Publication 6583

Hoffman L. (1985) Beyond power and control: Toward and “second order” family systems therapy. Family Systems Medicine 3(4): 381–396. Fulltext at
Discusses arguments surrounding the application of epistemology to family therapy and how cybernetic thinking about therapeutic processes has evolved since the work of G. Bateson in the 1960's and 1970's. The consequences of this “2nd-order” cybernetics for the field of family therapy are outlined, focusing on systems therapy; the idea of the observing system; the complex of autopoiesis, informational closure, and conservational domains; and the idea of fit from the constructivist position. Bateson’s focus on circular organization is applied to these topics in terms of mental process. The 2nd-order thinking is thought to be a viable framework for systemic change in family therapy. Any therapy that respects a cybernetic epistemology will have 6 characteristics: an observing system stance and inclusion of the therapist’s own context; a collaborative rather than a hierarchical structure; goals that emphasize the setting of a context for change, not a specification of a change; ways of guarding against too much instrumentality; a “circular” assessment of the presenting problem; and a nonpejorative nonjudgmental view.

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