Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Directives in Couple and Family Therapy

  • William P. RussellEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_520

Name of the Strategy or Intervention



Experiment; Homework; Task


The act of suggesting what someone should do would seem to be as old as the human species. It is natural for a parent to direct a child or a friend to make a suggestion to a friend who is experiencing a problem or concern. It is natural for therapists, at least at times, to do the same – to give a directive. Directives in therapy range from mundane things, like “Why don’t you sit by the table, so you will have a place to put your coffee,” to the structuring of an enactment, such as “Talk with your partner about how you see this,” to the suggestion of what clients do between sessions, for example, “Each time you begin to escalate to raised voices, I would like you to take what we call a time out.”

A directive is one of three basic speech acts in therapy. A therapist can ask a question, make a statement, or give a directive (Breunlin et al. 1992). As a class of speech in therapy, a directive...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Rachel Diamond
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Saint JosephWest HarfordUSA