Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Family psychotherapy, Family social work, Poor-Mental health services, Poor-Services, Strategic family therapy, Low-income families, Family preservation, Child welfare, History of family therapy


This theoretical study reviewed family therapy and child welfare literature in the context of poverty. Clinical practice with low-income families was investigated historically. The literature brought to life issues of clinical power and aspects of social control and social reform inherent in direct practice. A consideration of family preservation philosophy and strategic family therapy was proposed. In describing these two schemas separately, their synthesis was eventually formulated and supported. The larger history of ideas that emerged yielded an epistemological discrepancy between models of practice in the field of family therapy. These discrepancies were further exaggerated by issues of policy, funding, and social service legalities pertinent to our work with the poor. These practical tensions continue to suggest the need for further synthesis and model integration on a theoretical level. This theoretical study supports the need for a both/and epistemological approach to contemporary clinical practice with families experiencing poverty. Postmodern trends in clinical practice, favoring "stories" over "systems" must not be adopted or discounted, but rather, incorporated into more concrete aid and ways of knowing. Clinically we must continue to utilize and respect our social influence and our social power as providers of treatment.




iii, 100 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 90-100)