Publication 4589

Griffith J. L., Griffith M. E. & Slovik L. S. (1990) Mind-body problems in family therapy: Contrasting first- and second-order cybernetics approaches. Family process 29(1): 13–28. Fulltext at
Using detailed case examples, we contrast firstand second-order cybernetics approaches to family problems involving somatic symptoms in a family member. A second-order cybernetics approach views the reality of the problem as linguistically shaped by those interacting around it, including the therapist and observing team members. This co-constructed reality, the story of the problem, inadvertently contributes to the problem’s endurance by narrowing the choice of more effective solutions. In our approach, the therapist elicits from each person his or her story about the illness in the family. The therapist then facilitates a therapeutic conversation that provides a context for new linguistic distinctions to be drawn, including the way mind and body may interact to generate the symptoms. Shifts in beliefs and behaviors follow, and more innovative solutions to the problem can then emerge. Unlike the approach in our previously published work based upon ecosystemic patterns as “system diagnoses,” this approach uses only descriptions and explanations of the problem as are collaboratively constructed within this therapeutic conversation.

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