Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Family Consumer Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Thorana S. Nelson


Thorana S. Nelson


The purpose of this exploratory study was to learn about practicing Marriage and Family Therapists' experiences with therapeutic impasse. The study had several objectives: investigate the incidence of impasse; look into therapists ' experiences with impasse, their attitudes toward it, and their views on its etiology; and explore clinicians' strategies for impasse resolution.

One hundred and six clinical members of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) responded to a self-designed questionnaire. The majority of the respondents (83%) reported being stuck in therapy for a few minutes and 35% reported being stuck for three or more sessions during the previous year of their practice. The majority of times, the therapists experienced low to medium stress in impasse and predominantly distressing emotions such as frustration and anxiety. Nonetheless, 86% of the participants reported having positive attitudes toward impasse.

This study entertained a qualitative analysis of the first signs of impasse that MFTs reported they noticed as well as therapy situations in which they typically or frequently experienced impasse. Clinicians reported looking into different units of analysis when noticing the first signs of impasse. Most of them observed client signs, fewer noticed signs in the therapeutic system, and the least noticed signs in themselves. Similar to the question of signs of impasse, the therapists concentrated on client, system, and their own characteristics when describing their typical impasse situations. As many as 65% of the responses contained therapists' accounts of typical client dynamics with which they experienced impasse and only 5% of the responses mentioned therapist dynamics.

A total of 95% of the sample reported high or very high rates of impasse resolution. ln addition, 88% of the therapists reported having a strategy/strategies for resolving impasse. The study revealed diverse strategies that MFTs used for dealing with impasse: immediate interventions, larger scale interventions, and complete courses of actions. Implications for research, practice, and training are discussed.