Part I of this book is concerned with providing a conceptual map for observing the problems that occur in families. This map associates problems manifested by individuals with the traditional and current organization of their family patterns. Commensurate with this systemic view of problem formation is a different approach to achieving change and problem resolution. Practitioners are regarded as active agents of change. As Fisch, Weakland, and Segal put it: ‘For practice, this view proposes that the therapist’s task is not just to understand the family system and the place of the problem within it but also to take action to change the malfunctioning system in order to resolve the problem’ (1982:9).
Most schools of family therapy seem to share this view, though they may carry out this activity in different ways. Newcomers to the field are lucky in the sense that there is a range of schools, methods, and techniques from which to choose one that suits them, their agency, and their clients. This chapter examines some theories of systemic change espoused by different practitioners and outlines the implications for the reader’s practice.
Analysing problems in terms of interactional patterns means that the target of change is patterns, of behaviour and of beliefs. The divergences between the different models of therapy emerge at the stage of problem resolution. They differ in relation to the target of change, the worker’s goal, and the part that the therapist plays in achieving change.