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Joining in Couple and Family Therapy

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Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

Joining in couple and family therapy means to join with or become a part of the couple or family system, at least to the extent possible. To do this, the therapist develops a connection with each member of the relational system being treated as well as with the system as a whole. Minuchin first described joining as the “therapist’s understanding, support, and confirmation of the family members’ experiences and felt needs” (Minuchin 1974, p. 113). The concept of joining has been expanded and developed by a number of family therapists since then and is used in most types of couple and family therapy.

In summarizing the literature on joining, Panichelli (2013) stated “joining involves the therapist’s ability to see the world through the clients’ eyes, momentarily adopting their frame of reference” (p. 438). This does not mean the therapist agrees with the clients (Panichelli 2013), but it does mean the therapist understands the way the clients see and experience their world, including...

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  • Becvar, D. S., & Becvar, R. J. (2014). Family therapy: A systemic integration (8th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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  • Greif, G. L. (1990). Twenty-five basic joining techniques in family therapy. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 22(1), 89–90. doi:10.1080/02791072.1990.10472203.

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  • Minuchin, S. (1974). Families & family therapy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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  • Panichelli, C. (2013). Humor, joining, and reframing in psychotherapy: Resolving the auto-double-bind. American Journal of Family Therapy, 41(5), 437–451. doi:10.1080/01926187.2012.755393.

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Correspondence to Rajeswari Natrajan-Tyagi .

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Natrajan-Tyagi, R., Woolley, S.R. (2017). Joining in Couple and Family Therapy. In: Lebow, J., Chambers, A., Breunlin, D. (eds) Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy. Springer, Cham.

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