DOI: 10.1111/famp.12937 ISSN:

Emotion regulation of the family therapist

Peter Rober
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology


Outcome research highlights the importance of the therapeutic alliance for the outcome of therapy. Meta‐analyses suggest that in family therapy, the therapeutic alliance is even more important than in individual therapy. In family therapy, however, the alliance is more complex than in individual therapy. Through empathy, authenticity and hopefulness the therapist can contribute to an effective alliance. Sometimes during the session, a therapist may experience strong emotions that are in tension with his/her therapeutic aspirations of empathetic listening, authenticity and hopefulness. A therapist might experience boredom instead of curiosity, irritation instead of acceptance, shame instead of authenticity, …. There is need for some kind of emotion regulation to protect the alliance. Furthermore, as some authors suggest, the therapist's emotions – even the emotions that are first glance seem harmful to the alliance – may also be useful for the therapist. Several case stories illustrate the different ways in which family therapists can deal with their emotions in the session.

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