The Effectiveness of Family and Relationship Therapy: A review of the literature

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Phillipa Evans, Shelley Turner and Chris Trotter[1] Monash University, Melbourne

Address for correspondence
Associate Professor Chris Trotter
Department of Social Work
Monash University
PO Box 197 Caulfield East
Victoria, VIC 3145


This literature review examines the effectiveness of family and relationship therapy and psychotherapy in relation to the following seven of the key modalities. 

  1. Experiential Family Therapy (EFT)
  2. Structural Family Therapy (SFT)
  3. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  4. Multi-systemic Therapy (MST)
  5. Family Problem Solving
  6. Solution Focused Therapy (SFT)
  7. Narrative Therapy

It is acknowledged that these modalities represent only a sample of the many forms of family therapy practiced in Australia and elsewhere. They do represent however some of the key approaches.

This review poses the central research question: ‘To what extent, if any, is family and relationship therapy and psychotherapy effective?’  The review systematically poses this question when examining each of the seven key modalities.  The review assumes that the common aim of each of these modalities as they relate to the field of family and relationship therapy is to identify and treat problematic family and intra-personal relationship dynamics, as defined by the client(s).  The review also identifies any knowledge gaps pertinent to the research area.

Keywords: effectiveness research, family therapy, relationship therapy

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