Process research

These studies research therapeutic change processes, addressing questions of 'how therapy works', and can be considered to produce 'practice-based evidence'.

The studies include methods which analyse in-session therapy discourse, analysing what is changing and how it is changing, and methods which involve asking therapists and clients about their experience of therapy, significant moments and the process of change.

Please also refer to studies listed under Methodologies. Qualitative.

Researching Process

de Paula-Ravagnani, G. E., Sundet, E. R., & Guanaes-Lorenzi, C. (2022). Learning from within: Therapists' actions in daily clinical practice. Family Process, 00, 1– 14.

Elliott, R. (2012) Qualitative Methods for Studying Psychotherapy Change Processes. In: A. Thompson & D. Harper (Eds.) Qualitative research methods in mental health & psychotherapy: An introduction for students & practitioners (pp. 69-81). Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwells.

Escudero, Valentin and Friedlander, Myrna L., (2017) Therapeutic Alliances with Families: Empowering Clients in Challenging Cases. Cham (Switzerland): Springer International Publishing AG, 2017, 229 pp., ISBN 978‐3‐319‐59368‐5

Franklin, C., Zhang, A., Froerer, A., & Johnson, S. (2016) Solution Focused Brief Therapy: A systematic review and meta‐summary of process research. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 43(1): 16-30.

Friedlander, M.L., Heatherington, L., & Escudero, V. (2014). Research based change mechanisms: Advances in process research. In T. L. Sexton & J. Lebow (Eds.), Handbook of Family Therapy. (4th ed.) New York: Routledge.

Grácio, J., Gonçalves-Pereira, M. and Leff, J. (2016) What do we know about family interventions for psychosis at the process level? A systematic review. Family Process, 55: 79–90. doi: 10.1111/famp.12155

Helps, S. (2017) The ethics of researching one's own practice. Journal of Family Therapy. 39. 3: 348-365

van Hennick, R. & Hillewaere, B. (2017) Practice based evidence based practice. Navigating based on coordinated improvisation, collaborative learning and multi methods research in feedback informed systemic therapy. Journal of Family Therapy. 39. 3: 288-309

Kazdin, A.E. (2009) Understanding how and why psychotherapy leads to change. Psychotherapy Research, 19(4), pp. 418-28.

Laitila, A. (2016). Introducing novelties into therapeutic dialogue: The importance of minor shifts of the therapist. In
M. Borcsa & P. Rober (Eds.), Research perspectives in couple therapy (pp. 31–46). Springer International Publishing.

Nanouri, K., Tseliou, E., Abakoumkin, G., & Bozatzis, N. (2022). ‘Who decided this?’: Negotiating epistemic
and deontic authority in systemic family therapy training. Discourse Studies, 24(1), 94–114. https://doi.

Ong, B., Tseliou, E., Strong, T., & Buus, N. (2023). Power and dialogue: A review of discursive research. Family Process, 00, 1– 17.

Ong, B., Barnes, S., & Buus, N. (2021a). Downgrading deontic authority in open dialogue reflection proposals: A conver-
sation analysis. Family Process, 60(4), 1217–1232.

Ong, B., Barnes, S., & Buus, N. (2021b). Eliciting stance and mitigating therapist authority in open dialogue meetings.
Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 47(1), 120–135.

Ong, B., Barnes, S., & Buus, N. (2022). Developing multiple perspectives by eliding agreement: A conversation analysis of
open dialogue reflections. Discourse Studies, 24(1), 47–64.

Pinsof, W.M and Wynne, L.C. (2000) Toward process research: closing the gap between family therapy practice and research. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 26: 1-8.

Researching Narrative Therapy - how does it work?

Rober, P., Eesbeek, D., & Elliot, R. (2006). Talking about violence: A microanalysis of narrative processes in a family
therapy session. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 32(3), 313–328.

Rossen, C. B., Schriver, K. N., Tarber, C., Nordahl, D. V., Thygesen Rasmussen, G., Ong, B., & Buus, N. (2020). “Y, what
do you think about what X just said?” conversation analysis of stance-eliciting questions in open dialogue network
meetings. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 46(4), 719–731.

