Second Thoughts on the Theory and Practice of the Milan Approach to Family Therapy

By David Campbell; Ros Draper et al. | Go to book overview

POSITIVE CONNOTATION

Although the idea of seeing family problems in a positive light was not a new one, the Milan team developed the technique in order to make their paradoxical interventions seem credible to the family. The intention, in using this technique, was strategic. Over the years we have had discussions about whether we really believe what we say when we tell a family that ' Johnny is doing something helpful for the family by stealing from Woolworths'.

But this is to miss the point. We believe that people do what they think is best, or what they think they must do in order to prevent something that at the time seems worse from happening. But, since the 'problem' behaviour is observed from another context, that is, a 'problem' context, it acquires a negative connotation. A positive connotation is no more true or false or right or wrong than a negative connotation; rather, it is a strategic statement aimed to introduce difference into the family belief system and, with it, the possibility of change.

So, for us, the question: 'Do you really believe what you say? 'might be rephrased as: 'What do you believe you should say, in order to challenge the negative connotation which keeps the family stuck?' In this way, the positive connotation is not related to

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