Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Metacommunication in Couple and Family Therapy

  • Noah Hass-CohenEmail author
  • Rajeswari Natrajan-Tyagi
  • Jeremy Arzt
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_538


Metacommunication means communication about communication. Verbal, nonverbal, or behavioral metacommunication cues, codes, and contextualizes interpersonal transactions and relationships (Watzlawick et al. 1967). Such metacommunication may or may not be congruent or coherent with overt messages (Bateson 1972) contributing to family disruptions and pathology. This understanding of the metacommunication shaped the development of family therapy approaches to change. A first-order level of change aims to resolve symptoms, which may not be sufficient unless a second order of change aims to transform and change how metacommunication occurs. While modern family therapy approaches focused on changing the family structure and dynamics of metacommunication, postmodern nonstructural approaches focused on the influences of language and societal norms on familial metacommunication. Such second-order meta-change processes are facilitated by therapeutic metacommunication which occurs...

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


  1. Asen, E., & Fonagy, P. (2012). Mentalization-based therapeutic interventions for families. Journal of Family Therapy, 34(4), 347–370.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6427.2011.00552.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bateson, G. (1972). Steps to an ecology of mind. New York: Jason Aronson Publishers.Google Scholar
  3. Becvar, D. S., & Becvar, R. J. (2014). Family therapy: A systemic integration (8th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  4. Diamond, G. I., Siqueland, L., & Diamond, G. M. (2003). Attachment-based family therapy for depressed adolescents: Programmatic treatment development. Clinical Child and Family Psychological Review, 6(2), 107–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Johnson, S., & Greenberg, L. (1985). Differential effects of experiential and problem solving interventions in resolving marital conflict. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 53, 175–184.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Kiesler, D. J. (1996). Contemporary interpersonal theory and research: Personality, psychopathology, and psychotherapy. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Mills, S. D., & Sprenkle, D. H. (1995). Family therapy in the postmodern era. Family Relations, 44(4), 368–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Nichols, M. P. (2014). The essentials of family therapy (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc.Google Scholar
  9. Satir, V. (1983). Conjoint family therapy (3rd ed.). Palo Alto: Science and Behavior Books Inc..Google Scholar
  10. Watzlawick, P., Beavin-Bavelas, J., & Jackson, D. (1967). Pragmatics of human communication. New York: W. W. Norton publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Noah Hass-Cohen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rajeswari Natrajan-Tyagi
    • 2
  • Jeremy Arzt
    • 3
  1. 1.Couples and Family Therapy Masters and Doctoral ProgramsCalifornia School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University (Los Angles)AlhambraUSA
  2. 2.Couples and Family Therapy Masters and Doctoral ProgramsCalifornia School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University (Irvine)IrvineUSA
  3. 3.Windward Way RecoveryLos AngelesUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Sean Davis
    • 1
  1. 1.California School of Professional Psychology, Alliant International UniversitySacramentoUSA