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Introduction Experiential therapy emerged from the humanistic wing of psychology that was focussed on the immediate here-and-now experience which was most popular in the 1960s and 70s Therapists focussed on the needs of the individual as they attempt to facilitate family interaction resulting in the individuality of each member As Becvar and Becvar 2000 asserted the hallmarks of experiential family therapy were the importance of individuality personal freedom and self-fulfillment pp181 Thus efforts to reduce defensiveness and unlock deeper levels of experiencing rested on an assumption of the basic goodness of human nature Many of the basic theories were borrowed from individual and group therapy It borrowed techniques such as role-playing and emotional confrontation borrowed from Gestalt therapy however as Nichols and Schwartz 2001 observed by focussing emotions rather than the dynamics of interaction experiential therapist seemed somewhat out of step with the rest of family therapy pp139 Experiential family therapy viewed the cause and effect of family problems as fuelled by emotional suppression For example Whitaker and Keith 1981 argued parents have a tendency confuse the instrumental and expressive functions of emotion They try to regulate their childrens actions by controlling their feelings The result is that children tend to blunt their emotional experience to avoid making waves In order for therapy to be a success experiential therapists believe that families need to get in touch with their feelings hope desires as well as their fears and anxieties In the first section of this paper the techniques and theoretical concepts used in symbolicexperiential family therapy will be outlined It should be acknowledged that Virginia Satir and Walter Kemplar are also seen to have had equal foundational importance in the birth of experiential family therapy But in this brief paper I will be concentrating mainly on the work of Carl Whitaker and his colleagues whos style of therapy differed greatly from that of Satir and Kemplar In the second section of this paper I will
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