The Necessity to Incorporate Culture into the Theory and Practice of Family Therapy
Until the early eighties, theory and methodology in the field of family therapy had been cultivated in a test tube, as if families lived in a sociocultural vacuum. In the major schools of family therapy, difficulties presented by individuals had been explained as manifestations of certain dysfunctional constellations characterizing their families. Cultural relatively had been consistently ignored in this explanatory format. In each of the family therapy schools, methods of intervention have been directly or indirectly derived from this form of explanation. Again, none of these methods had been differentiated with respect to sociocultural diversity.
This theoretical and methodological lacuna stands in striking contrast to reality in the field. Most countries in which family therapy has been actually practiced are ethnically and culturally heterogeneous. In immigration countries such as the United States and Israel the whole of society consists of numerous ethnocultural communities in various stages of acculturation and mutual assimilation. Most family therapists in private practice, and even more so in public practice, regularly see families of varied homogeneous or mixed cultural backgrounds, which are often different from the therapist's. Furthermore, supervisors, other staff members and the therapist frequently all come from different ethnocultural communities.
Many family therapists have realized that this cultural diversity offers challenges that have not yet been fully met by current theories and methods. They have apprehended that it is impossible to understand fully the family and its problems, communicate with it meaningfully, secure its cooperation and really help it unless one possesses intimate knowledge of the culturally