Family Therapy: First Steps towards a Systemic Approach

Family Therapy: First Steps towards a Systemic Approach

Family Therapy: First Steps towards a Systemic Approach

Family Therapy: First Steps towards a Systemic Approach


Family therapy is a rapidly expanding field. This book introduces a range of concepts, skills and applications from a systemic approach.

The first part sets out the theory and examines relationship types, the family life cycle, interactional sequences and different models of change. The next section puts the theory into practice. It describes verbal and non-verbal techniques which are used to elicit information and initiate change. The last part considers some of the necessary conditions for the successful integration and application of this approach in social work practice, illustrated by detailed case examples.

A series of graduated exercises is designed to encourage readers to explore the theory and practice of family therapy in their own agencies.


The potential contribution of family dynamics to the problems of individual family members and to collective family misery has long interested social workers and members of allied counselling professions. From its earliest days family and marital therapy has formed a substantial part of social work. This effort has been informed and fashioned by a variety and often competing range of theories occupying the whole spectrum of psychodynamic and behavioural theories. This has spawned fragmented and sometimes highly idiosyncratic therapies which owe more to personal preferences and prejudices rather than to the perspectives which inform them.

The last decade, however, has witnessed the growth of efforts to establish a coherent theory matched by a therapeutic practice which relies upon theoretical concepts rather than individual supposition. This new school has moved away from theories that concentrate attention upon the individual to ideas that view personal difficulties in terms of family interaction. For example, it promotes an understanding of difficult child behaviour not simply from the standpoint of the child, or the mother, or the father, or the sibling(s), but in terms of the patterns and dynamics of family functioning. That is, it looks at problems in terms of the family or collective in which the individual performs and relates. This structured approach has led to the development of a more rational form of family therapy, and to efforts to understand the therapeutic procedures and process. This has resulted in professions from different disciplines uniting in a common effort.

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