Sexton, T. L., Ridley, C. R., & Kleiner, A. J. (2004) Beyond common factors: multilevel-process models of therapeutic change in marriage and family therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 30: 131-149.

Sundet, R. (2012). Postmodern-oriented practices and patient-focused research: possibilities and hazards. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 33, pp 299-308 doi:10.1017/aft.2012.38

Tseliou, E., Burck, C., Forbat, L. Strong, T. & O'Reilly, M. (2020) The discursive performance of change process in systemic and constructionist therapies: A systematic meta-synthesis review of in-session therapy discourse. Family Process.

Tseliou, E., Burck, C., Forbat, L., Strong, T. and O’Reilly, M. (2020), How is Systemic and Constructionist Therapy Change Process Narrated in Retrospective Accounts of Therapy? A Systematic Meta‐synthesis Review. Family Process doi:10.1111/famp.12562

Analysis of In-Session Therapy Discourse

Amoss, Sarah (2014) The negotiation of blame in family therapy with families affected by psychosis. DSysPsych thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. Full text available

Avdi. E. (2015) Discourses of development in the consulting room: Analysing family therapy with children. Feminism and Psychology. 25(3), pp. 363-380.

Avdi, E. (2012) Exploring the contribution of subject positioning to studying therapy as a dialogical enterprise. International Journal for Dialogical Science. 6(1), pp. 61-79.

Balestra, F. (2017) Analysing the relational components of systemic family therapy through the lenses of self positions and therapeutic alliance: an exploratory study. Journal of Family Therapy. 39. 3: 310-328

Bohme, H. (2017) New paradigms of parenthood: researching practice in a fertility clinic incarnating new forms of family. Journal of Family Therapy. 39. 3: 402-414.

Borsca, M & Rober, P. (2016) Research Perspectives in Couple Therapy. Discursive Qualitative Methods. Springer International.

Chenail, R. J., DeVincentis, M., Kiviat, H. E., & Somers, C. (2012). A systematic narrative review of discursive therapies research: Considering the value of circumstantial evidence. In A. Lock & T. Strong (Eds.), Discursive perspectives in therapeutic practice (pp. 224-244). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

D'Arrigo-Patrick, J., Hoff, C., Knudson-Martin, C. and Tuttle, A. (2016), Navigating critical theory and postmodernism: Social justice and therapist power in family therapy. Family Process. doi:10.1111/famp.12236.

Eira Nunes, C., Pascual‐Leone, A., de Roten, Y., Favez, N. and Darwiche, J. (2020). Resolving Coparenting Dissatisfaction In Couples: A Preliminary Task Analysis Study. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 00, 1‐ 15. doi:

Escudero, V., Boogmans, E. & Loots, G. (2012) Alliance rupture and repair in conjoint family therapy: An exploratory study. Psychotherapy, 49(1), pp. 26–37.

Gale, J. (2010) Discursive Analysis: A research approach for studying the moment-to-moment construction of meaning in systemic practice. Human Systems, 21(2), pp. 7-37.

Guregård, S & Seikkula, J. (2014) Establishing therapeutic dialogue with refugee families. Contemporary Family Therapy. 36: 1.

Hellemans, S. et al (2011) Therapeutic processes in multi-family groups for major depression: Results of an interpretative phenomenological study. Journal of Affective Disorders 134(1-3) 226-34

Higham, J.E., Friedlander, M.L., Escudero, V. and Diamond, G. (2011) Engaging reluctant adolescents in family therapy: An exploratory study of in-session processes of change, Journal of Family Therapy, 34(1), pp. 24–52. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6427.2011.00571.x.

Itävuori, S., Korvela, E., Karvonen, A., Penttonen, M., Kaartinen, J., Kykyri, V.-L., & Seikkula, J. (2015). The significance of silent moments in creating words for the not-yet-spoken experiences in threat of divorce. Psychology, 6, 1360-1372.

