Teaching Family Systems Theory through Service-Learning

By Murray, Christine E.; Lampinen, Autumn et al. | Counselor Education and Supervision, September 2006 | Go to article overview

Teaching Family Systems Theory through Service-Learning


Murray, Christine E., Lampinen, Autumn, Kelley-Soderholm, Erin L., Counselor Education and Supervision


The authors present a rationale for incorporating service-learning projects into courses that teach family systems theory. A model program is presented to provide an example of the objectives, practical considerations, and student responses to such a project. Recommendations for counselor educators are made based on experience with the model program and student feedback.

**********

The theoretical foundations of family counseling practice lie in family systems theory (Becvar & Becvar, 2000; Nichols & Schwartz, 2004). For family counselor trainees, learning to think systemically represents a radical departure from the traditional linear and intrapsychic epistemologies ingrained in Western cultures (Becvar & Becvar, 2000). Family systems theory moves away from individual psychology to a focus on the interconnectedness of systems and relationships (Becvar & Becvar, 2000). Family counselor trainees, therefore, face the dual challenges of learning to attend to systemic processes while unlearning exclusively individual-focused approaches to counseling. Because of the radical shifts involved in understanding family systems theory, several scholars advocate for the use of experiential exercises in the training of family counselors (Helmeke & Prouty, 2001; Liddle, 1991; Sprenkle & Wilkie, 1996). The purpose of this article is to describe the use of service-learning as an experiential methodology for teaching family systems theory to family counseling students.

Service-learning is a category of experiential learning used to foster practical application of academic training (Jacoby, 2003). We propose that service-learning activities, when integrated into an introductory family counseling course, offer rich opportunities for students to apply family systems theory to real-life situations. Such application helps students experience firsthand the principles of family systems theory while they assimilate theoretical concepts into their conceptual and practical frameworks. The definition of service-learning is the following:

   Service-learning is a form of experiential education in which
   students engage in activities that address human and community
   needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed
   to promote student learning and development. Reflection and
   reciprocity are key concepts of service-learning. (Jacoby, 1996,
   p. 5)

The remainder of this article (a) describes the rationale for incorporating experiential training into family counseling courses, (b) presents a brief review of research examining the benefits of service-learning, (c) describes a model service-learning project used in an introductory family counseling course, (d) provides examples of other family counseling-related service-learning projects, and (e) outlines practical recommendations for counselor educators who use service-learning activities to enhance students' understanding of family systems theory. Student feedback to the project described herein is presented to highlight potential student responses to service-learning activities.

Experiential learning exercises have been incorporated into many family counseling courses (Liddle, 1991; Sprenkle & Wilkie, 1996). Experiential learning exercises help students move from cognitive understanding to affective engagement of theoretical concepts (Sprenkle & Wilkie, 1996). Experience-based methods more closely resemble the practice of family counseling as compared with more traditional forms of course work, such as exams and term papers (Sprenkle & Wilkie, 1996), and can enhance students' understanding of family counseling processes (Helmeke & Prouty, 2001).

Service-learning is an educational pedagogy that is grounded in experiential methodology, especially related to the work of John Dewey (1938). Service-learning involves overlapping clinical experience and education through volunteering (Long, Larsen, Hussey, & Travis, 2001). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Teaching Family Systems Theory through Service-Learning
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.