GEN PRAC 7013 - Family & Relationships Counselling

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2014

This course examines developmental and therapeutic issues that relate to working with families and couples. A survey of pioneering theory and technique leads into contemporary, post-modern and integrative approaches. The Course first examines family systems and structure, family development stages and the types of stresses a family may have to negotiate. It will introduce a range of models of family and couples counselling, including multigenerational, experiential, cognitive behavioural, emotion-focused, narrative, solution-focussed and integrative models. It will address assessment techniques and practical interventions, and provide skills development in applying systems theory in counselling.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code GEN PRAC 7013
    Course Family & Relationships Counselling
    Coordinating Unit General Practice
    Term Semester 1
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 3 hours per week
    Assumed Knowledge GEN PRAC 5005HO, GEN PRAC 5008HO & GEN PRAC 6018
    Restrictions Available to M. Counselling & Psychotherapy students only
    Course Description This course examines developmental and therapeutic issues that relate to working with families and couples. A survey of pioneering theory and technique leads into contemporary, post-modern and integrative approaches. The Course first examines family systems and structure, family development stages and the types of stresses a family may have to negotiate. It will introduce a range of models of family and couples counselling, including multigenerational, experiential, cognitive behavioural, emotion-focused, narrative, solution-focussed and integrative models. It will address assessment techniques and practical interventions, and provide skills development in applying systems theory in counselling.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Mark Pearson

    Course Coordinator: Mark Pearson
    Phone: +61 8313 1633
    Location: Level 11, 178 North Terrace

    Learning and Teaching Team
    Phone: +61 8313 2128
    Location: Level 7, 178 North Terrace
    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

    1 Outline knowledge of the underlying theories and core concepts of key approaches to family and relationship counselling;  
    2 Critically appraise research studies related to the clinical application of various approaches to family and relationship counselling;
    3 Demonstrate an understanding of family systems, structure, developmental stages and changes through class discussions and written assignments;
    4 Analyse and apply a variety of techniques and approaches to family and relationship counselling; these may include systems, experiential, developmental, cognitive-behavioural, emotion-focussed, narrative and integrative models;
    5 Demonstrate practical knowledge of common counselling issues that are presented by families and couples, through class discussions and written assignments;
    6 Recognise issues of cultural and other diversity in the formation of families and relationships;
    7 Appropriately apply intervention skills for working with families and couples to resolve relationship difficulties, through a written assignment;
    8 Appraise resources to support continuous learning regarding family and relationship counselling.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Knowledge and understanding of the content and techniques of a chosen discipline at advanced levels that are internationally recognised. 1-5, 7
    The ability to locate, analyse, evaluate and synthesise information from a wide variety of sources in a planned and timely manner. 2, 4, 5, 6, 8
    An ability to apply effective, creative and innovative solutions, both independently and cooperatively, to current and future problems. 2, 3, 7
    Skills of a high order in interpersonal understanding, teamwork and communication. 1-7
    A proficiency in the appropriate use of contemporary technologies. 2, 8
    A commitment to continuous learning and the capacity to maintain intellectual curiosity throughout life. 8
    An awareness of ethical, social and cultural issues within a global context and their importance in the exercise of professional skills and responsibilities. 6
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources

    An important component of this unit is regular reading and reflection, intended to clarify and expand on material covered in class. Required textbooks:

    Goldenberg, H., & Goldenberg, I. (2013). Family therapy: An overview. (8th ed). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole - Cengage Learning.
    Long, L. L., & Young, M. E. (2007). Counselling and therapy for couples (2nd ed). Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.
    Links to required background readings will be made available to participants via MyUni.

    Recommended Resources

    The following textbooks are highly recommended:

    Goldenberg, H., & Goldenberg, I. (2013). Family therapy: An overview. (8th ed). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole - Cengage Learning.

    Long, L. L., & Young, M. E. (2007). Counselling and therapy for couples (2nd ed). Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

    Recommended Reading:
    Brown, J. H., & Brown, C. S. (2002). Marital therapy: Concepts and skills for effective practice. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

    McGoldrick, M., Carter, B., & Garcia-Preto, N. (2010). The expanded family life cycle: Individual, family, and social perspectives (4th Ed.) Pearson Education.

    Shaw, E., & Crawley. J. (2007). Couple therapy in Australia: Issues emerging from practice. Kew, VIC: Psychoz Publications.

    Rhodes, P., & Wallis, A. (Eds.) (2011). A practical guide to family therapy. Structured guidelines and key skills. Melbourne: IP Communications.

