The uses of emotion maps in research and clinical practice with families and couples: methodological innovation and critical inquiry

Gabb, Jacqui and Singh, Reenee (2015). The uses of emotion maps in research and clinical practice with families and couples: methodological innovation and critical inquiry. Family Process, 54(1) pp. 185–197.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/famp.12096

Abstract

We explore how ‘emotion maps’ can be productively used in clinical assessment and clinical practice with families and couples. This graphic participatory method was developed in sociological studies to examine everyday family relationships. Emotion maps enable us to effectively ‘see’ the dynamic experience and emotional repertoires of family life. Through the use of a case example, in this paper we illustrate how emotion maps can add to the systemic clinicians’ repertoire of visual methods. For clinicians working with families, couples and young people, the importance of gaining insight into how lives are lived, at home, cannot be understated. Producing emotion maps can encourage critical personal reflection and expedite change in family practice. Hot spots in the household become visualised, facilitating dialogue on prevailing issues and how these events may be perceived differently by different family members. As emotion maps are not reliant on literacy or language skills they can be equally completed by parents and children alike, enabling children’s perspective to be heard. Emotion maps can be used as assessment tools, to demonstrate the process of change within families. Furthermore, emotion maps can be extended to use through technology and hence are well suited particularly to working with young people. We end the paper with a wider discussion of the place of emotions and emotion maps within systemic psychotherapy.

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