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As a fi eld and as individuals, we need to keep and claim, presume and assume our responsibilities to push things forward in the direction we value. T ere are excluded sectors and issues that we must now include and shape more actively if we are still to claim to be systemic and ethical. Refl ection is for the sake of action. By being systemicCOL

, we are therapeutic

and ethical at the same time. T at still entails being directional and directive. T e mot o ‘Don’t presume’ is inadequate but we have good reason to chant our systemic mantra. Aſt er growing and maturing our principles on challenging test tracks so far, they and we are ready for the wider road.

Glossary Systemic practiceORD – Ordinary basic

good practices easily adopted by other professions. SystemicDIR

as in earlier approaches. Systemic (practice)COL

recent approaches. Systemic (practice)REF

approaches. Systemic practiceAFT

– Directive family therapy, – Collaborative – Refl ective – As in AFT’s

strapline: applying family therapy ideas in other professions. SystemicNC

– Nick Child’s defi nition:

Working to bring out, share and respect the oſt en interconnecting views and stories of everyone involved while integrating a way forward.

Another cheer for family therapy Next, my call is to apply our principles

more broadly. I do this by raising three constructive cheers for our fi eld. I hope everyone will welcome, celebrate and be energised by this. Please don’t just leave it as a further burden for those who lead our fi eld. And, if I refer to the fi eld of family therapy in the UK as ‘AFT’, I know that doesn’t credit the many others who have helped shape it.

T e fi rst cheer Let’s start with a wide and cheerful

overview that I hope carries us all forward together. I raise the fi rst of three cheers for family therapy in the UK, for many individuals and family therapy organisations, for all of our achievements so far (see Speed, 2011). We have established the fi eld of

family therapy, applying and developing family therapy ideas widely, creating the


profession, trainings and organisations (professors even), publishing journals and books, advising media and government, along with building and sustaining family therapy services especially in the NHS (National Health Service) – with all that implies in an NHS medical context for a para-medical specialism supported only if evidence agrees that it cures disorders. For all this, the fi rst and hearty cheer is well deserved. HURR Y!

T e second cheer T e second cheer is, as yet, a muted one: for systemic practiceAFT

, the general

application in other helping professions of at least ordinary good systemicORD


ideas and methods. T ose elements are also basic components of family therapy proper (Child, 1989). Just as psychoanalytical ideas and

methods have spread since its start over a century ago, we see that family therapy publications and workshops and bits of training have, over our decades, spread systemic ideas too. Again, see Speed (2011). Any CAMH (Child and Adolescent Mental Health) assessment in the UK now will be more of a family systems thing than in days of yore. In Motherwell, Lanarkshire, for one example, we ran a CAMH service where all the multi- disciplines operated more like a team of family therapists than not, fi t ing our specialist responsibilities in between our family-systems approach, as we called it. None of us was a qualifi ed family therapist. Nor did we ever think or say that family therapy was what we were doing. It just seemed a good way to do our day-jobs. We were systemic practitionersAFT

, though

we didn’t call ourselves that either. So my disappointment for systemic practiceAFT


apparently lost cause is personal. Our service was a successful, comprehensive team of systemic practitioners, not some pipe dream. Aspects are published (Child, 2000, 2003). T ere must be many more unsung and similar CAMHS examples and other services like this. Wouldn’t it be good to know of them and raise some credit? T en we could raise a bigger cheer. T ere are some applaudable

achievements led by intrepid systemic practitionersAFT

who have created whole

new systems through blending in family therapy and systemic skills. In Somerset, Frank Burbach and Roger Stanbridge (2007) have developed family services

for those aff ected by psychosis. Barbara McKay and Dana Mills-Powell (2007) in Relate have blended couple counselling and family systems trainings and services. In Hackney, they are “reclaiming social work” wholesale (Cross et al., 2010). T ese examples of systemic practice at its best have depended on skilful and dogged work by local practitioners over many years. Rudi Dallos and Ros Draper (2010, Ch. 6) describe more. In the USA, at the Chicago Center for Family Health, John Rolland (1994) and Froma Walsh (2006) have eff ectively been professors of systemic practice for decades. AFT has been, understandably, mostly

occupied with all that it took to produce that fi rst cheer for the family therapy profession in the UK. AFT has not had much spare energy for this second part of its aims and strapline ‘ … and systemic practice in the UK’. If AFT had pursued this meaning of the potential of systemic practice, then it could take more credit for creating “a huge army of great workers” (Child, 2010, p. 21). If you had to choose between the benefi ts off ered to millions of clients of all kinds by a few hundred specialist family therapists, in contrast to the benefi ts off ered by many thousands of eff ective systemic practitioners in all the helping professions (even if only at an ORD level), you might choose the lat er. But, it is hard to see how AFT could achieve that aim any more than any other professional body could, intent as each has to be on defending and promoting its own corner. To create a profession of family therapy

is a necessary strategy, given the wider systems, but it is not a systemicCOL idea. Yet systemic practiceAFT

/NC would not

be achieved without the core of some kind of professional body to draw on – a solid commit ed body, not just a sideline hobby. Any fi eld needs a centre. Systemic practiceAFT

then has proven potential but

it is hard to mount a general campaign for it – it’s a bit of a lost cause. Unless we can show how wide the natural spread of systemic practiceAFT

The third cheer Next, I propose a way to get a missing

but defi nitely do-able third cheer: this will be for family therapy in the non-statutory sectors. T ere are diff erences between the charitable sector and the independent

Context February 2012

has been, let’s raise a

muted second cheer for what AFT has done for it ... Hurray.

Systemic means much more – in the community and for other professions

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