Publication 6827

Barnes G. & Možina M. (2020) Metalogue: How to Understand Bateson? In Memoriam Graham Barnes (1936-2020). Constructivist Foundations 16(1): 101–107. Fulltext at
Context: For Graham Barnes, the starting point of his research was the observation that most psychotherapists are trained in a theory-centered style of practice, neglecting epistemological and hermeneutical aspects. The consequence is an absence of critical self-reflection about some basic assumptions of psychotherapy theories and clinical practices in the psychotherapy community. When using a particular theory, therapists forget that the theory is “using” them, as well, i.e., they are unaware of the effects the theory has on them and on their relationships with clients. As an alternative to this ignorance, Barnes developed the concept, research project and clinical application of what he called “second-order psychotherapy.” Problem: How can we encourage therapists to engage in systematic self-reflection on the influence of theory on the content and structure of their therapeutic conversations? Following Bateson’s epistemological guidelines, we give an example of how our conversation about understanding his ideas includes conversation about our understanding of the conversation about an understanding of his ideas. Method: Bateson created a new didactic form of dialogical presentation to facilitate the understanding of knowing, called a metalogue, in which the content and the structure of the conversation are intertwined in such a way that it becomes more transparent how the metalevel of relationships between the speakers influences the content and vice versa. Results: By presenting our dialogues as an exemplary metalogue, we propose that metalogues could be a valuable didactic way for promoting epistemological and constructivist teaching and learning, not only for psychotherapists, but for all professionals who need better understanding of their understanding. This second-order understanding opens the space for the inclusion of self-reflection on our relationship (and its evolution) and how our relationship has shaped our understanding. Implications: Our proposal is also meant as an encouragement for contemporary constructivist thinkers to continue to reflect on Bateson’s contribution to the foundation and evolution of constructivism.


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