Integrative Systemic Therapy: Metaframeworks for Problem Solving with Individuals, Couples, and Families

By Edwards, Scott | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, April 2019 | Go to article overview

Integrative Systemic Therapy: Metaframeworks for Problem Solving with Individuals, Couples, and Families


Edwards, Scott, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy


Pinsof, W. M., Breunlin, D. C., Russell, W. P., Lebow, J. L., Rampage, C., & Chambers, A. L. (2018). Integrative Systemic Therapy: Metaframeworks for problem solving with individuals, couples, and families. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

From the first encounter with a client system, therapists are inundated with vast amounts of information from numerous points spanning various time frames- including content, context, and process. How does a therapist- student or seasoned- begin to make meaning of all the dynamic data, determine what it is to be changed, and proceed in a competent manner? In my 17 years of teaching, providing, and supervising couples and family therapy, the guiding map has always been theory. Theory guides the conceptualization of the system and the subsequent creation of interventions for each particular client with a particular presenting problem within a particular context. Interventions are vehicles to get from point A to point B and may originate from specific theories or from several theories with congruent philosophical assumptions. Some of my most salient supervision experiences involve creative integration of multiple theoretical perspectives.

The practice of integrating theoretical perspectives is not new- Miller, Duncan, and Hubble (1997) presented four common factors attributable to change and Sprenkle, Davis, and Lebow (2009) explored common therapeutic factors and treatment methods. In their book, Integrative Systemic Therapy: Metaframeworks for problem solving with individuals, couples, and families, Pinsof et al. (2018) build on previous work and present a framework for the art of integrating and collaboratively incorporating numerous theoretical perspectives from the beginning- even prior to the first snapshot one forms of the client system. Integrative Systemic Therapy (IST) is a rich, comprehensive, and systemic metaframework for conceptualizing change and intervention with individuals, families, and systems: "Whereas in some approaches, one lens and one tool derived from that lens are viewed as the cure-all for all problems, IST gives coequal attention to such diverse domains as mind, culture, and biology, building a coherent way of incorporating such a diverse range of evidence-based concepts and methods into practice" (Pinsof et al., 2018, p. 34).

The book begins with a presentation of a complex case example detailing the process of therapy with a family participating in couple, family, and individual sessions (Chapter 1). The authors refer this case example in subsequent chapters and present theoretical concepts in an energizing manner- including therapists' notes detailing their rationale and theory-linked wonderings, which allow glimpses into thoughts behind the scenes. …

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