RESOLVE Alberta Update

Why Aren’t We Using Emotionally Focused Family Therapy to Help Families Impacted by Situational Couple Violence?

Rosalie Paquette, M.Ed. (Counselling Psychology) student and Dr. Dawn McBride, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Lethbridge

Child walking

Would you conduct family therapy sessions if the children in the family unit have witnessed intimate partner violence (IPV) between their parents? Responses to this question might produce very strong visceral reactions for therapists, given there is still great debate on how best to address IPV therapeutically. However, this question is important to ask, as violence in the home can significantly impede the development of healthy parent–child attachment relationships. Unfortunately, very little is known about whether family therapy could be appropriate when IPV is the presenting problem.

Researchers Rosalie Paquette and Dr. Dawn McBride set out to overcome this significant gap in the research by exploring the use of emotionally focused family therapy (EFFT) for families impacted by IPV. The researchers propose that EFFT may have the potential to help parents work as a team to repair the ruptured bonds between them and their children. Therapists using EFFT work with families to repair parent-child attachment, thereby allowing children to regain a sense of safety and security as their parents attune to their needs (Furrow et al., 2019). However, the application to EFFT has never been applied to family violence.

To ease any panic on the part of therapists at the thought of a violent partner in the same therapy room as the victim and the child witnesses, the researchers propose that EFFT might be best suited for those couples who report the effects of situational couple violence in the family. Situational couple violence is one type of IPV characterized by patterns of violence resulting from the escalation of arguments, rather than from power and control (Kelly & Johnson, 2008). Additionally, the violence may be mutually perpetrated, or it may involve one violent (noncontrolling) partner and one nonviolent partner (Kelly & Johnson, 2008).

The assumption that only situational couple violence would be appropriate for EFFT is one of the research topics the first author will be exploring in her thesis. The researchers are curious how therapists who are already using an emotionally focused approach in therapy will respond to using EFFT with families where situational couple violence is the presenting problem.

This exploratory quantitative study involves asking an estimated 200 therapists about the risks and benefits of using EFFT in cases of situational couple violence. After being presented with a brief case study, participants will also be asked to indicate how important it is that specific situational factors be in place before EFFT can be used when parents report situational couple violence. See the case study scenario, as well as several examples of situational factors.

The researchers anticipate that the results of this study will provide critical recommendations for therapists to considering the use of EFFT when parents report situational couple violence. It is hoped that further investigation into innovative intervention strategies for IPV will support the recovery of family members impacted by violence in the home, particularly the youngest and most vulnerable.


Furrow, J., Palmer, G., Johnson, S., Faller, G., & Olsen, L. P. (2019). Emotionally focused family therapy: Restoring connection and promoting resilience. Routledge.

Kelly, J. B., & Johnson, M. P. (2008). Differentiation among types of intimate partner violence: Research update and implication for interventions. Family Court Review, 46(3), 476–499.

New RESOLVE Alberta Steering Committee Member Lana Whiskeyjack

LanaRESOLVE Alberta would like to introduce Steering Committee Member Lana Whiskeyjack. Lana was recommended to join the RESOLVE Alberta team by Josie Nepinak, a former Steering Committee Member.

Lana is a treaty iskwew from Saddle Lake Cree Nation and is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta (since 2017). In 2017, Lana completed iyiniw pimâtisiwin kiskeyihtamowin doctoral program at University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quill, a former Indian Residential School attended by two generations of her own family. She has built new knowledge practices on restoring healthy relationships with a focus on strengths-based and arts-integrated research.

Lana’s ways of thinking and being are grounded in ceremony and a transformative relational paradigm. She uses mixed methods of Indigenous ways of knowing and being with Western academic; grounded in Indigenous ceremony and nêhiyawewin (Cree language), to investigate the well-being of relationship to self, one another and all living beings, as a complex system, including the mental, emotional, spiritual, behavioural, economic, social, cultural, environmental, and political factors. Lana’s research, writing, and creativity focuses on Indigenous sexual health, economic security, intergenerational resilience, Two-spirit family support, and Indigenous visual literacy. Currently, she is researching and studying (re)connecting to the spirit of nêhiyawêwin (Cree language) and nêhiyaw gender worldview through arts-based practices and a transformative relational paradigm. You can learn more about Lana Whiskeyjack by visiting her website:

Lana Whiskeyjack featured Cree artwork: An exploration of 13 Moons Calendar

Lana PrairiesRESOLVE Alberta would like to recognize Steering Committee Member Lana Whiskeyjack in receiving a CIHR grant for strengthening relations through cultural and arts-based practices to promote well-being of Aboriginal and Two-Spirit youth and families. The first phase of this project will be focused on building relationships with potential phases exploring the ideas from these relationships and creating a “rites of passage urban to spirit people” program.

Lana’s artwork is based in arts-based inquiry research. She believes that artwork is a way to problem solve and process information as the left brain’s research can be processed to the right side through creative inquiry, analysis and knowledge translation. Her artwork is transformative that focuses on Indigenous womanhood and diverse genders that includes examining its negative correlation to disparity and Missing Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). Lana believes that Indigenous womanhood can be viewed positively as how their grandmothers and ancestors have learned from tradition, language, connection to the land, alchemy of health and strong families and confronting historical trauma and Paintingtranscending harsh realities. Lana is focused on resilience and contributing to finding actions. This guides the work she is doing now to uncover the diverse indigenous identity.  

To the left is one of Lana’s current Cree artworks called 13 Moons Calendar. It depicts the women-centered gender and a portrays a warrior and resilience. Lana will eventually publish a book from these series of paintings to share its teachings. If interested in seeing more of Lana Whiskeyjack’s work, please visit her website at:


Dr. Nicole Letoureau Inducted as a Fellow into the American Academy of Nursing and Recipient of the Jeanne Mance Award

NicoleDr. Nicole Letourneau, PhD, ACHF Chair in Parent-Infant Mental Health and RESOLVE Alberta Academic Coordinator was recently granted fellowship into the American Academy of Nursing. To be chosen as a Fellow is considered a significant milestone in a nursing career, and Dr. Letourneau is 1 of only 39 Canadian nurses that have been accepted into the Academy. Learn more here.

Dr. Nicole Letourneau has also been selected as the award recipient of the Jeanne Mance Award. The Jeanne Mance Award is considered as the highest recognition of nursing achievement that the Canadian Nurses Association offers. Nurses nominated for this prestigious award have worked to increase the public recognition and awareness of the nursing profession and have positively influenced nursing practice in Canada and abroad. Learn more here.