structural family therapists with a slightly different focus than the ones used by Satir or in genograms: Minuchin uses them to diagram family organization and process as they revolve around the presenting problem.


family myths. Family stories that are shared by all, but that are also distortions of history and reality.


family-of-origin. The original nuclear family of adults, including parents and siblings.


family-of-origin therapy. Another name for Bowen’s multigenerational family therapy.


family projection process. Bowen’s term for the processes by which parents pass along to their children similar levels of differentiation of self. Because the emotional functioning of the parents often is projected onto the children, this process explains how children become symptom-bearers. The family projection process also can refer to more-benign roles, values, and attributes being passed along to the next generation.


family reconstruction. Satir’s psychodramatic process for recreating early family-of-origin experiences and transforming them so that individuals can see them with adult eyes and experience them in a new way. This process is designed to help individuals, especially family practitioners, gain the perspective that Bowen associates with a strong differentiation of self.


family rituals. Repeated patterns or performances within families that serve to acknowledge or celebrate given events or passages. As used within the Milan model, a family ritual is a prescribed performance designed to change family rules.


family roles. The activities and functions assumed by each member of the family.


family rules. The directives, stated or implied, that govern how family members, behave, experience, feel, interact, and communicate.


family rule transformation. Satir believed that family rules developed as a way to bring order to systemic processes, but that such rules often were communicated in impossible forms (always or never) and as lacking choice (must be done or have to be done). Her transformation process helped people to reconsider family rules in a way that added choice and possibilities.


family sculpting. Arranging the family members in physical postures that represent how each person feels and the relationship that each has to the others.


family secrets. Knowledge, beliefs, or attitudes held by one or more family members privately and kept from others; or a secret that the whole family holds against outsiders and may pass on from one generation to the next.


family structure. The organization of the family in terms of interactional patterns.


family system. The family as an organized whole, including the way the various parts of the family function together.


family triads. Any arrangement of family members in groupings of three.


family values. Therapeutically, values on which both parents agree; also a term used by social conservatives (see James Dobson) to indicate traditional or fundamentalist beliefs and actions.


feedback loops. From cybernetics, the flow of information within a system such that what is given out is processed and returned in a manner that maintains the system (negative feedback loop) or indicates a need for change in the system (positive feedback loop).


Felder, Richard. A colleague in the Atlanta practice of Carl Whitaker, Gus Napier, and John Warkentin.


feminism. A way of being in which women’s perspectives and voices are valued, the personal is seen as political, and egalitarian, culturally sensitive models are promoted. Feminists believe in social, political, and financial equality; they challenge patriarchy and dominant culture positions.


feminist critique. Feminists in family therapy who challenged the idea that normal families and family structures were good for women as partners in marriage with men or as mothers. Feminists also challenged the male-dominated approaches to family therapy that often supported men at the cost of women.


feminist ethical decision-making model. An ethical decision-making model proposed by feminist therapists that makes use of participatory ethics.


feminist family therapy. Feminist therapy applied to families. Major contributors to this model include, among others, Thelma Jean Goodrich, Rachel T. Hare-Mustin, and Louise B. Silverstein.


feminist identity development model. How women grow and develop into a full consciousness of who they are as women. One model includes five stages: (1) passive acceptance, (2) revelation, (3) embeddedness, (4) synthesis, and (5) active commitment.


feminist therapy and feminist therapists. A therapeutic approach that values women’s voices and perspectives, and advocates for changes in patriarchal processes that affect both genders. A major contributor to this model is Laura Brown.


fidelity. From principle ethics: faithfulness, trust, confidentiality, keeping one’s word.


first-order change. Changes within a system that do not change the basic organization of the system itself; changes that are temporary or superficial.


first-order cybernetics. The belief that an outside agent, such as a counselor or therapist, can observe and make changes in the system while remaining independent of the system.


Fisch, Richard. Co-author of The Tactics of Change, a leading theorist at the Mental Research Institute (MRI)


Fishman, Charles. A structural family therapist who wrote Intensive Structural Therapy in 1993.


Fogarty, Thomas. A Bowen scholar and therapist.


foreign element. The introduction of a significant difference that interrupts personal or family routines. Satir’s second phase in the process of change.


Forgatch, Marion. A colleague of Gerald Patterson at the University of Oregon who co-authored papers on functional family therapy.


forming a relationship. The formal designation of the first stage of Adlerian therapy—and, in general, it is also the informal stage of almost all other family therapy approaches.


formula first-session task. At the end of the first session, solution-focused therapists ask families to think about what they do that they want to keep doing (or retain) as they move forward. The formula first-session task is designed to focus on family strengths and support the development of solutions.


formula tasks. Assignments given to many families, regardless of their situations, to focus them on the future, on solutions, and on improvement.


Foucault, Michel. French philosopher and social scientist who gave us the concepts of dominant culture or dominant knowledge positions—and their deconstruction. A major influence on postmodern thinking and the narrative therapy of Michael White and David Epston.


Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Gottman’s term for Criticism, Contempt, Stonewalling, and Defensiveness, the four attitude/stances that predict the end of a marriage.


Framo, James. A psychoanalytically trained family therapy pioneer who worked with multiple generations of families and who spent some time with Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy before moving his practice and teaching to southern California.


Freedman, Jill. Evanston, Illinois, based narrative therapist and trainer; co-author with Gene Combs of narrative therapy.


Freeman, Arthur. A cognitive therapist with close ties to Adlerian therapy.


Freud, Sigmund. The father of modern psychology and psychotherapy. The originator of psychoanalysis.


Friedan, Betty. Author of The Feminine Mystique, the book that launched the second wave of feminism in the United States.


function. Used by strategic family therapists to indicate role, purpose, or use within a family.


functional. An evaluative term used in multiple systemic models to indicate productive or healthy family structures, interactions, or behaviors.


functional analysis of behavior. An assessment of specific behaviors to determine what is cuing them and what is reinforcing them. In cognitive-behavioral family therapy, it is an analysis of both prior and current learning experiences that contribute to current client issues.


functional family therapy. A behavioral model for functional families associated with James Alexander.


function of symptoms. The idea that symptoms are not simply possessed, but rather that they serve some purpose or function in the family.


fusion. See emotional fusion.

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