Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Family Therapy


Douglas G. Flemons

Committee Member

Anne H. Rambo

Committee Member

Michael D. Reiter


For the past 69 years, since the start of the addiction treatment system in the United States, treatment providers have been utilizing the same interventions in rehab centers, the majority of which are based on outdated ideas about substance misusers. Though the premise of such interventions has been questioned by researchers, treatment providers continue to utilize them. Family therapy, in particular, shows promising results for substance misusers and their families; it has been cited as the most powerful form of intervention in addiction treatment. Nevertheless, family therapy is underrepresented in the addiction literature and rehab centers. Furthermore, postmodern models of family therapy are even more scarce within these contexts.

The purpose of this study was twofold: to explore the viability of an underrepresented, alternative approach to treatment, and to explore the personal, organizational, and clinical processes occurring throughout the development of a systemic family program implemented in an adult inpatient rehab center with an individualistic approach. The researcher modified action research methodology to analyze archival data acquired from a completed clinical project, which was implemented over the course of three weekends. The researcher adapted categorizing and coding procedures from action research in order to analyze 34 personal journal entries and 11 supervision meetings, all of which illuminated the changes in the personal, organizational, and clinical processes that occurred throughout the clinical project. To illustrate the viability of a solution-focused, multiple family group (SFBT-MFG) approach for substance misusers and their families, the researcher collected and analyzed a total of 79 client and family evaluation surveys, 19 pretreatment change questionnaires, and six staff evaluation surveys.

The results of this study support an SFBT-MFG approach for adult substance misusers and their families. The researcher identified enhanced communication, understanding, honesty, and support as key themes, along with nine other themes, in the evaluation surveys completed by the participants in the family weekends. The study can help other marriage and family therapists undergo their own processes of integration when practicing systemically in a culture guided by individualistic notions of mental health.