Handbook of Family Therapy: The Science and Practice of Working with Families and Couples

By Thomas L. Sexton; Gerald R. Weeks et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7

Postmodern Social Construction Therapies

HARLENE ANDERSON, PhD
Houston Galveston Institute and Taos Institute


INTRODUCTION

Family therapy, as we know it today, can be traced back to two main roots. One perspective-the etiology, insight, and family patterns view of Nathan Ackerman-focused on the individual in the family and viewed families as a collection of individuals. Coming from within the child guidance movement and drawing from psychodynamic and social theories, Ackerman was interested in family role relationships and their influence on the intrapsychic development and makeup of the individual (Ackerman, 1958, 1966). The other perspective, the rhetorical communication and interactional view, grew from the early works of Donald Jackson and Gregory Bateson and their later collaborative efforts with interdisciplinary colleagues at the Mental Research Institute in California (Watzlawick & Weakland, 1977). They reached out to the social sciences and the natural sciences to understand families, early on developing a theory of communication and later focusing on the role of language in the construction of reality. They conceptualized families as cybernetic systems of interconnected individuals and questioned the concept of psychological problems as illness. They viewed psychosis, for instance, as an interpersonal relational problem, rather than as an intrapsychic problem or a disease of the mind (Bateson, 1972; Watzlawick & Weakland, 1977; Watzlawick, Beavin, & Jackson, 1967). The current therapies primarily based in postmodern and social construction philosophies that have evolved over the last 20-plus years represent a hybrid-like ideological shift that can be traced back to the California rootstock and to developments in philosophy and the social sciences.

During these years the world around us was fast changing, shrinking, and becoming enormously more complex and uncertain and was impacting human beings and our everyday lives. Familiar concepts such as universal

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