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Lexicon of Couples and Family Counseling

M - O


MacKune-Karrer, Betty. Co-author of Metaframeworks.


macrosystems. Those systems larger than the individual (e.g., society, religion, culture, etc.) that provide the contexts within which the individual lives and functions—and that impact the development of the individual.


Madanes, Cloe. Co-developer of the Washington School of Strategic Family Therapy.


magnification and minimization. A type of cognitive distortion: Making more or less out of a situation or event than is warranted by the facts; an example is when an adolescent gets Bs on her report card, and her parents declare that she will never get into a good college and that she might as well go to beauty school. Later when the child’s grades have improved, but are not straight As, the parents lament that the additional As didn’t really help her much.


Mahler, Margaret. An object relations theorist.


making contact. Satir’s term for the development of a close, nurturing relationship between therapist and clients.


Malone, Thomas. An early collaborator with Carl Whitaker: They wrote The Roots of Psychotherapy.


managed care. Modern health-care delivery in which third-party payers regulate and control the cost, quality, length, and terms of delivered services, including the regulation and control of family practice.


marginalized cultures. Cultures set aside by the dominant culture: In the United States, marginalized cultures are women; children; people of color; the aged; the poor; the disabled; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals; and the non-religious and non-Christian populations.


mature relational stage. Fairbairn’s final stage in which there is a mutual give and take.


McGoldrick, Monica. A leading family researcher and feminist therapist who developed, among other things, genograms, considerations of culture and ethnicity in family therapy, and the family life cycle.


McKay, Gary and Joyce. Adlerians, they co-authored and developed STEP.


McLendon, Jean. A Satir scholar and director of the Satir Institute of the Southeast in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.


Meichenbaum, Donald. A cognitive-behavioral therapist who made significant contributions to the practice of behavior modification techniques.


Mental Research Institute. A west-coast center in Palo Alto, California, for the training of brief family therapists and strategic family therapy.


mesosystem. Refers to the impact that occurs when microsystems interact.


metacommunication or metamessages. The idea that every message or communication has both content and a comment that indicates how the content should be received. Satir looked at tone of voice and body language as a means of understanding metacommunications. Strategic family therapists look at the directives implied in communications as the metacommunication.


metaframeworks. The development of multiple lenses or perspectives across models in family therapy, including internal family systems, tracking sequences, organization, development, gender, and multiculturalism. This book also adds the lenses of a teleology and process.


microsystem. Includes all of the environmental, social, and political groups that directly impact the individual, especially as a child during early development: the family (nuclear and extended), the school, the neighborhood, friends and peers, and sometimes religious affiliations. It can also include the person’s internal biology.


Milan model of strategic therapy. A strategic therapy model originally based on uses of family paradox and counter-paradox; developed in Milan, Italy, by Maria Selvini Palazzoli and her associates.


Miller, Scott. A solution-focused therapist and author who did extensive work with Insoo Kim Berg.


mimesis. A form of accommodation and joining used in structural family therapy; the family practitioner mirrors or imitates the family’s style, tempo, and affect.


mind reading. A type of cognitive distortion: Another arbitrary inference in which one individual believes that she or he knows what another is thinking or will do—even though nothing has been communicated verbally between the two people. Anytime spouses, parents, or children say they know what other people are going to say or do when they find out about a problem or misdeed, they are engaging in mind reading: It is a guess that more often than not is framed in the negative.


Minuchin, Salvador. Founder and developer of structural family therapy.


miracle question. From solution-focused and solution-oriented therapy, the therapist asks clients to imagine how things would be if they woke up tomorrow and their problems were solved. Used to identify goals and desired solutions. The miracle question is similar to Adler's concept called "The Question."


mirroring. Similar to reflection in individual therapy, the therapist expresses understanding and acceptance of the family’s or family member’s feeling and content.


Mitchell, Stephen. Modern object relations theorist; proposes a relational model.


modeling. Learning by reinforcing behaviors that come closer and closer to matching the behaviors set by a model; a form of learning through observation.


modernism/modernist. A belief in essences, independent reality, and the application of the scientific method and linear causality to understand life experiences.


monad. Any single individual or entity.


Montalvo, Braulio. An early associate and author with Salvador Minuchin in the development of structural family therapy.


morphogenesis. The tendency of a system to change its structure.


morphostasis. The tendency of a system to maintain the same structure.


motivation. Goals or purposes that explain and direct current behaviors, feelings, and thoughts.


motivation modification. The process in Adlerian therapy and Adlerian brief therapy of changing individual and family goals so the individual and family development may continue in a functional manner.


multiculturalism. Considering and appreciating the perspectives brought to lived experience by different races, ethnicities, cultures, ages, abilities, genders, and sexual/affectional orientations; one of the metaframeworks.


multigenerational family therapy. Another name for Bowen family therapy; a family approach that focuses on processes involved in at least three generations of family life.


multigenerational transmission process. Bowen’s term for the process by which poor differentiation of self is passed along from generation to generation. Bowen believed that people with similar levels of differentiation tend to marry with children then suffering various psychological problems.


multiple-choice questions. Used in solution-oriented therapy, questions about the family’s problem(s) with a twist: They suggested that A-B-C answers have embedded within them solutions or directions that are new possibilities for the clients.


mystery questions. Questions used in narrative therapy to help clients wonder about how their problems got the best of them; a form of externalization.


