Common Pitfalls of Beginning Therapists Utilizing Enactments


therapy, training, Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education, COAMFTE, marriage and family therapy


Empirical data, clinical observation, and theoretical rationales support use of enactments as a fundamental mechanism of change in relationship therapies. Yet beginning therapists may lack an adequate conceptual framework and operational training essential to effectively utilize enactments. Inadequate training may contribute to ineffective execution, and in turn to negative results, which could lead to abandonment of enactments. This study sought to identify proficiencies and nonproficiencies of beginning therapists in conducting enactments. Twenty beginning therapists from three Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE)‐accredited programs were briefly trained in an indirect therapy style that incorporates enactments. Twenty‐six therapist enactments were coded using a comprehensive observational measure designed to assess proficiencies and nonproficiencies in executing enactment phases, component tasks, and subcomponent operations. Results suggest that beginning therapists struggle with numerous clinical operations conceptually linked to the successful engagement of relationships in marriage and family therapy. In light of these findings, specific recommendations for additional enactment training in COAMFTE‐accredited programs are offered.

Original Publication Citation

Butler, M. H., Davis, S. D., & Seedall, R. B. (2008). Common pitfalls of beginning therapists utilizing enactments. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 34(3), 329-352.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Marital and Family Therapy




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor