Synopses & Reviews
Systems Consultation challenges two basic assumptions of family therapy: first, that what family therapists should be doing is curing pathology; second, that family interactions can be understood by focusing on families to the exclusion of larger systems. In asking whether therapy is the best and only model for what family therapists do, this book registers a definitive no. In its place it offers a systems consultation role that more accurately captures the range of activities therapists can and currently do engage in.
The application of systems theory to human behavior brought about a new understanding of the basic unit of psychological meaning, and with it a new brand of therapy. Thirty years later, family therapy is a full-fledged discipline with numerous schools, strategies, examples of success, and dogmas. SYSTEMS CONSULTATION challenges two of those dogmas: first, that what family therapists should be doing is curing problems; second, that family interactions can be understood by focusing on families to the exclusion of the systems within which they are nested. The contributors to this volume ask whether treatment is the best and only model for what family therapists do in their work. Their answer is a definitive no. In its place they offer a systems consultation role that more accurately captures the range of activities therapists can and currently do engage in.
SYSTEMS CONSULTATION IS PROVOCATIVE-
"The very term family therapy,' the heart of our professional identities, carries implications that may be at odds with our avowed systems concepts and principles for treatment....We suggest that family therapists pause and examine more fully whether all that they are doing is best regarded as therapy.' Therapy of what, for whom? We shall argue that the loose, even promiscuous use of this term in the family field tends to confuse and mislead both the public and professional colleagues about our intentions and actual functioning. Furthermore, we ourselves sometimes blur, overextend, or misdirect our theorizing and our practice by inadequate examination of the implications of the concept of family."
EXPLICIT MODELS OF CONSULTATION
In framing those activities as consultation, the contributors propose that clinicians stifle the automatic reaction to provide "therapy" and instead ask themselves what services are most suited to their clients' concerns and capabilities, and what system levels are of most relevance to those concerns. As they clearly demonstrate, often what is called for is not the advice of an expert, but the perceptions of a peer whose position outside the system provides alternative ways of seeing the situation and the possible courses for action within it.
The following advantages to the consultation approach are presented and carefully examined:
* In consultation, the nature of the problem is not prejudged.
* The consultant can advantageously take a meta position from
which systemic relationships and patterns can be assessed.
* Consultation facilitates the reframing of problems.
* Consultation can readily give emphasis to health, strengths,
and positive resources.
* Collaborative relationships can be readily established
between consultant and consultee.
* A consultant role provides a base for flexible shifts to
alternative professional roles.
SYSTEMS CONSULTATION IS USEFUL-
In many circumstances professionals who are based in such diverse fields as psychotherapy, education, community services, and business can be most effective if they work from the perspective of consultation rather than immediate and automatically engaging in, for example, therapy or teaching. Because of their systems perspective, family therapists can bring special skills to consultation in multiple contexts. It is timely to sharpen awareness of the rapidly increasing opportunities for consultative roles by family therapists and other systems-oriented health care professionals. An important goal of this book is to provide models and guidelines for proceeding with such consultative ventures.
The editors along with several consultants, offer specific guidelines for systems consultation in the medical and mental health arenas, with social service and community groups, and in the church, school, business, and military. Contributors include Whitaker, Friedman, Cecchin, Wynne, Kaslow, Bloch, Sluzski, and many other practitioners. Each has supplemented his or her discussion with illustrative case examples that demonstrate the range of options made available by a consultation approach.
EMERGING CAREER OPPORTUNITIES
This intriguing volume describes a promising new role for clinicians. While challenging several cherished beliefs and practices of family therapists, it enables family therapists to better adapt to and work with other major systems. The result is an important book for all therapists who wish to broaden their professional horizons.
Table of Contents
FOREWORD (Salvador Minuchin).
PREFACE (The Editors).
PRINCIPLES (The Editors): The Road from Family Therapy to Systems Consultation; The Territory; Signposts; Losing Your Way as a Consultant. MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEMS: Introduction (The Editors); Consultation with Mental Health Professionals (Todd); Family Therapy as Invasion (Whitaker); Is There Therapy after Consultation? (Penn and Scheinberg); The Italian Mental Health System (Cecchin and Fruggeri); Psychiatric Emergency Programs (Perlmutter and Jones); Editors' Commentary.
MEDICAL CONTEXTS: Introduction (The Editors); Health Care Organizations (Bloch); Family Medicine Training Program (McDaniel and Weber); Family Medicine (Sluzki); Using a Group as a Consultant (McDaniel et al); Medical Oncology (Wellisch and Cohen); Pediatrics (Munson); Editors' Commentary.
COMMUNITY GROUPS AMD SERVICE SYSTEMS: Introduction (The Editors); Competence, Impermanence, and Transitional Mapping (Landau-Stanton); Families of Cultists (Singer); Agencies Dealing with Domestic Violence (Goolishian); Divorce Courts (Wynne and Wynne); The Clergy: A Systems Approach (Weber and Wynne); Schools (Fisher); Human Service Provider Systems (Coppersmith); Editors' Commentary.
MILITARY AND BUSINESS SYSTEMS: Introduction (the Editors); The Military (Kaslow); Work Systems (Friedman); Business (Borwick); Editors' Commentary.
CURRENT PROBLEMS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS (The Editors): Problems and Controversies.