is the family itself. The therapist speaks with the family about itself, not about social generalizations. He does not come to the family with the attitude: "You blacks feel victimized, isn't that so?" "You Irish drink a lot. What about your husband?" He approaches the cultural aspects of the family dynamics--as well as all the other aspects of its dynamics--as the family's own, not as derivatives of some abstract communal characteristics. His observations, questions and actions are, however, informed by general theoretical hypotheses concerning wider cultural aspects of families' functioning.
In the ethnicity and family therapy literature, cultural characteristics are often presented as lists of discrete traits. Therapeutic implications are also offered as disconnected pieces of advice. In the approach proposed here, on the other hand, specifics are systematically related to the general theory. The general theory contains sets of interconnected hypotheses concerning dynamically interacting therapy-relevant aspects of culture and family.
The ethnicity and family therapy literature lists numerous categories that should also be included in a general culturally sensitive theory and methodology of family therapy, for example, kinship systems, extended versus nuclear family, belief systems, stages of acculturation, and so forth. Some writers have gone further and proposed general, coherent classification Systems including such categories, for example, Karrer ( 1989) and Spiegel ( 1982). DiNicola ( 1997) has gone even further than that. His book is to the best of my knowledge the first attempt to construct a general integrative model of family therapy. Other interesting attempts at integration are Fish ( 1996) and Gopaul-McNicol ( 1997). These are steps in the right direction. As noted, however, general theoretical and methodological works of the latter kind have so far been the exception rather than the rule. In most of the existing studies, the relevant categories are presented in a very uneconomical manner. The same categories are introduced repeatedly in many specific descriptions of particular communities. The prospective state of the art will include attempts at constructing general culturally sophisticated integrative models and methodologies of family systems and therapy, which can be applied to any family of any sociocultural background.
The purpose of this chapter is to show why any theory of family therapy should be culturally sophisticated to be adequate. In most theories of family therapy, symptoms in the individual are explained by family dysfunction. Culture is not considered an inherent part of this explanatory framework. The following reasons are proposed as to why culture should be incorporated into the independent variable of this function: Culture creates both order and disorder. That is, psychological symptoms serve an homeostatic function, not just for the family as a system, but also for the family as a carrier of culture and for the cultural community to which the family belongs. Cul-