Group cohesion in multifamily therapy with multilingual families

Nascimento, Natasha (2021) Group cohesion in multifamily therapy with multilingual families. DSysPsych thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust / University of East London. Full text available

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This study explores how Multifamily therapists create a context for group cohesion between monolingual and multilingual family members and what they might inadvertently do to hinder it. Group cohesion has been found to enable processes of change. I examine the intersection between group cohesion and language which is underrepresented in psychotherapy, MFT process research. Qualitative research methods were used to address the following research questions: 1) What do Multifamily therapists do in dialogue to create a context for horizontal (between multilingual and monolingual families) and vertical (between family members and therapist) group cohesion?; 2) What do Multifamily therapists do in dialogue that inadvertently hinders the horizontal and vertical group cohesion between monolingual and multilingual families?; 3) What is the intersection between Multifamily therapy, group cohesion and language, including interpreters’ roles? Participants included families with children between 6 and 14 years old, from different cultural backgrounds, attending a Multifamily group in inner London for children who were at risk of being permanently excluded from school. For some, English was their first language, and for others English was their second language and some needed an interpreter. Therapists, students and interpreters also participated. Two types of analysis, Dialogical Investigations of Happenings of Change (Seikkula, Laitila and Rober, 2012), and Thematic Analysis, were carried out on three data sources– 2 MFT sessions, a focus group with group participants, and an interview with therapists. A significant finding was that MFT therapists used a collaborative voice in dialogue, but also held an inherently powerful position influenced by how group participants positioned them, their own positioning (such as organising the room/activities, deciding topics and who talked, their work context) and by contextual/external factors (e.g. reasons for families’ referral, societally constructed as experts), and their therapeutic task. Dialogical language seemed to create a space for ‘withness’ interactions between group members, and more group cohesion. I identified some factors which were likely to have impacted negatively on group cohesion and placed participants in a powerless/non-agentic position. Interpreters’ roles and children’s positioning as their ‘mother’s voice’ were also considered. Implications of the study are discussed as is its potential contribution to the practice, training and supervision of MFT and individual FT with multilingual and monolingual families. The importance of creating a space where everyone’s voices can be heard and in particular those of silenced/marginalised members is highlighted. Therapists’ relational reflexivity and self-reflexivity play a crucial part in this in order to avoid unintentionally putting group members in shameful or powerless/non-agentic positions. The significance of, and processes involved in, creating a ‘community of help’ are identified.

Item Type: Thesis (DSysPsych)
Additional Information: A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of East London in collaboration with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust for the Professional Doctorate in Systemic Psychotherapy. Click on 'Organisation' in the Related URLs below to see other titles and abstracts of doctoral systemic and family therapy research carried out on the Professional Doctorate in Systemic Psychotherapy at the Tavistock.
Subjects: Communication (incl. disorders of) > Communication
Communication (incl. disorders of) > Language
Groups & Organisations > Group Psychotherapy
Groups & Organisations > Racial/Cultural Groups
Psychological Therapies, Psychiatry, Counselling > Family Therapies
Psychological Therapies, Psychiatry, Counselling > Patient/Therapist Interaction
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services
Related URLs:

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