Contemporary Family Therapy

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 135–146 | Cite as

Examining the Beliefs and Attitudes of Current Students and Recent Graduates on the Inclusion of Children in Family Therapy

  • Megan M. OedEmail author
  • Jennifer Gonyea
Original Paper


The founders of the field of marriage and family therapy (MFT) have often spoken of the importance of having children present during therapy. However, children provide new challenges to any therapy session and therapists are often reluctant to invite them into session (Johnson and Thomas in J Marital Family Ther 25(1):117–123, 1999; Korner and Brown in J Family Psychol 3(4):420, 1990). Our littlest clients may be the most likely to trigger self of the therapist (SOT) reactions due to their emotional and reactive nature. Research has explored how licensed therapists view children in therapy and children’s opinion about being included, (Miller and McLeod in Family J 9(4):375–383, 2001; Ruble in Contemp Family Ther 21(4):485, 1999; Sori et al. in Sori (ed) Engaging children in family therapy, Routledge, New York, 2006; Sori et al. in Family J 23(4):427–434, 2015) but less research has been devoted to how student and recent graduates respond to families and children. Further, there is almost no research addressing how a therapist’s own family of origin may impact his or her clinical judgment. This study examines how current and recent marriage and family therapy students think about including children in therapy. Seventy-three participants completed the Family Therapy Questionnaire as well as questions related to their family of origin. Participants’ responses were compared to prior studies on therapists’ attitudes and the inclusion of children. Regression analysis showed that students’ beliefs about including children in session were related to year in school as well as communication in one’s family of origin. Clinical decisions regarding family-focused vignettes were also impacted by family of origin characteristics. These results, as well as future directions for research and MFT education, will be discussed.


Children Family therapy Family of origin Self of the therapist 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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