    Copies of readings (relevant journal articles) will be made available via MyUni.

    A range of videos and Youtube clips will be recommended for students to study.

    Online Learning

    3.3.1 MyUni
    All students enrolled in a postgraduate coursework program have access to a Postgraduate Coursework Student Centre on MyUni. This course is available on MyUni at
    Please check the website regularly as it may contain announcements that are relevant to your study in the course.
    Weekly lecture notes will be provided via MyUni.

    Links to literature that supports class discussions and assignment preparation will be available via MyUni.

    If you would like the opportunity to network with other students, you can use the Communication features in the site
    Send Email – This feature enables users to send email to fellow students.
    Group Pages – Groups enable Users to collaborate with each other. Groups usually consist of a smaller group of Users in a course or organisation, such as study groups or project groups. From a Group Page, users may send email, exchange files, enter discussion forums or enter collaboration sessions.
    Please note that you also have access to individual MyUni sites for EACH course you are enrolled in. Please check the sites regularly as they may contain important announcements that are relevant to your study in the course.

    3.3.2 Access Adelaide
    Access Adelaide is the name of the online service that allows you to access and, in some cases, amend your records. It can be found at:
    You can log into Access Adelaide to view:
    your enrolment details for any term
    your academic results
    your unofficial academic transcript
    your personal details
    the fees, charges and payments on your University account
    your graduation eligibility details.
    As a student you can:
    change your address and telephone details (please inform the Discipline as well) change your password
    set a password clue to help you remember your password.

    3.3.3 Student email
    It is important that you set up your student email and check it regularly. Information from your course coordinator and student administration will be sent to you at your University of Adelaide email address. It is your responsibility to check your email. You will need your student number located on your student card to log in.

    3.3.4 Computers
    Where can I use a computer in the University?
    Computing facilities are provided to students by the University, and there are several suites of computers available, including at the Barr Smith Library and in Hub Central. The University web site has a list of computer labs at: of Adelaide

    3.3.5 Internet access
    The University provides a free dial-up service to students without the need for a commercial ISP account. This service is available at the cost of a local call to students residing within Adelaide (please refer to your telecommunications provider for confirmation of call costs). Students residing outside these numbers can dial into the University at STD call rates (
    Postgraduate Coursework students will receive a University Funded Quota of 500Mb.

  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes

    This course will be an experiential and interactive one, with 12 weekly (2.5 hour) sessions, including didactic sessions, small group and large group discussions, and role playing of introduced skills. The lecturer will use illustrations from his own work and case summaries presented by students, along with structured exercises and group discussion, as a way of supporting participants to engage with the various models of practice. Students will be exposed to a variety of approaches, with an emphasis on their connecting the learning to their own work and areas of interest and preferred counselling modalities, to develop their own ways of working in this area of practice.
    The didactic and other face-to-face sessions will be supported by readings and videos, and assessment designed to assist integration of learning and development of skills.

    The course content will include the following topics:
    An introduction to the underlying theories and key ideas informing counselling of families and couples.
    A survey of the historical antecedents to current practice.
    Family systems theory, including structure and family development stages.
    An overview of common presenting issues and stressors.
    Multigenerational, experiential, cognitive behavioural, emotion-focused, narrative, solution-focused and integrative models of working with families and couples.
    Assessment techniques.
    Practical interventions.

    The majority of sessions will include the application of theoretical perspectives in skill development exercises and role-plays.

    Class work will be supported by regular reading and reflection. The two written individual assignments will assist in the integration of theoretical and experiential perspectives.

    In order to develop a further sense of competence with counselling skills, in small groups, participants will be asked to record a short video of a counselling session role play, illustrating use of a specific intervention. They will then play it to the class and facilitate a learning conversation with the class. The aim of the video is to provide students with the opportunity to learn through collaborative reflection on the skills they are developing.


    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    The course comprises two and a half hours every week, of lecture, seminar and small-group discussions. Sessions will be seminar/workshop format, with a mixture of lectures and interactive exercises, and it is compulsory for all students to attend. Essential readings or on-line video material will be recommended.

    Face to Face lectures and practicals: 2.5 hours / week
    Core/background readings: 6 hours / week
    Preparation of assignments: 4 hours / week
    Learning Activities Summary
    Week Topic Lecture
    Week 1 Course Overview and Introduction to Family Therapy Introduction to course texts, readings and key journals. Introduction to family and relationship counselling and systemic thinking. Brief overview of approaches to counselling.
    Week 2 Family Systems Theory Models of family and couple counselling. Postmodern and cultural considerations; Reflection on own therapeutic style; History of the family therapy schools; Family resilience.
    Week 3 Family Development Stages Establishing a life cycle perspective.
    Developmental stages with an intact family. Practical tools: Create genogram for own family.
    Week 4 Major Theories and Assessment Techniques Types of families; marital satisfaction; lifecycle stages; forming a therapeutic alliance; assessment tools; first session goals and structure. First session activities; Ecomap construction.
    Week 5 Working with Couples Working with Couples – as a support for families. Working with parents and adolescents. Analyse session DVD.
    Week 6 Multigenerational Counselling Multigenerational counselling; Experiential counselling; Understanding couple stressors and dynamics. Role-play of a family session.
    Week 7 Approaches to Couples Counselling - 1 Cognitive behavioural couples counselling;
    Solution-focussed therapy; View and discuss DVD.
    Week 8 Approaches to Couples Counselling - 2  Narrative therapy; Emotion-focussed counselling with couples; View and discuss DVD.
    Week 9 Approaches to Couples Counselling The Integrative Model - Using visual/spatial techniques with couples and families; Practical tools: use of symbol work.
    Week 10 Separation and Divorce Separation and divorce; divorce statistics, prevention and recovery; Counselling for the stages of divorce; Circular questioning skills practice.
    Week 11 Assessment of Student Skills DVDs Presentations of collaborative videos of skills role-plays; student facilitation of class discussion and peer assessment.
    Week 12 Review and Revision Revisiting and revision activities; Applying session plans to a case scenario; Reflecting on own therapy style preferences; Collaborating in a course revision activity; Options for further learning.
    Specific Course Requirements
    To pass this course, students must:
    Attend all sessions of the twelve 2½ hr seminars. In the case of illness a medical certificate will be required. If other unforeseen circumstances result in missing a seminar, replacement work may be negotiated.
    Submit two written assignments.
    Participate in a peer-collaboration video project, and facilitate the in-class learning conversation about it, as well as peer assessment.
    Participate in seminar activities and class discussions throughout the seminar.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary

    To pass this course, students must:

    • Attend all sessions of the five-day intensive and participate actively in the workshop. In the case of illness a medical certificate will be required. If other unforeseen circumstances result in missing a section of the intensive, replacement work may be negotiated.
    • Submit a reflection on a paper from each of the four sets of readings oriented to the questions, resonances or ideas raised by the reading.
    • Record, transcribe and submit a brief one page paper contextualising the interview within your emerging skills, and participate in the learning conversation about it.
    Assessment Task Assessment Tpe Weighting Learning Outcome(s) being addressed
    Written Assignment 1. 
    Personal reflection on own family system.
    Summative 25% 1, 3, 4, 5
    Written Assignment 2. 
    Critical analysis of two couples counselling approaches.
    Summative 35% 1, 2, 4, 5, 7
    Assignment 3.
    Group video presentation and class discussion.
    Summative 30% 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
    Participation Summative 10% 3, 7
    Assessment Related Requirements
    Students are advised to comply with word limits for written assignments, and time limits for the group video and discussion. A 10% leeway on either side is acceptable.
    Assessment Detail
    Written assignment 1 (25%): Word limit – 2,000 Due date: 7 April, 2014
    Family system analysis – relating multigenerational and developmental theory to student’s family of origin.

    The aim of this assignment is to analyse your family of origin, with a view to understanding it better, from the perspective of two conceptual frameworks: 1. Bowen’s systemic approach and 2. a developmental perspective (e.g. from Carter & McGoldrick, 1999). Explore the challenges of three or four generations of your family of origin. Appropriate use should be made of at least three diagrams, such as genograms, circumplex models, time-lines, etc. You must include a three-generation genogram (this can be hand-drawn).

    Possible sections:
    Overview of theoretical frameworks
    Signs of resilience 
    Interactional patterns
    Communicating emotions 
    Relational patterns – roles and rules.
    Personal response to working on the assignment.

    Marking guide:
    Description of the two theoretical models: 25
    Description of your family system: 20
    Illustrating the family narrative – use of genograms, etc. 30
    Overall: application of theories, depth of understanding, clarity of expression: 15
    Correct use of APA referencing style: 10

    Written assignment 2 (35%): Word limit – 2,500 Due date: 5 May, 2014
    Critical analysis of two approaches to couples counselling, applied to a fictional case.
    Address both Part A and Part B.

