Till the ocean do us part: Italian and American therapists representations of stepfamilies in treatment

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Monica Accordini *
Scott Browning
Marialuisa Gennari
Kevin McCarthy
Davide Margola
(*) Corresponding Author:
Monica Accordini | monica.accordini@unicatt.it


Research often focuses on the characteristics of stepfamilies and their differences with first-union families; however, few studies take into account the therapis's perspective with regards to the treatment of such families. Also, cross-cultural research on the topic is limited. To fill these gaps, a content analysis of responses from 125 Italian and 45 American therapists regarding their representations of stepfamilies and stepfamily therapy was undertaken. Results show that American therapists emphasized specific stepfamily characteristics (e.g., the lack of a shared family history, the occurrence of conflict between former spouses, the presence of unrealistic expectations towards treatment) to a greater extent if compared to Italian therapists. By contrast, besides being more general in their definition of stepfamilies, Italian therapists focused more on themselves, their theoretical models, and their professional and personal skills. The study provides insights on both the differences in the clinical cultures of the two countries and implications for stepfamily therapy and training.

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