Recommended Reading for Family Therapists

A few weeks ago, one of my blog posts received a comment that was worth a whole post:

“I am also a therapist (though I’m still in training). I’m wondering if you would be willing/able to recommend some family therapy books you’ve found helpful. My program is very focused on the individual and I’m trying to fill in some gaps and find your perspective on therapy to be very resonant with my own.”

I’d love to recommend some family therapy books! My program was extremely family-systems focused, which I’ve been grateful for since leaving school. If you want to see an exhaustive reading list (I can’t remember having been assigned a real dud), you can see reverse-order lists of everything I read in my first year here and my second year here.

I’ll try to create a bare-bones list for you here—much more useful for you and a good exercise for me. I should warn you before I begin that I am super nerdy when it comes to family therapy reading and I can imagine many in my cohort rolling their eyes at my “must-read” list. If you are nerdy like me, though, here goes:

Pragmatics of Human Communication: A classic and profound book by Bateson’s MRI team, the first and probably still the best attempt to apply system theory to human relationships.

Susan Johnson’s books The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy and Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy for Trauma SurvivorsJohnson combines system-thinking, Rogers-style experiential therapy, and attachment theory, creating one of my most-used therapy models.

John Gottman’s books, especially The Marriage Clinic and The Science of Trust. Gottman has taken up the project started with Pragmatics, largely abandoned by family therapy, and is doing it in fine style, with solid science.

Metaframeworks: This book presents my favorite meta-model of family therapy, combining the best parts of the many family therapy models.

A major work by each family therapy model-builder is also important reading: Haley, Madanes, Satir, Whitaker, Minuchin, Bowen, Selvini-Palazolli/Milan group, Weakland/Fisch/MRI group, deShazer/Insoo-Berg, Epson/White, and Hubble/Duncan/Miller. Keep in mind that their books are presentations of informed opinion, not science. Every one of these folks have got some things right and some wrong. They have also advanced the field significantly, and are the largest part the conversation on how to think about families.

Finally, a couple things that I was not assigned in school, but I found extremely helpful in making sense of the flood of information. First, a grounding in systems/complexity theory: Family therapists think of themselves as system-theory experts and throw around a lot of lingo that they may or may not really understand. It’s easy to get confused in this situation. The best introduction to modern system thinking is still Capra’s The Web of Life (though we’re overdue for an update). Also, check out Bateson’s books Steps to an Ecology of Mind and Mind and Nature.Second, familiarity with Wilber’s integral theory really helped me navigate the heated arguments about modernism vs. post-modernism and intervention at the level of individuals vs. family systems vs. larger systems. Check out Integral Psychology or A Theory of Everything.

(Originally published as “Family Therapy Books I Recommend to Individual Therapists,” on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape.)

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When Nietzsche Wept

The first fiction I read after graduating from my Couples & Family Therapy masters program was the novel by Irvin Yalom, When Nietzsche Wept. I loved it and read it out loud to Reanna directly afterwards. I was fully engaged and deeply moved each time I read it. Yalom imagines a pre-Zarathustra Nietzsche becoming involved therapeutically with a mentor of Freud’s in 1882.

Before rushing out to get it, consider my caveats: I am a therapist and this is a novel about therapy. I am a fan of Yalom’s from having loved two of his clinical books, An Open Letter to New Therapists and The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy. (The Group book split my cohort–most hated it. I never understood why. It was great.) I am also very interested in existential philosophy.

If you do read it, consider a doing a couple things that helped me enjoy it. I created a Pandora station for the 1880s out of Wagner, Mahler, and Strauss. It really shifted the tone of the book to be listening to the ultra-dramatic German music of the time. Second, all of the major characters are historical figures with images available online–Nietzsche and Freud, of course, but also Bertha Pappenheim, Lou Salome, and Josef and Mathilde Breuer. That was fun to see.

[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, on August 3, 2011.]

Second Term of Grad School

[First posted as “Winter Term Begins” on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, January 8, 2010.]