    PART A: Critical analysis of two approaches
    You are required to briefly describe and critically evaluate two approaches to couples counselling: evaluate the premise of the claims, the methods and the underlying theoretical assumptions.
    Choose two approaches to from these options:
    o Behaviour Therapy or CBT with couples
    o Multigenerational Approaches (Bowen)
    o Solution Focused Therapy
    o Narrative Therapy
    o Emotionally-Focussed Couples Therapy
    o An Integrative Model (as described in text: Long & Young, 2007, Ch. 4) 

    In your critical evaluation briefly summarise and analyse:
    o core theoretical premises / foundational theories
    o central concepts
    o main methods and techniques
    o evaluation of the claims made by each approach / theory
    o appropriateness or relevance of these two theories to the following case

    PART B: Application of theories to a case

    Drawing on the two theories you have chosen, show how the core concepts and main techniques might be applied within the first few sessions in the following case with the couple John and Jane.

    John (48) and Jane (46) have been married 22 years. They are presenting for counselling as a couple. They have two teenage children: Tim (16 years) and Sue (14 years). John works as an engineer and travels a lot in connection with his work. Jane has no outside employment.

    The couple say that the presenting issues have to do with Jane’s depression. She has been depressed for a number of years and takes anti-depressant medication under the care of her GP. Each member of the couple identifies this as the major source of concern.

    John complains that when he comes home he is expected to take over the running of the house. He describes feelings of irritation with the untidy condition of the home, and wonders what Jane has been doing while he was away. They fight regularly, with John demanding change and Jane sometimes retaliating, but mainly retreating into silence.

    The children have begun to go out more and spend a lot of time with their friends. John doesn’t support this and thinks they should spend more time studying. He feels as though he has little control over the children and when he does attempt to ‘have a say in what they do’. He says that Jane undermines his efforts in order to get back at him for ‘attacking’ her over the housework.

    Jane has a few close female friends and confides in them about her ‘depression’ and unhappiness. Jane and John rarely go out as a couple anymore and when they do it is usually with a group of John’s work colleagues and tends to be a rather formal occasion. John discloses that he is sometimes embarrassed by Jane at these functions as she might share something inappropriate that he believes should be only shared between them.

    Please note that this case scenario is entirely fictitious and any resemblance to anyone is completely co-incidental.

    Marking guide:
    Description of the two approaches to couples counselling: 25
    Critical evaluation of the two approaches to couples counselling: 25
    Application of each approach to the fictional case: 30
    Overall depth of understanding, and clarity of expression: 10
    Correct use of APA referencing style: 10

    Assignment 3 Group video presentation (30%): Due date: 28 May (in class)
    Collaborative course review project:
    Part A: Students work in small groups to plan and video a 15 minute role play of a (mock) couple or family counselling session, designed to illustrate the use of a particular counselling intervention discussed during the course. Students will consult with the instructor about the intervention before video recording.
    Part B: Each group introduces and screens the video in class and facilitates discussion within the class following viewing (approximately 30 minutes). The discussion facilitation should aim to elicit class reflection and interaction.

    Marking guide:
    Instructor assessment 20% – made up of:
    - 10% for counseling skills displayed in video
    - 10% for conducting the class presentation / facilitation of discussion
    Peer assessment of skills demonstrated in video 10% – using a marking matrix
    (Total of 30%)

    Participation (10%):
    Assessment by instructor. Assessment of class participation is based on consideration of the student’s attendance record, their ability to manage time (in terms of attendance and assignment submission), their engagement in developing and fostering group norms for the class, their willingness to offer questions in class, engagement in small-group discussions and learning tasks, their respectful and professional engagement with peers and staff, evidence of their tolerance with peers and clients, and their ability to modify behaviour in response to feedback from peers or staff.

    Written assignments should be submitted through the “Assignments” section of MyUni. Instructions on how to submit an assignment in this way can be found at:

    Hand-written presentations will not be accepted for the written submissions. All written work must be referenced accurately and consistently, using the American Psychological Society Referencing Format (APA 6). Information regarding this system can be found at or more detailed information can be found at Marks will be deducted for incorrect referencing in all assignments.

    Assignments must be submitted by 5pm on the day that they are due (please note that MyUni will accept assignments after this time but it will be marked Late.) Students should include their name(s) in a header or footer on each page of assignment, and retain a copy for their records.

    Feedback on the first written assignment will be provided to students before the due date of the second assignment, so that students can take advantage of this feedback.

    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

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