Family Therapy beyond Postmodernism: Practice Challenges Theory

By Carmel Flaskas | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

Social constructionist ideas and the narrative metaphor

If postmodernism is a domain in opposition to modernism, then what can be said of the way in which family therapy has come to engage with it, and what has it meant about the theory and practices that have been generated in its train? I spoke in the last chapter of the pattern in approaching postmodernist theorising. What is postmodernism? Not this (not modernism)…then what? The discourse in psychotherapy in general and in family therapy in particular has followed this sequence, fine-tuned to our own interests. What does postmodernism look like in the theory and practice of therapy? Not this-not 'modernist' therapy and all its assumptions. Then what? The 'not modernist' part of the sequence is essentially critique and marks the point of departure. It involves an identification and elaboration of the way in which modernist premises show themselves both in historical and contemporary theory and practice. Yet though elaborating this oppositionality continues to be a focus in family therapy, the creativity of the postmodernist position lies more in the response to the second question. For to begin to answer 'then what?' is to begin to meet the challenge of the postmodern critique and its emphases on context, specificity, and relationship. In psychotherapy, these emphases land us very squarely in the province of subjectivity and intersubjectivity, and in attempting to theorise subjectivity and intersubjectivity, family therapy has in the main turned to narrative and social constructionist theory.

It is thus via narrative and social constructionist ideas that family therapy has come to 'know' postmodernism, which is not to say that the postmodernist critique was not showing itself in family therapy before we embraced narrative and social constructionism. In line with the foundational ideas of Gregory Bateson (1980), the

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