Culturally Competent Family Therapy: A General Model

By Shlomo Ariel | Go to book overview

Answer. In my own culture, people distinguish between a person's behavior and his or her inner world of thoughts and feelings. We consider thoughts and emotions, different, distinct entities. We believe that when emotions are pent up inside a person this causes him or her suffering. We believe that a person's emotions affect his or her physical condition. We view ourselves as distinct, interacting, individual entities. We think it advisable to open up and share emotions.

Question: Considering this family's culture, will the application of this technique be as acceptable and effective as in my own culture?

Answer. I don't know. (Admit ignorance; avoid an ethnocentric attitude; adopt the truly humble position of a learner.)

At this point, the therapist should have refrained from applying these techniques until he learned more about the family's culture, achieved an insider status and created a common cultural ground with it. Afterward, he should have replaced or modified the techniques to suit the family's own modes of communication, norms, values and customs. The techniques to be used should have built on the family's strengths and enlisted its own support system. The therapist could begin by showing interest in culture-free human concerns, being empathetic and sharing his own self and life with the family. He could have told them, for instance, about an uncle who developed similar symptoms after he was fired from his job. The uncle showed self-control and tenacity. He continued leading the family and giving good counsel. The whole family showed solidarity and supported each other through the difficult times. The uncle decided to establish his own business. With his skill, diligence and the support of the family, he soon became very successful and prosperous.


This chapter is devoted to the actual practice of culturally competent family therapy, that is, the planning and execution of each particular therapeutic move. The term strategy refers to the overall therapeutic plan. A good strategy is an effective and economical approach to the problems posed by the case in hand. The strategy identifies the information-processing bugs underlying the presenting complaints, specifies mechanisms and means for removing or weakening these bugs and sets an order of priorities among the therapeutic moves.

The term tactic refers to the plan for a particular culturally competent family therapeutic intervention. A tactic is a particular stage in the overall therapeutic strategy. It may be viewed as a ministrategy. In each tactic specific therapeutic techniques are employed. Each technique is designed to effect a mutation: a small change.

The choice of specific techniques is directed by the following questions: What is the entity to be changed? What is the desired mutation in this entity?


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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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