The relationship between systemic family therapy and research has been an interesting one. Early work in the 1950s was regarded as primarily a research endeavour. Haley (1978: 73) observed that during this era, ‘it was taken for granted that a therapist and a researcher were of the same species (although the therapist had a more second-class status)’.
Some of the ideas which became fundamental to systemic theory and practice arose from research interests. For example, in the 1950s Bateson was involved in research into communication processes and learning in mammals, including some fascinating studies of communicational processes in dolphins (Bateson 1972). This led to extensive research on communication in humans and relationships, such as families, and to the seminal book of the Palo Alto group, Pragmatics of Human Communication (Watzlawick et al. 1967). This not only inspired a plethora of research on ‘deviant’ communication processes, for example explorations of families with a schizophrenic member, but also a wide range of research into communication in non-pathological contexts. Interestingly, much of this initial research centred on audiotaping of family therapy sessions or interviews with families. The process of family therapy was seen as a potential goldmine of research. Watzlawick et al. (1967), Weakland (1962) and others published a fascinating range of studies based on the analysis of transcripts of therapy sessions. With the advent of videorecording these studies expanded to include observations of the interrelationships between modes of communication, for example inconsistencies between verbal and non-verbal messages. Such observational studies led to some important models (e.g. the double-bind theory), and the discovery of