The last decade has witnessed writers such as Jordan (1972) urging social workers to direct their efforts towards changing family interaction rather than focusing on the individual. Many authors, including Pincus and Minahan (1973) and Specht and Vickery (1977), have continued this move to a systemic approach to social work.
Walrond-Skinner (1976) and Skynner (1976) provided the first detailed accounts of how systemic concepts and techniques could be used to focus on family relationships. Surveys by Gorell Barnes in 1980 and Gillman in 1983, and books by Treacher and Carpenter (1984) and Campbell and Draper (1985), indicate that a systems approach to family therapy is applicable across a wide spectrum of social work contexts. This chapter introduces and illustrates some of the terms used regularly by practitioners working from a systemic perspective. These descriptions are intended to be useful in indicating the type of therapeutic interventions introduced in Part II.
The way we describe situations reflects our thoughts and influences our actions with respect to those situations. A description of a problem in terms of individuals will lead to our seeking solutions aimed at changing individuals. If we are to take seriously the idea of changing relationships rather than individuals, then we need to be competent in