Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Ledgers in Couple and Family Therapy

  • Jessica R. M. LiuEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_354

Name of Concept

Ledger in couple and family therapy


Interpersonal relationships are dynamic interactions existing between individuals inside a broader system. Within relationships, individuals engage in explicit and implicit giving, receiving, and taking. The relationship ledger is an invisible interpersonal balance of entitlements (i.e., what one is owed or earned) and indebtedness (i.e., what one owes another) that is overtly and covertly maintained by both members of a dyad and multiple members of a family system.

Theoretical Context for Concept

Development of the interpersonal ledger was influenced by existential philosophy, object relations theory, and contextual family therapy focusing on the impact of multigenerational (i.e., three generations) familial connections on present relationships. Relational “health” is achieved when individuals perceive symmetry (i.e., equitable balance in the ledger) within the relationship, or can notice asymmetryand engage in...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Adams, J. F., & Maynard, P. E. (2004). Contextual therapy: Applying the family ledger to couple therapy. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 3(1), 1–11.  https://doi.org/10.1300/J39v03n01_01.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Boszormenyi-Nagy, I. (1987). Foundations of contextual therapy: Collected papers of Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy, M.D. New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  3. Boszormenyi-Nagy, I., & Krasner, B. R. (1986). Between give and take: A clinical guide to contextual therapy. New York: Brunner-Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Boszormenyi-Nagy, I., Grunebaum, J., & Ulrich, D. (1991). Contextual therapy. In: A. S. Gurman & D. P. Kniskern (Eds.), Handbook of family therapy (vol. 2, pp. 200–238). New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.Google Scholar
  5. Boszormenyi-Nagy, I., & Spark, G. M. (2013). Invisible loyalties. New York: Routledge. (Original work published in 1973).Google Scholar
  6. Brown, T. C., Garber, J., Muto, M., & Schneider, K. A. (1999). Case report – Loyalty, legacy, and ledger: Contextual therapy in a patient with a family history of ovarian cancer. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 8(6), 359–372.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Friedman, M. (1989). Martin Buber and Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy: The role of dialogue in contextual therapy. Psychotherapy, 26(3), 402–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Friedman, M. (1998). Buber’s philosophy as the basis for dialogical psychotherapy and contextual therapy. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 38, 25–40.  https://doi.org/10.1177/00221678980381004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Le Goff, J. F. (2001). Boszormenyi-Nagy and contextual therapy: An overview. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 22(3), 147–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.California School of Professional PsychologyAlliant International UniversityLos AngelesUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Molly F. Gasbarrini
    • 1
  1. 1.Alliant International UniversityLos AngelesUSA