I’m back from a wonderful vacation with Reanna and my family in Joshua Tree and hunkering down for my winter term. I’ve heard that my last term had the most intense workload of the program, but now that I’ve compiled the list of reading and assignments, I wonder if that’s true, especially considering that we have our comp exams the first week of spring term, which includes writing four 6-8 page papers from memory. I’m thinking of ways to take it easier on myself this term because I lost some of my near-focus vision during fall term and I’m not cool with that. (Yes, I was taking breaks, looking up frequently etc. Reading 30 hours a week is reading 30 hours a week.) Anyway, here’s my reading and writing list for the next 10 weeks. The number codes are for the classes: 610 is my second Family Models class, 620 is my Psychopathology (read DSM and deconstruction of such) class, 621 is Professional and Ethical Issues in Family Therapy, and 632 is Medical Family Therapy. I’m excited about all of them.

620 “Remembering Masturbatory Insanity” (URL) 1/6/2010

620 “Mental Disorders are Not Diseases” (URL) 1/6/2010

620 “The Myth of the Reliability of DSM” (URL) 1/6/2010

620 “On Being Sane in Insane Places” (Blackboard) 1/6/2010

620 “Patient Autobiographies” (Blackboard) 1/6/2010

621 Corey ch 1 1/11/2010

621 Corey ch 2 1/11/2010

621 Woody ch 1 1/11/2010

621 reflection paper 1 1/11/2010

610 Nichols ch 6 1/13/2010

610 Nichols ch 9 1/13/2010

610 BB Bobrow & Ray 1/13/2010

620 Munson: Look at Visuals section. 1/13/2010

620 Munson: Read: Introduction, 1/13/2010

620 Munson: Ch. 3 (for overview), 1/13/2010

620 Munson: Ch. 4 (focus on structure of multiaxial system). 1/13/2010

620 Munson: Skim Ch. 21 1/13/2010

620 Munson: Skim Ch. 23 1/13/2010

620 DSM: Introduction, Use of the Manual, Multiaxial Assessment (through p. 37) 1/13/2010

620 Skim “APA Guidelines for Providers…” 1/13/2010

620 D’Avanzo & Geissler: Read Foreword 1/13/2010

620 D’Avanzo & Geissler: Preface 1/13/2010

620 D’Avanzo & Geissler: Appendix 1/13/2010

620 D’Avanzo & Geissler: look at index. 1/13/2010

620 D’Avanzo & Geissler: Look up people of your ethnic heritage, country(s) of origin, or with whose culture you are familiar in order to evaluate strengths and limitations of this resource 1/13/2010