Karvonen, A., Kykyri, V.-L., Kaartinen, J., Penttonen, M., Seikkula, J. (2016). Sympathetic nervous system synchrony in couple therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. doi:10.1111/jmft.12152

Keeney, H., Keeney, B., & Chenail, R. J.(2012). Recursive frame analysis: A practitioner’s tool for mapping therapeutic conversation. The Qualitative Report, 17, pp. 1-15.

Knudson‐Martin, C., Kim, L., Gibbs, E. and Harmon, R. (2021), Sociocultural Attunement to Vulnerability in Couple Therapy: Fulcrum for Changing Power Processes in Heterosexual Relationships. Fam. Proc..

Mandin, P. (2017) Creating a space to think in adversarial contexts: researching network meetings in statutuory childcare interventions. Journal of Family Therapy. 39. 3:329-347.

Oka, M., & Whiting, J. (2013). Bridging the clinician/researcher gap with systemic research: The case for process research, dyadic, and sequential analysis. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 39(1): 17-27.

Ong, B., Barnes, S. and Buus, N. (2020). Eliciting Stance and Mitigating Therapist Authority in Open Dialogue Meetings. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 00, 1‐ 16. doi:

van Parijs, H., Provoost, V., de Sutter, P., Pennings, G. & Buysse, A. (2017) Multi family members interview studies: a focus on data analysis. Journal of Family Therapy. 39. 3: 386-401.

Patrika, P., & Tseliou, E. (2016). The ‘blame game’: Discourse analysis of family members and therapist negotiation of problem definition in systemic family therapy. European Journal of Counseling Psychology.

Patrika, P. & Tseliou, E. (2015). Blame, responsibility and systemic neutrality: a discourse analysis methodology to the study of family therapy problem talk. Journal of Family Therapy. Doi: 10.1111/1467-6427.12076

Rapsey, E.H.S., Burbach, F.R. & Reibstein, J. (2015) Exploring the process of family interventions for psychosis in relation to attachment, attributions and problem-maintaining cycles: An IPA study. Journal of Family Therapy 37(4). DOI:10.1111/1467-6427.12085

Roy-Chowdhury, S. (2006), How is the therapeutic relationship talked into being?. Journal of Family Therapy, 28: 153-174.

Seikkula, J. et al (2015) The embodied attunement of therapists and a couple within dialogical psychotherapy: An introduction to the relational mind research project. Family Process 54(4), pp.703-715.

Sequeira, J. & Alarcão, M. (2013). Assessment system of narrative change. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 32(4), pp. 33-51.

Singh, R. (2008) The process of family talk across culture. Tavistock Systemic Psychotherapy Doctorate Thesis.

Smoliak, O., LaMarre, A., Rice, C., Tseliou, E., LeCouteur, A., Myers, M., Vesely, L., Briscoe, C., Addison, M. and Velikonja, L. (2021), The politics of vulnerable masculinity in couple therapy. J Marital Fam Ther.

Smoliak, O., MacMartin, C., Hepburn, A., Le Couteur, A., Elliott, R. and Quinn‐Nilas, C. (2021), Authority in therapeutic interaction: A conversation analytic study. J Marital Fam Ther.

Sundet, R. et al (2016) Collaboration: Suggested Understandings. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 37, pp. 93–104. doi: 10.1002/anzf.1137

Tseliou, E., Burck, C., Forbat, L. Strong, T. & O'Reilly, M. (2020) The discursive performance of change process in systemic and constructionist therapies: A systematic meta-synthesis review of in-session therapy discourse. Family Process.

Tseliou, E. (2013). A critical methodological review of discourse and conversation analysis studies of family therapy. Family Process, 52(4), 653-672. doi: 10.1111/famp.12043

van Hennik, R. and Hillewaere, B. (2017), Practice Based Evidence Based Practice. Navigating based on coordinated improvisation, collaborative learning and multi-methods research in Feedback Informed Systemic Therapy. Journal of Family Therapy, 39: 288-309.

Watson, R. (2018) Jointly created authority: a conversation analysis of how power is managed by parents and systemic psychotherapists in children's social care. Journal of Family Therapy,

Wulff et al (2015) Unpacking the pips to hips curiosity: a narrative study. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 34(2), pp. 45–58.

