Class 1: Intro to FT

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Who is Gregory Bateson?

  • studied schizophrenia and determined that families have a strong impact on the course of therapy for schizophrenia.
  • Schizophrenia could be recognized as a method by an individual to maintain a homeostatic balance in their family (the idea of the schizophrenigenic mother)
    • marks the beginning of family therapy**
  • studied cybernetics in natural system

cybernetics in natural systems

Bateson--> a combination of systems and the technology of being human


Describe First Order change and Second Order change

  • First order- seen in families where destructive habits exist. Fam members scamper around trying to pretend that problem doesn't exist or isn't as serious as it seems. This is achieved only through the work of the family members, who must maintain their new roles
    • example: problem is an alcoholic member. the first order change/ roles that are maintained would be the other members who hide the alcohol or hide from the alcoholic
  • Second order- the "problem" person or identified patient decides to make a change and asks the family unit for help. Without this, the homeostatic process would continue as it was


the balance. the abnormal that is considered normal for the family. the way in which the family typically functions






  • not what is being said, but what is being heard.
  • what is assumed by communication between the two parties (tone of voice, body language, action)
  • handed down through generations

Systemic approaches/ systems therapy

  • Looks at reciprocal or circular influence rather than linear influence
  • Systemic thinking influenced by natural science, math, chaos theory, physics, psychoanalysis, etc
  • Circular causality
  • Rules to relationships: every fam system has explicit or subtle rules to guide behavior.

circular causality

  • Systems approach to FT
  • looks at the way conflict occurs in the context of others who are causing reciprocal grief

rules of relationships in systems theory

holds that every family system had explicit or subtle rules ot guide behavior.

  • these rules are applied to power structure, history, coalitions, hierarchy, roles, boundaries, enmeshment, communication patterns, etc

power structure

who has the power in the family?



who is aligned with whom within the family?



are they loose or tight?


history of the family

family legends, myths, and overall history that has been inherited from previous generations



  • structural approach to FT
  • Develop when tension between two people is too much for them to handle so they “triangle in” on a third person to relieve the pressure
  • Roles can shift, too
  • Often happens with couples and children
  • Rescuer, persecutor, victim
  • De-triangulation during therapy

Circumplex Model

  • Olson, 2000 (fam therapist research in Minnesota)
  • 4 behavioral styles in each continuum
  • Adaptability continuum
    • 1. Chaotic, 2. Flexible, 3. Structured, 4. Rigid
  • Cohesion continuum
    • 1. Disengaged, 2. Separated, 3. Connected, 4. Enmeshed
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Describe the circumplex model:

  • two continuum, each with 4 levels ranging low to high
    • adaptability/ flexibility (chaotic, flexible, structured, rigid)
    • cohesion (disengaged, separated, connected, enmeshed)
  • General rules:
    • black pairings are bad! These are dysfunctional families. Making first order changes will move a family to the brown tiles.
    • brown pairings are better, but still not optimally functioning families. Second order change would be going from those brown tiles to white or black tiles

Healthy/ unhealthy families according to the Circumplex Model

  • healthy
    • boundaries are clear but are not rigid (flexible)
    • rules are clear and clearly enforced but can changed when required
    • autonomy but unity as a family
  • unhealthy
    • diffuse or rigid boundaries
    • doesn't values autonomy. Autonomy should be sacrificed for the family

Beaver's model

  • concerns the health and competence of a family
  • system dimensions- centripetal and centrifugal or mixed families
  • helps explain sociopathic, borderline, behavioral, schizophrenic, obsessive, neurotic offspring
  • *not necessarily clinically the above labels…just a label to describe their behaviors and actions
  • *mixed is great place to be

Centripetal families

  • tend to be focused on the relationships within the family (look for satisfaction within the family)
  • struggle with boundaries with offspring, communication, chaotic exchanges

Centrifugal families

  • Factors that push the family apart
  • search for satisfaction outside of the family
  • tend to express anger more often/ openly compared to centripedal
  • struggle with boundaries, communication, shared goals

The schools of FT

  1. MRI cybernatics
  2. Bowen
  3. Strategic
  4. Structural
  5. Human Validation Process
  6. Experiential FT

MRI cybernetics

  • (Bateson, Haley, Jackson)
    • Mental research institute in CA
    • Grant to study schizophrenic fams
    • Feedback loops
    • Circular causality
    • Rules

Bowen FT

  • Studied schizophrenic fams—mother child fusion
  • Three generation model, genogram (who sits in what roles)
  • Fusion and differentiation (as we grow into adults, we seek differentiation, aka becoming different from our parents)
  • Triangulation

Strategic FT

  • Haley (studied under Milton Eriksson) and Mandanes
    • Paradoxical directive
    • Highly direction w/out explaining reasons
    • Insight not necessary, still working under the assumption that families resist change
    • Presenting prob needs to be the focus. Once resolved, therapy is over

Structural FT

  • Minuchin, Andolfi
    • Interested in the dynamics- provocative in their presentation style. Need for change
    • Boundaries
    • Hierarchies
    • Enactment
    • More collaborative than strategic—teaching and coaching
    • Presenting problem may mask more important issues, esp. marital

Human Validation Process FT

  • satir
    • Nurturing
    • Family sculpting, parts party, concrete symbols, touching
    • Focused on teaching direct communication

Experiential family therapy

  • Whitaker
    • Therapist’s personal involvement is essential
    • Highly experimental, playful, creative
    • Challenging
    • Existentialist
    • (people interact in a world that is symbolic and not real**)

Limitations of fam therapy theory

  • Two standard criticisms
    • Ignores individual psychological factors
    • Lack of clear optimization of constructs for research
  • Three new critiques
    • Feminist critique
    • Race/ ethnic diversity
    • Systems in context: need to examine larger social systems