632 Sapolsky ch 1 1/15/2010

632 Sapolsky ch 12 1/15/2010

632 Sapolsky ch 16 1/15/2010

632 Medical Family Therapy ch 3 1/15/2010

632 Medical Family Therapy ch 6 1/15/2010

610 BB Shields & McDaniel 1/20/2010

610 Tomm part 2 1/20/2010

610 reflection paper 1 1/20/2010

620 Munson: Ch. 19, 11 1/20/2010

620 DSM: Adjustment DOs (p. 679-683), Anxiety DOs (p. 429-484) 1/20/2010

620 Kessler 1/20/2010

620 Barrett 1/20/2010

620 Ung 1/20/2010

620 Burroughs 1/20/2010

620 Munson 14 1/20/2010

620 DSM: Dissociative DOs (p. 519-33), 1/20/2010

620 DSM: Eating DOs (p. 583-595) 1/20/2010

620 Schreiber 1/20/2010

620 Knapp 1/20/2010

632 Rolland part I 1/22/2010

632 Rolland part II 1/22/2010

621 Corey ch 3 1/25/2010

621 Corey ch 4 1/25/2010

621 Woody ch 8 1/25/2010

621 reflection paper 2 1/25/2010

621 reflection paper 3 1/25/2010

610 BB Tomm part 1 1/27/2010

620 Munson: Ch. 10 1/27/2010

620 DSM Bipolar DOs (p. 382-401) 1/27/2010

620 DSM: Mood DOs (p. 345-382 1/27/2010

620 Styron 1/27/2010

620 Jamison 1/27/2010

632 Rolland part III 1/29/2010

621 Corey ch 5 2/1/2010

610 Nichols ch 13 2/3/2010

610 BB carr 1998 2/3/2010

620 reading to be assigned 2/3/2010

620 quiz 2/3/2010

620 summary of small group discussion 2/3/2010

632 Gawande 2/5/2010

632 Patients from different cultures ch 2 2/5/2010

632 Patients from Different cultures ch 4 2/5/2010

621 Corey ch 6 2/8/2010

621 Woody ch 7 2/8/2010

621 reflection paper 4 2/8/2010

621 professional disclosure statement 2/8/2010

610 BB Gergen 1985 2/10/2010

610 quiz 1 2/10/2010

620 Munson 9 2/10/2010

620 Munson 16 2/10/2010

620 DSM: Schizophrenic spectrum DOs (p. 297-338) 2/10/2010

620 Alda mother 2/10/2010

620 Love mother 2/10/2010

620 Steele 2/10/2010

620 Hunt 2/10/2010

620 “lobotomies” coleman 2/10/2010

620 Dully and Fleming 2/10/2010

620 El-Hai 2/10/2010

620 Grand Rounds 2/10/2010

632 Shared experience ch 1 2/12/2010

632 Shared experience ch 14 2/12/2010

632 Shared experience ch 15 2/12/2010

632 Medical family therapy ch 4 2/12/2010

632 Medical family therapy ch 11 2/12/2010

632 Sherret 2/12/2010

632 health genogram due 2/12/2010

621Corey ch 7 2/15/2010

621 Woody ch 3 2/15/2010

621 reflection paper 5 2/15/2010

610 Nichols 12 2/17/2010

610 BB Molnar & DeShazer 1987 2/17/2010

620 Munson 20 2/17/2010

620 Munson 16 2/17/2010

620 DSM: Personality DOs (p. 685-729) 2/17/2010

620 Wurtzel 2/17/2010

620 Levine 2/17/2010

620 Miller 2/17/2010

620 Crimmins 2/17/2010

620 DSM: Alzheimer’s (p. 147-158) 2/17/2010

632 psychotherapist’s guide to psychoparmacology 2/19/2010

621 Corey ch 8 2/22/2010

621 Corey ch 9 2/22/2010

621 Woody ch 4 2/22/2010

621 reflection paper 6 2/22/2010

610 reflection 2 2/24/2010

620 review readings 2/24/2010

620 Exam 2/25/2010

632 LBL chapter 1 2/26/2010

632 LBL chapter 3 2/26/2010

632 LBL chapter 7 2/26/2010

632 Candib 2/26/2010

621 Corey ch 11 3/1/2010

621 Corey ch 12 3/1/2010

621 reflection paper 7 3/1/2010

621 legal statutes and rules summary 3/1/2010

610 Nichols 11 3/3/2010

610 BB Goldner 1992 or so 3/3/2010

610 OSCR reflection 3/3/2010

620 trans readings TBA 3/3/2010

632 LBL chapter 8 3/5/2010

632 LBL chapter 9 3/5/2010

632 Becvar 3/5/2010

621 Corey ch 10 3/8/2010

621 Corey ch 13 3/8/2010

621 reflection paper 8 3/8/2010

621 Take home final due 3/8/2010

610 Nichols 14 3/10/2010

610 quiz 2 3/10/2010

632 interview project due 3/12/2010

610 final paper due 10 am 3/15/2010

Grad School Reading Begins

[First published as “One Half of My Fall Term Workload” on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, October 1, 2009.]

I just entered the assignments listed on the syllabi from my first two (of four) classes–Family Theory and Gender & Ethnicity in Family Therapy. It’s all reading and writing. There are about 20 assignments that I have on repeat in my PDA, so they only show up once here. Still, I anticipate that this is about half of my workload for the next 10 weeks.

