September, 1978 saw the beginning of the Family Clinic in Birmingham as a specialist unit within the Charles Burns Clinic. On this particular Friday morning everything had been arranged: a one-way screen, a video recorder, and a group of very interested and enthusiastic professionals eager to try out this new and exciting way of working. As if this were not enough, Dr Karl Tomm, an experienced family therapist from Calgary, Canada, was behind the screen to give us the benefit of his advice. How could we fail? What could go wrong? The family did not attend! Technology, skills, and enthusiasm, all is in vain if the family does not arrive or is not at home when you visit.
The essential prerequisite of convening a family session is largely ignored in the literature. This contrasts with the host of articles written about successful case studies, skill development, and outcome studies. Perhaps this neglect reflects the lack of apparent significance of successful convening: you got the family to come—so what? It may be that those who write about family therapy are working either with families who are highly ‘motivated’ or in prestigious agencies which can attract families by their reputation. Although both these suppositions may be true, there are other factors involved. You may work in an agency that does not have the prestige of others; indeed you may work in an agency that is not usually associated with therapy at all. While you may be at such disadvantages, there are ways and means of increasing the attraction of what you offer and therefore