Caring for an older family member with physical or cognitive impairments is a difficult, strenuous process. Caregivers often struggle to balance their own needs with those of the care recipient. Their relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and even the care recipient can suffer as well. As a result, family members often seek professional help to guide them through the caregiving process.

This book presents Caregiver Family Therapy (CFT), a systems approach to treating families that care for an aging adult.

CFT consists of three core stages:

  • Identifying the problem
  • Structuring caregiver roles
  • Ensuring caregiver self-care

Transition stages bridge one core stage to the next, helping caregivers structure care for the older adult, examine the impact of caregiving role structures, and consider broader effects of caregiving. As new challenges arise, the stages are repeated and the CFT process begins anew.

Full of rich clinical examples, this book will help therapists and other service providers meet the complex, diverse needs of caregiving families.

Table of Contents



  1. Foundations of Caregiver Family Therapy
  2. Naming and Framing the Caregiving Problem
  3. Structuring Care
  4. Role Structuring
  5. Role Reverberations
  6. Caregiver Self-Care
  7. Widening the Lens and Anticipating the Future
  8. Case Studies
  9. Pragmatic Issues in Practicing Caregiver Family Therapy

Appendix A: Caregiver Reaction Scale

Appendix B: Summary of the Caregiver Family Therapy Process



About the Authors

Author Bios

Sara Honn Qualls, PhD, is the Kraemer Family Professor of Aging Studies, professor of psychology, and director of the Gerontology Center at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS). She led the development of the doctoral program in clinical psychology that emphasizes geropsychology at the University of Colorado Aging Center, where trainees provide mental health and family interventions for older adults. She also founded the collaboration between UCCS and the Palisades at Broadmoor Park, a privately owned senior residential community where faculty and students provide services and conduct research.

Dr. Qualls has published several books in geropsychology, including Aging and Mental Health, and a clinical geropsychology series for clinicians. Her research currently focuses on the family caregiver therapy intervention, technology interventions designed to produce prosocial behavior in older adults and families, and senior housing wellness models.

Within APA, she served on the Presidential Task Force on Caregiving, which produced a Family Caregiver Briefcase of resources for psychologists in 2010, and she chaired the Committee on Aging in 2011.

Ashley A. Williams, PhD, is the director of behavioral health at the Resource Exchange, a nonprofit agency serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She provides behavioral therapy in the Developmental Disabilities Health Center, an innovative, integrated primary care setting. She provides services to caregivers and parents of persons with developmental disabilities and trains and supervises interns and practicum students.

Dr. Williams is also a research professor at the Gerontology Center at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. In this position, she completed a validation study of a computerized program to detect cognitive impairment and mental health problems in a primary care setting and conducts research on caregiver interventions. She recently completed a 3-year term as a co-convener of the Special Interest Group on Developmental Disabilities at the Gerontological Society of America's annual meetings.