Family Therapy: First Steps towards a Systemic Approach

By John B. Burnham | Go to book overview

PART II

Practice

Skills and techniques

Part I introduced and illustrated some of the basic ideas that might be regarded as essential in the development of a systemic approach to family therapy. Part II is concerned with the application of these ideas in practice. It is important to emphasize that the order in which these ideas and this practice are presented does not imply a ‘rule’ governing how a new therapist must proceed. Many of the ‘great originals’ of family therapy (Haley, Minuchin, Ackerman, etc.) applied family therapy and later found a theory which offered a plausible explanation for their observations of families’ behaviour and their therapeutic work based on those observations. There is no correct order in which to begin—a beginner should read the theory and practice simultaneously in order to make each aspect meaningful in relation to the other.

This part does not claim to present an encyclopaedic coverage of skills and techniques. Rather it outlines and illustrates some of the basic skills and techniques that can be useful at various stages of the therapy process. It offers advice and encouragement as to how to start putting these skills into practice, that is how to combine thinking and doing. The step from reading or observing to doing is perhaps the most difficult one to take. There always seems to be a good reason to wait for a better opportunity or a more suitable family, for example. This part offers direct advice on making the step less difficult. The main areas covered in Part II are: convening a session—getting families to come and begin work; preparing for a session—deciding how to structure and plan an interview; conducting an interview—techniques for eliciting systemic information; intervening—initiating change; failure—recognizing and overcoming impasse and failure.

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