In Italy as well as in the United States, the birth and proliferation of family therapy has occurred mainly within a psychiatric environment. However, a difference in timing-a delay of 20 years-and different social and political conditions, have engendered a series of peculiarities to which Italian family therapy owes its deeply, in all senses, “national” aspect.
First of all, in this chapter I endeavor to outline the situation of both psychiatry and psychotherapy in Italy at the end of the 1960s, when family therapy was being introduced to our country. I go on to sketch the birth and development of our main schools of family therapy, until the period of its most resolute growth at the beginning of the 1980s. Then I describe the present phase of institutional consolidation in Italian family therapy, which resulted from the legal regulation of psychotherapy as a profession and activity in the schools of psychotherapy. Last I attempt to synthesize the characteristics that distinguish, within the psychiatric whole, the Italian movement of family therapy as opposed to those of other countries.
As far as Italian psychiatry is concerned, the period between 1960 and 1970 was one of profound crisis and evolution. Although up to that time Italian psychiatry had been essentially biological and institutional, during those years new concepts came into play, such as sociopolitical critique, antipsychiatry, and psychoanalysis. By 1960, it was abundantly clear that institutional psychiatry was entering its conceptual twilight. In our country