A content analysis of five scholarly journals: What has been written about medical family therapy?




Kinman, Karen

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The family is the context in which diseases are managed and treated. Often, hospitals and medicine are a new culture through which families have to navigate. Medical family therapy is the biopsychosocial treatment, by family psychotherapists, within a family systems framework, of individuals and families who are dealing with medical problems (McDaniel. Hepworth, & Doherty, 1992). A medical family therapist can provide the support patients and families need as they accompany them through their expenence. Medical family therapy is defined in a variety of ways across disciplines in the healthcare field and within the field of family therapy itself. It has been described as psychotherapy, collaborative care, and even as a family therapy model. The purpose of this research project was to ascertain what has been written about medical family therapy in five scholarly journals, Family Process: Families. Systems. & Health; Family Practice; the Joprnal of Family Therapy; and the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, since the phrase medical family therapy was coined in 1984 by McDaniel, Hepworth, & Doherty. The first part of this research project was a content analysis to determine the frequency of articles with the term medical family therapy published in all five scholarly journals and which discipline generated those articles. The second part of this inquiry was a qualitative analysis of those articles with the term medical family therapy in its content to determine what is being written about medical family therapy. There was a total of 5,234 articles, 48 of those (0.92%) contained the term medical family therapy in its content. Families. Systems, & Health generated the majority of medical family therapy articles, containing 4.43% of the total of its published articles. Family Process had 0.12% of its total of published articles pertaining to medical family therapy, the Journal of Family Therapy (. 15%), Journal of Marital and Family Therapy (.93%), and the journal of Family Practice had no articles containing the term medical family therapy. Family therapy and medicine were primary contributors, with the majority of authors contributing some role in academia as well. Five salient themes emerged: Agency and communion, the role of power, collaboration, culture, and knowledge base and competency. Research in the efficacy of medical family therapy in the treatment of physical illness is extremely rare, with only two randomized control studies noted. Family therapists can have a significant impact in the health and well-being of patients, families. and communities, and their expertise in systems is sorely needed on a more global level in policy making. Research needs to be done by family scientists and family therapists in this area.



Social sciences, Psychology, Physical illnesses, Medical family therapy, Counseling psychology, Individual and family studies