Family Therapy beyond Postmodernism: Practice Challenges Theory

By Carmel Flaskas | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

Truth as a process

Whereas the last chapter began the critical exploration of postmodernist ideas in family therapy by focusing on questions of reality and realness, this chapter takes a different route and approaches the limits of postmodernism through an exploration of truth as a concept, as it relates to therapeutic concerns. The questions of truth and reality are intimately related, for within a modernist paradigm, 'truth' stands at the pinnacle of universal claims about the nature of reality. Moreover, at the level of individual experience, the idea of truth is usually accompanied by notes of certainty, closure and at times moralism. If the idea of independent realities has been jeopardised in the contemporary discourse of family therapy, then any commitment to the idea of truth has been well and truly banished.

Let me be clear from the start that I have no interest here in reviving the modernist notion of truth as objective, certain and universal. However, it seems to me to be crucial in therapy to hold some understanding of truth as an emotional and social process that enables a person to claim knowledge ('truth') about her or his experience. This chapter, then, is a plea for embracing the idea of truth as a process, rather than completely rejecting any notion of truth. The passion for reclaiming truth comes primarily from practice, and so it is practice that challenges theory. In the process of the exploration, new light is thrown on the complexities of postmodernism as a metaphor for therapy, and themes from Chapter 4 reappear as part of this discussion.

I will begin again by presenting some pieces of practice, stepping on to theory and an exploration of the relationship of systemic therapy and postmodernist ideas to the idea of truth. This will be done in three parts: the first part will map the paradox of modernist

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