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Family Psychotherapy: The First Evolutionary Stage during the NIMH Family Study Project
 
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Code: DJ 10.1 (4) Butler
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John F. Butler, PhD
The most interesting activity for visitors to the NIMH Family Study Project was the daily staff-family groups later known as family psychotherapy. This article reviews the background and analysis of six unpublished and published papers clarifying the creation and development of the practice of family psychotherapy during the project. These papers highlight the development of a new therapeutic role for the family psychotherapist significantly different from traditional psychotherapy. The differences were based on theory, especially the concept of the family as an emotional unit. Family psychotherapy was closely related to this theoretical concept and was developed as a method to work with family units. In this new role, the family psychotherapist worked to prevent over-involvement with individual family members and did not attempt to psychologically replace parents. In addition, treating family units helped reduce the intensity of transferences and counter-transferences. The goal of family psychotherapy became the analysis of intense family relationships rather than the interpretation of transference relationships. Family psychotherapy, as developed during the Family Study Project, resulted in a significant alteration of the traditional patient-therapist relationship.

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