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F23-201 Sibling therapy: The How-To’s

Total Credits: 6 including 6 Category I CEs

200 Adults, Couples & Families
Karen Gail Lewis
Course Levels:
7 Hours 30 Minutes
Product Number:



People with brothers and/or sisters actually have two sets of siblings: The first are the original, flesh and blood siblings.  The second are the imbedded perceptions, feelings, and resentments from childhood that, like ghosts, are invisible and never age—even as the original siblings age and change. 

To do sibling therapy, social workers need to understand this, along with a few aspects of treatment that go beyond their current therapy modality.  

First, is recognizing that the relationship between brothers and sisters, who are relatively close in age, is like a “first marriage.”  Siblings are, in fact, each other’s first peer relationships. During this time, they learn (or don’t learn) to compete; save face; negotiate; resolve fights; and to use humor, manipulation, blackmail, and silence when there is an age/power imbalance. What they learn at this age gets infused into how they handle themselves in their adult love relationships.  

Second, there are four key concepts that are specific to sibling therapy: frozen images crystallized roles, unhealthy loyalty, and sibling transference. These form the basis of what is unique in working with siblings vs. individual, couple, and family therapy.  

For siblings who request help, we’ll look at how to start a sibling therapy session, how to incorporate these concepts into your own therapy style, how to recognize and use therapists’ own feelings in sessions. We’ll also discuss how to suggest sibling therapy to your individual and couple clients.  



Karen Gail Lewis Related Seminars and Products


Dr. Karen Gail Lewis, marriage and family therapist for over 50 years, is author of numerous books and professional articles on marriage, gender communication, single women, and adult siblings.  Her newest book is Sibling Therapy: The Ghosts from Childhood That Haunt Your Clients’ Love and Work. For years she has presented nationally and internationally.  

Agenda & Learning Objectives


8:50 – 9:00 Log On/Registration 


9:00 – 9:15 Intro and overview of the day   


9:15 – 9:40 Why Siblings if we are Family Therapists   


9:40 – 9:55 Primary Causes of Sibling Conflict 


9:55 – 10:45 Four Key concepts in working with siblings    


10:45 – 11:00 BREAK 


11:00 - 11:40 Sibling transference: Did You Marry Your Sibling   


11:40 – 12:00 Group exercise:   


12:00 – 12:20 Taking Your Sibling to Work   


12:20 – 12:40 Assessing for a sibling connection   


12:40-1:40    LUNCH    


1:40 – 2:00 Group exercise:   


2:00 – 2:40 Starting a sibling therapy session and dealing with Therapists’ feelings in working with siblings   


2:40 – 3:00 Group exercise   


3:00 – 3:15 BREAK 


3:15 – 3:30 Skills necessary for providing sibling therapy   


3:30 – 4:15 Group Exercise:  Typical Presenting 


4:15 – 4:30 Questions and Wrap Up 


4:30 Adjournment  



Upon the completion of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Understand how adult relationships may replicate the early childhood relationship (siblings as a first marriage concept).  

  • Identify four concepts that are specific to sibling therapy: frozen images, crystallized roles, unhealthy loyalty, and sibling transference.  

  • Start a sibling therapy session.  

  • Recognize and use feelings (transference and countertransference). 

  • Understand the skills necessary for doing sibling therapy.  

  • Learn and practice some “clinical tools” for when stuck in a session.  

  • Initiate the concept of sibling therapy to clients not aware there may be a sibling connection to their presenting problems. 

Bibliography & References




Sibling Therapy: The Ghosts from Childhood that Haunt Your Clients’ Love and Work.  Karen Gail Lewis, Oxford University Press, 2023. 


Siblings in Therapy: Life Span and Clinical Issues.  Eds. Michael Kahn and Karen Gail Lewis.  Norton, 1988. 


Brothers, Sisters, Strangers: Sibling Estrangement and the Road to Reconciliation, Fern Schumer Chapman.  Viking, 2021. 


Adult Sibling Relationships.  Geoffrey Greif and Michael Woolley.  Columbia University Press.  2015. 


Instructor articles/book chapters on the topic: 

Siblings:  A hidden resource.  (1990).  Journal of Strategic and Systemic Therapies, 9, 1, 39-49. 


Sibling therapy:  A blend of family and group therapy. (1988).  Journal of Specialists in Group Work, 13, 4, 186-193. 


Sibling therapy:  One step in breaking the cyclical pattern of recidivism in foster care.  (1995). 


In L. Combrinck-Graham (Ed.,)  Children in family contexts, II:  Keeping children and families together.  New York: Guilford 


A three step plan for black families involved with foster care:  Sibling therapy, mothers’ group therapy, family therapy. (1991).   


In K.G.Lewis (Ed.),  Family therapy applications to social work:  Teaching and clinical practice.  New York:  Haworth. 

Course Completion & CE Information

Category I Maryland BSWE Requirement

The Office of Continuing Professional Education at the University Of Maryland School Of Social Work is authorized by the Board of Social Work Examiners in Maryland to sponsor social work continuing education programs. This workshop qualifies for {6} Category I Continuing Education Units. The Office of Continuing Professional Education is also authorized by the Maryland Board of Psychologists and the Maryland Board of Professional Counselors to sponsor Category A continuing professional education.

Please refer to the tab "Live Interactive Webinar Policies & FAQs" for UMSSW Office of CPE policies regarding all live interactive webinar related matters.

Target Audience

Social Workers, LCPCs, and Psychologists

We welcome anyone interested in the topic!


Late Fees and Refunds

Fee & Registration:

Cost is $130 and includes CE credit. Registering after 9/6/23 will incur an additional $20 late fee. Cancellations* must be received 24 hours in advance prior to the workshop to receive a refund or an account credit.


*ALL cancellations will be subjected to a $35.00 administration fee.

Live Interactive Webinar Platforms


The Office of Continuing Professional Education hosts Live Interactive Webinars through two platforms: Zoom and WebEx.

Both platforms offer high quality and user-friendly webinar platforms for our registrants.


System Requirements:

  • Operating Systems: Windows XP or higher; MacOS 9 or higher; Android 4.0 or higher.
  • Internet Browser: Google Chrome; Firefox 10.0 or higher.

Our system is not compatible with the Safari web browser.

  • Broadband Internet Connection: Cable, High-speed DSL and any other medium that is internet accessible.

**Please have your device charging at all times to ensure that your device does not lose power during the webinar.


Course Interaction Requirements:

To participate in Live Interactive Webinars, you MUST have a device that allows you to view the presentation on screen and hear the instructor at all times. We do not allow participants to call-in from their phones or mobile devices and solely listen to the presentation. Participation in Live Interactive Webinars is mandatory.

Webinar Policies & FAQs

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