Wulff, D., George, S.S., Tomm, K. (2015) Societal discourses that help in family therapy: a modified situational analysis of the relationships between societal expectations and healing patterns in parent-child conflict. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 34(2), pp. 31-44.

Post-Hoc Accounts of Therapy Process

Chenail, R.J. (2011) How to conduct clinical qualitative research on the patient’s experience. The Qualitative Report 16(4), pp. 1173-1190

Chenail, R. J., et al. (2012). Clients’ relational conceptions of conjoint couple and family therapy quality: A grounded formal theory. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 38(1), pp. 241-264. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2011.00246.x

Egeli et al (2014) Couples’ Experiences of Vulnerability When Participating in the Reflecting Team Process: A Case Study. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy / Revue canadienne de counseling et de psychothérapie. 48(4), pp. 20–39. ISSN 0826-3893

Helimäki, M., Laitila, A. and Kumpulainen, K. (2022), “You helped me out of that darkness” Children as dialogical partners in the collaborative post-family therapy research interview. J Marital Fam Ther, 48: 588-603.

Helmeke, K. B. and Sprenkle, D. H. (2000) Clients' perceptions of pivotal moments in couples therapy: a qualitative study of change in therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 26, pp. 469–483.

Hicks, S., Jakob, P. and Kustner, C. (2020), Engaging a family’s support network in non‐violent resistance: the experiences of supporters. Journal of Family Therapy, 42: 252-270. doi:10.1111/1467-6427.12261

Kysely et al (2020) Expectations and experiences of couples receiving therapy through videoconferencing: A qualitative study. Frontiers in Psychology.

McDonald, R.J., Signal, T. and Canoy, D. (2021), Family Therapy for Conduct Disorder: Parent/Caregiver Perspectives on Active Ingredients. Aust N Z J Fam Ther.

Salter, L. (2017) Research as resistance and solidarity: 'spinning transformative yarns' - a narrative inquiry with women going on from abuse and oppression. Journal of Family Therapy. 39. 3: 366-385

Tilden, T. (2020) The idiographic voice in a nomothetic world: Why client feedback is essential in our professional knowledge. in Ochs, M., Borcsa, M. & Schweitzer, J. (2020) Systemic Research in Individual, Couple and Family Therapy and Counseling. Springer.

Tseliou, E., Burck, C., Forbat, L., Strong, T. and O’Reilly, M. (2020), How is Systemic and Constructionist Therapy Change Process Narrated in Retrospective Accounts of Therapy? A Systematic Meta‐synthesis Review. Family Process doi:10.1111/famp.12562

Wiseman, H., Ensoll, S., Russouw, L. & Butler, C. (2019) Multi-Family Therapy for Young People With Anorexia Nervosa: Clinicians' and Carers' Perspectives on Systemic Changes. Journal of Systemic Therapies   38, 3, 67-83

Yap‐Tan, P.M.E.H. and Foo, M.T.S. (2020), Clients’ perspectives on therapists who build family and personal harmony. Journal of Family Therapy, 42: 271-290. doi:10.1111/1467-6427.12265

Evidence and outcome studies

We have listed research studies which provide evidence for the effectiveness of systemic and family therapy. These should be useful for families,...


Research has been categorised under the following topics listed alphabetically

Research methodologies

Here research studies are categorised according to the methodology used. These can be helpful to see what kind of analysis different methodologies...

Type of therapeutic approach

Studies here have been categorised according to the type of therapeutic approach and consultation that is being researched.

Tavistock Systemic Doctoral Research Theses.

Doctoral systemic and family therapy research carried out on the Professional Doctorate in Systemic Psychotherapy at the Tavistock. Many full texts...

Other Systemic Doctorate and PhD Research Theses

Titles and links to Systemic Doctorate and Phd Theses carried out at other Institutes and Universities

Masters research dissertations

Titles and abstracts of systemic masters research dissertations from UK family therapy training institutes that were awarded distinctions or merits...