Culturally Competent Family Therapy: A General Model

By Shlomo Ariel | Go to book overview

as the head of the family and as her husband's father. What made her transgression even graver, through the culturally calibrated lenses of Oved and his father, was that she talked back in the way she did when she was a guest in Oved parents' home. She should have respected their rights in their own territory. According to Oved's culture, it was not just his father's right, but also his duty to reprimand Nicole, criticize the way she was brought up and suggest the idea of divorce.

Oved and his father did not understand that, for Nicole, throwing her shoe at Oved was just an act of anger and frustration and had no symbolic meaning. In the way she was brought up, at least on the declarative level, men and women, older and younger people, parents, parents-in-law and their adult children were equal. Speech was free. Everybody had the right to talk back and express his or her view everywhere. When a couple was married, they became a separate, independent unit, and nobody had a right to interfere in their relationships, least of all in-laws or parents, unless asked by the couple to do so. A husband's loyalty was first of all to his wife and not to his parents, and, if necessary, he had to protect her from his parents.

The therapist suggested that the situation described above, with the father, his son Oved and Nicole be simulated in a role-play with Nicole, playing herself, Oved his father and himself, and the therapist playing, alternately, as the double of each of the three. The participants were asked to replicate the original scene, but also to voice their unexpressed inner thoughts. The therapist, as a double, explicated their culturally determined premises. Afterward, the three summarized, together, the misunderstanding that were created by cultural naiveté in that situation.


The main purpose of this chapter is to explicate the notion of culturally influenced family dysfunction and to suggest hypotheses as to how such dysfunction comes into being. Another purpose is to suggest principles for healing or reducing such dysfunction.

Dysfunction occurs when the information-processing system loses its simplicity and is unable to restore it. This can happen when the family's ecological environment changes considerably, as a result of immigration, war, invasion, industrialization or the like. The notion of simplicity is defined as the systems "preference" to process information in the simplest possible manner, without complications, incompleteness and inconsistencies. Simplicity can be explicated by the notions consistency, completeness, and parsimony. When the family has to process a great amount of unfamiliar information (e.g., when the natural or demographic environment changes considerably, when the family emigrates to a new country or when strangers invade the family's territory), information can no longer be processed in the simplest, most complete and most parsimonious manner. The system loses its simplicity. And then the system, as it were, attempts to adjust to the new conditions and restore its lost simplicity by changing. It changes in manners that allow it to process the new information in the simplest possible ways. In this model, the accommodating changes are said to be governed by metaprograms


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Culturally Competent Family Therapy: A General Model
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Part I - Culture and Family Therapy: an Overview 1
  • 1 - The Necessity to Incorporate Culture into the Theory and Practice of Family Therapy 3
  • Summary 17
  • 2 - The General Model of Culturally Competent Family Therapy: a Brief Outline 19
  • Summary 30
  • Part II - Family-Cultural Concepts Relevant to Diagnosis and Treatment 33
  • 3 - The Family's Conceptualization of Its Environment 35
  • Summary 43
  • 4 - The Family's Cultural Identity 45
  • Summary 65
  • 5 - The Family's Functioning and Lifestyle 67
  • Summary 74
  • 6 - The Family's Coping with Problems and Difficulties 77
  • Summary 82
  • Part III - The Information-Processing Framework 83
  • 7 - The Family as an Information-Processing System 85
  • Summary 100
  • 8 - Culturally Determined Family Dysfunction 103
  • Summary 116
  • Part IV - Culturally Competent Family Diagnosis 119
  • 9 - Data-Collection Instruments and Procedures 121
  • Summary 130
  • 10 - Analysis of Diagnostic Data 131
  • Summary 150
  • Part V - Therapy 153
  • 11 - The Therapeutic Alliance in Culturally Competent Family Therapy 155
  • Summary 163
  • 12 - Planning the Therapy: Strategies, Tactics and Techniques 165
  • Summary 193
  • 13 - The Therapeutic Process 195
  • Summary 212
  • Epilogue 213
  • Appendix - A Classified List of References 215
  • References 229
  • Index 249
  • About the Author 255


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