Attachment-Based Family Therapy and Individual Emotion-Focused Therapy for Unresolved Anger: Qualitative Analysis of Treatment Outcomes and Change Processes

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Twenty-six clients who received 10 sessions of either attachment-based family therapy (ABFT) or individual emotion-focused therapy (EFT) for unresolved anger toward a parent were interviewed 6 months after completing treatment. Interviews were analyzed using the consensual qualitative research approach. Clients in both conditions reported improved relationships with parents, gaining a new perspective of their parent, increased compassion toward parent, less reactivity to anger, feeling cleaned-out, and acquiring new coping strategies. Whereas ABFT clients more often reported improved relationships with parents, EFT clients more often reported feeling cleaned-out. Clients in both groups attributed change to productive emotional processing. Also, clients in both groups attributed change to saying difficult things that had never been said before directly to parents, though more so in ABFT. Whereas ABFT clients noted the importance of their parents participating in treatment and mutual vulnerability, EFT clients noted the importance of remembering previously avoided memories and feelings, and getting their anger of their chest. While some EFT clients reported that therapy had a negative impact on their relationship with their parents and increased their anger, some ABFT clients reported that the positive impact of therapy during the active phase of treatment did not last, though there were no meaningful between-groups differences regarding these negative treatment outcomes and processes. Results are discussed in the context of previous quantitative findings from the same sample, and in the context of prior research on experiential and emotion-focused therapies. Implications for future research are noted.

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