Napier, Gus. Co-author with Carl Whitaker of The Family Crucible, and a scholar-practitioner of symbolic-experiential family therapy.


narrative therapy. A postmodern, social constructionist therapy developed by Michael White and David Epston that includes the naming of problems, externalization, a search for unique events, and the development of alternate stories. This approach works at thickening client stories when clients enter therapy with often thin (often problem-fused) descriptions of themselves.


natural consequences. A consequence that automatically follows any given act; what would happen if no one intervened in a given action. Dreikurs’ term for a consequence that occurs without outside intervention.


navel equality. Satir’s term for human equality.


negative feedback loops. From cybernetics, a feedback loop that serves to maintain the system and set predetermined limits on how the flow of information is used.


negative reinforcement. Removal or avoidance of an aversive or unpleasant stimulus contingent on performing a desired behavior and resulting in an increase in that behavior.


negentropy. The emergence or revelation of a system’s organizational pattern: The opposite or reverse of entropy.


neglectful. Baumrind’s term for parents who are discouraged and disengaged, who want their children to leave them alone, and who engage in what Adlerians call a demonstration of inadequacy. Such parenting is characterized by low demand (rules or order) and low responsiveness (in the form of warmth, reciprocity, or attachment).


neutrality. The Milan model’s term for fair and balanced acceptance of all family members.


new integration. What happens after new behaviors, interactions, or processes are practiced and have become part of people and families. The final phase of Satir’s process of change.


new possibilities. New options that arise in people and families when they are able to connect to both internal and external resources or build on exceptions to the problems faced. The fourth phase of Satir’s process of change.


next most interesting question. A form of questioning in which the previous answer given informs the development of the next question; a process associated with the linguistic approach to therapy developed by Harlene Anderson and Harold Goolishian.


Nichols, Michael P. Associated with structural family therapy and psychoanalytic approaches, he is the author and sometimes co-author with Richard Schwartz of Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods.


Nicoll, William G. An Adlerian family therapist who co-developed Adlerian brief therapy.


nonmaleficence. From principle ethics: To do no harm.


normal. An evaluative term used to indicate that structures, interactions, feelings, or behaviors are within expected norms.


normal autism. Mahler’s first stage of child development.


normal family processes. A term used by Froma Walsh to describe the large variety and diversity of what makes up normal family structures, interactions, and behaviors in the United States.


normalization (or normalizing the problem). Similar to what occurs when feminists de-pathologize experience, both Adlerians and solution-oriented practitioners will reframe problems as everyday occurrences. Normalizing a problem implies that the problem is not so extreme and that it can be addressed and solved.


normalizing family experiences. Used by Adlerians, when families are feeling overloaded and distressed by their life experiences, normalizing is helping the clients to see that they are not alone in their situation, that other families with similar experiences would be feeling the same way, and that change is possible. Similar to the process used by Adlerians, the solution-oriented therapists often will reframe problems as normal, everyday occurrences when the family or family members have been pathologized or have begun to self-pathologize their situation.


normal symbiosis. Mahler’s second stage of child development.


not-knowing position. A position of interest and curiosity developed by Harold Goolishian and Harlene Anderson as a means of privileging clients-as-expert in the therapy process. A not-knowing position is greatly facilitated when family practitioners follow their clients’ stories very closely and continue to ask the next most interesting question.


nuclear family. Parents and children in a single household.


nuclear family emotional system. A Bowen term for a conflict that starts between the parents and evolves through triangulation into emotional distress or turmoil for the whole family.


nurturing triads. Satir’s term for a positive triadic process in which two people join together in support of a third, as in two parents joining together to raise a child.


Nutt, Roberta. A feminist family therapist, and former Chair of the Psychology of Women Division of the APA.


object. In psychoanalysis, the external part or person to whom the child attaches.


object relations family therapy. The evolution and application of Freudian psychoanalysis to family systems; the model is based on attachment theory and the conceptualizations of self and others that evolve from early parent-child relationships. David and Jill Savege Scharff are the foremost scholar-practitioners of this model.


oedipal period. Part of Freud’s phallic stage; a period in which little boys desire their mothers sexually, but fear castration from their fathers, so they repress their feelings.


O’Hanlon, William (Bill) H. The co-developer of solution-oriented therapy, which he now calls possibility therapy.


one-down position. A paradoxical clinical stance adopted by strategic family therapists at the Mental Research Institute that aims to empower clients.


open-forum family counseling. An Adlerian approach to family counseling conducted in public settings and making use of an audience as an outside witness to understanding a family-in-focus and encouraging and supporting change in family interactions. This model’s strongest advocate is Oscar Christensen.


open systems. From general systems theory, an open system is one that continuously exchanges feedback with its environment. In family therapy, it is a metaphor for a family’s willingness to receive new information and adapt.


operant conditioning. A behavioral learning model developed by B. F. Skinner that emphasizes the importance of reinforcement in shaping, maintaining, and increasing desired behaviors.


oral stage. Freud’s first stage of child development when stimulation of the mouth is central to the child’s activities; personalities thought to develop from a fixation at this stage include oral incorporative (swallowing) and oral aggressive (biting). Denial and introjection are common defense mechanisms at this stage.


ordeals. Developed by Jay Haley in strategic family therapy as a form of paradoxical intervention, the client(s) is directed to do something that is even harder than continuing to maintain the symptom.


ordinal birth position. Fixed attributes assigned to each birth position based solely on the order of sibling birth, as in Toman’s family constellation model.


organization. The leadership and hierarchy of the family; one of the metaframeworks.


over-functioning or under-functioning relationships. A concept from multigenerational family therapy that describes a relationship of reciprocal roles in which one member is overly dependent, and the other member is overly responsible. Such relationships may hold the family together during periods of low stress, but in distress, both positions tend to become polarized.


overgeneralization. A type of cognitive distortion; generalizing from one or two incidents to assigning someone a consistent, ongoing attribute; an example is when one family member is late picking up another family member, and the late individual is declared to be completely unreliable.

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