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Fam Process. 2014 Sep;53(3):434-44. doi: 10.1111/famp.12079. Epub 2014 Jun 6.

Old wine in new bottles: decanting systemic family process research in the era of evidence-based practice.

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Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, George Washington University, Washington, DC; Psychology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.


Social cybernetic (systemic) ideas from the early Family Process era, though emanating from qualitative clinical observation, have underappreciated heuristic potential for guiding quantitative empirical research on problem maintenance and change. The old conceptual wines we have attempted to repackage in new, science-friendly bottles include ironic processes (when "solutions" maintain problems), symptom-system fit (when problems stabilize relationships), and communal coping (when we-ness helps people change). Both self-report and observational quantitative methods have been useful in tracking these phenomena, and together the three constructs inform a team-based family consultation approach to working with difficult health and behavior problems. In addition, a large-scale, quantitatively focused effectiveness trial of family therapy for adolescent drug abuse highlights the importance of treatment fidelity and qualitative approaches to examining it. In this sense, echoing the history of family therapy research, our experience with juxtaposing quantitative and qualitative methods has gone full circle-from qualitative to quantitative observation and back again.


Communal Coping; Ironic Processes; Research Methods; Symptom-System Fit; Systemic Theory; Treatment Fidelity; afrontamiento comunitario; correlación entre síntomas y sistema; fidelidad al tratamiento; métodos de investigación; procesos irónicos; teoría sistémica; 公众处理; 治疗忠诚; 症状-系统匹配; 研究方向; 系统理论; 讽刺作用

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