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Date of Award


Degree Type

Dissertation (On-Campus Access Only)

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Committee Chair

Donald Fromme

Second Advisor

Benson Schaeffer

Third Advisor

Michel Hersen


Filial Therapy is a method of parent training in which parents are taught the basic skills of child-centered play therapy to use in play sessions with their children. The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of parents' phenomenological experience of being in Filial Therapy. Twelve parents were interviewed on their perceptions of Filial Therapy, during, and after a Filial Therapy intervention. Findings from the interviews were structured and categorized into three levels of themes. Analysis of the qualitative interview data revealed three overarching themes including: enhanced Empathic Understanding, increased Self-Awareness, and Strengthened Relationships. Recurring major sub-themes nested under Empathic Understanding were increased parental sensitivity to children, empathy skills, empathic listening, parental sensitivity to family dynamics, and improved perceptions of relationships. Recurring major subthemes nested under Self-Awareness included heightened self-awareness, awareness of intrapsychic conflict related to parenting, self-introspection about parents' own upbringing, and Filial Therapy was challenging. Recurring major sub-themes nested under Strengthened
Relationships were strengthened parent-child, marital, and family relationships, and bonding to other parents. Unique major sub-themes included heightened awareness of co-parenting issues, strengthened relationship with ex-spouse, strengthened sibling relationship, and doubt about the utility of Filial Therapy. While Filial Therapy has been used to enhance empathic understanding and to improve parent-child relationships, the goal of Filial Therapy has not been to increase self-awareness in parents. The present study demonstrated clearly, at least in terms of parents' phenomenological experience, that they grew in self-awareness, and changed as a result of the Filial Therapy experience.