Virtual dialog entry for Family Theory    10/6/2009
Two questions from readings–Family Theory    10/7/2009
Personal Epistemology essay 1    10/7/2009
616 e-reserve Glasserfeld    10/7/2009
619 Genogram    10/7/2009
McGoldrick ch 1    10/7/2009
Read Genogram Materials folder    10/7/2009
619 Read AAMFT Code of Ethics URL    10/7/2009
619 Read Chronister, McWhirter, & Kerewsky [In Ecological Model folder]    10/7/2009
Personal Epistemology essay 2    10/14/2009
616 Pragmatics ch 2-3    10/14/2009
616 e-reserve Bateson Theory of schizophrenia    10/14/2009
616 Sullivan lecture 1    10/14/2009
619 Ecological risk and resilience worksheet    10/14/2009
Read a chapter of McGoldrick et al. that relates to your family of origin, and one that seems very different. Write in your journal about these chapters, particularly in relation to yourself.    10/14/2009
Read McGoldrick et al., Appendix: Cultural Assessment    10/14/2009
Skim McGoldrick et al., Chapters 36, 37, 38    10/14/2009
619 Genogram and ecological worksheet due    10/14/2009
619 Read Shachtman    10/14/2009
619 Skim Paniagua    10/14/2009
619 Read McIntosh URL    10/14/2009
619 Read Kincaid    10/14/2009
Personal Epistemology essay 3    10/21/2009
Family theory quiz 1    10/21/2009
Pragmatics ch 4-5    10/21/2009
616 e-reserve Jackson on Homeostasis    10/21/2009
616 Sullivan lecture 2    10/21/2009
619 Read Gone    10/21/2009
619 Read Phinney et al.    10/21/2009
619Read Sullivan et al.    10/21/2009
Personal Epistemology essay 4    10/28/2009
Pragmatics ch 6-7 and epilogue    10/28/2009
616 e-reserve Jackson on Study of the Family    10/28/2009
Sullivan lecture 3    10/28/2009
619 1000-1500 wd reflection paper (weird format–look in syll)    10/28/2009
Read McGoldrick et al,. Chapter 20, 21, 27    10/28/2009
619 Read Serdarevic & Chronister     10/28/2009
619 Read Boyd-Ball & Dishion    10/28/2009
619 Read Nguyen    10/28/2009
619 Read Ung    10/28/2009
619 Read Littleford    10/28/2009
Personal Epistemology essay 5    11/4/2009
Tactics, beginning to end of ch 2    11/4/2009
616 e-reserve Jackson: sick sad savage sane    11/4/2009
Sullivan lecture IV    11/4/2009
619 Begin reading Him    11/4/2009
619 Read Hertlein    11/4/2009
619 Read Grealy    11/4/2009
619 Read Grealy    11/4/2009
619 Read Decker    11/4/2009
619 Read Kerewsky    11/4/2009
619 Read Steele    11/4/2009
619 Read Mahalik et al.    11/4/2009
Personal Epistemology essay 6    11/11/2009
Tactics ch 3-4    11/11/2009
616 e-reserve Jackson, Myth of normality    11/11/2009
Sullivan lecture V    11/11/2009
619 Responses to clinical vignettes due    11/11/2009
619 Read Davies et al.    11/11/2009
619 Read Loschiavo et al.    11/11/2009
619 Read Swofford    11/11/2009
619 Read APA Guidelines for Psycholological Work with Girls and Women    11/11/2009
619 Read Ali    11/11/2009
Read McGoldrick et al., Chapters 10, 22, 23     11/11/2009
619 Read Beatie    11/11/2009
619 Read Carroll, Gilroy, & Ryan    11/11/2009
Personal Epistemology essay 7    11/18/2009
Family theory quiz 2    11/18/2009
Tactics ch 5-6    11/18/2009
616 e-reserve Dramatization of Evil    11/18/2009
619 Clinical paper    11/18/2009
619 Read hooks    11/18/2009
619 Read Lott    11/18/2009
619 Read Miller & Thoreson    11/18/2009
619 Read Beah    11/18/2009
619 Read Williams & Williams-Morris    11/18/2009
619 Read Reeve    11/18/2009
619 Read Root    11/18/2009
Read McGoldrick et al., Chapter 5    11/18/2009
Skim McGoldrick et al., Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9    11/18/2009
Personal Epistemology essay 8    11/25/2009
Family theory paper presentation    11/25/2009
Tactics ch 7-9    11/25/2009
616 e-reserve Tomm on Milan FT    11/25/2009
619 Read Yardley    11/25/2009
Tactics ch 10-12    12/2/2009
616 e-reserve Madanes on Stratigic FT    12/2/2009
619 Read doctoral students’ summary of Sue et al.    12/2/2009
619 Read Georgas et al. (2 parts)    12/2/2009