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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Episodes of change in experiential systemic marital therapy : a discovery-oriented investigation Ferrada, Natacha


This investigation sought to discover, identify and describe in-session change episodes in marital Experiential Systemic Therapy (Friesen et al., 1989) through a naturalistic discovery-oriented methodology. This study responds to calls made regarding the need to study complex and intricate processes, such as psychotherapy (Greenberg, 1986), via discovery-oriented methods (Mahrer, 1988). The observational analysis of 40 videotaped-sessions, of three couples, revealed the presence of ten episodes of change. The actions and interactions of the members of the therapeutic system in these episodes were analyzed via the grounded theory method of analysis. This analysis generated a conceptual framework describing the internal structure of change. The resulting conceptual framework consisted of a core category named synergetic shifting. This category refers to an interactional process in which the partners with the assistance of the therapist moved away from rigid, distancing and alienating interactional patterns toward interpersonal flexibility, compassion and affiliation by working through blocks hindering the couples' engagement and intimate connection. Synergetic shifting consists of four client and three therapist categories. Within the progressive nature of synergetic shifting, the client categories were: (1) owning one's part in the relational conflict; (2) couple contacting: restricted and limited; (3) couple working through blocks to intimacy; and (4) couple engaging compassionately. The therapist's actions and interactions were categorized under supporting, transitional and shifting operations.

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