Experiential Family Therapy : A Humanistic And Existential Based Approach

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Experiential family therapy is a humanistic and existential based approach that was founded by Carl Whitaker throughout the 1960’s. Other leading figures who contributed to the development of experiential therapy include: Thomas Malone, John Warkentin, Richard Felder, and Virginia Satir. Two well-known therapeutic approaches have grown from Whitaker’s concepts; these include emotionally focused couples therapy by Leslie Greenberg and Susan Johnson, and internal family systems therapy by Richard Swartz. In developing experiential therapy, Whitaker drew from many concepts including: Gestalt therapy, psychodrama, and client-centered approaches. Carl Whitaker ultimately believed in the emotional experience of all family members. What may have been brought into therapy as the presenting problem, may not even be the focus of the therapist’s treatment plan. Although many consider early experiential therapy to be quite ambiguous, Whitakers concepts have shown to be quite effective in working with families.
Experiential Family Therapy Carl Whitaker began his work in psychiatry, studying mental illness in families. He realized that parents often try to overregulate their child’s actions and emotions. Children who are overregulated often suppress their feelings and emotions in order to avoid parental criticism. Nichols (2013) explains “Existential family therapy is founded on the premise that the root cause of family problems is emotional suppression.” (pg. 145). Whitaker believed

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