An interview study exploring clients' experiences of receiving therapeutic support for family estrangement in the UK: Receiving therapeutic support for family estrangement

Lucy Blake, Ali Rouncefield-Swales, Becca Bland, BERNIE CARTER

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Abstract

Many people experience estrangement from a family member, which is broadly understood to refer to negative relationships that are characterized by little or no contact. However, little is known about how people cope with family estrangement. To address this gap, interviews were conducted with 46 participants who identified as being estranged from a parent/ sibling and/or child and having sought therapeutic support for this experience. The participants were recruited from a UK-based charity that supports individuals experiencing family estrangement. The participants had a range of experiences of therapeutic support, with most (N = 31, 67%) having paid for private therapy. The data were analysed using thematic analysis and three themes were generated: 1) Finding the missing qualities in estranged family relationships: warmth, validation and safety; 2) Speaking the unspoken: addressing the causes and consequences of estrangement; and 3) Learning relational skills: improving the relationship with oneself and with others. When the causes of estrangement were addressed in the context of a safe therapeutic relationship, participants learned strategies to improve the relationships they had with both with themselves and with others. When participants experienced a cold or unresponsive therapeutic relationship, and the causes and consequences of estrangement were not adequately addressed or understood, counselling was experienced as unhelpful. Individuals who seek therapeutic support for family estrangement have specific needs. Training around these needs and the causes and consequences of estrangement could be beneficial to helping professionals and the clients with whom they work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalCounselling and Psychotherapy Research
Early online date12 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2022

Keywords

  • estrangement
  • intergenerational relationships
  • sibling relationships
  • qualitative
  • family

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