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services in the community. Wouldn’t it be good to know how many and how much capacity they can offer? It shouldn’t take much to build them up to a higher profile. In England, Relate has made notable strides both to raise the profile for “a future in which healthy relationships form the heart of a thriving society” and also to make couple-counselling training more family oriented and systemic. Family therapy should be with them. Are you with me, so far? I’ve tried to

make it as hard as possible for you to disagree. It is laudably important to build family therapy Trojan horses to get inside the medical citadel of the NHS, where so many professions pack in to share that language of power and science in the worthy cause of healing people. Indeed, it’s been Trojan horses inside Trojan horses since family therapy mostly got into the medical city via CAMHS, which got in via psychiatry, which got in by being a branch of neurology! More accurately called a ‘healing service’ than a health service, the NHS and its funding has to be more to do with illness than personal life and relationship help. The government and taxpayer can be expected to pay for some but certainly not all relationship and psychological help. The community may be the natural

place for family therapy, but that does not mean that it is easy or challenge-free. Community-based family therapists are key players in improving services outside the NHS for relationship help of all kinds. A simple extension of this logic also

further supports the place for systemic practice in all other helping professions and services (i.e. not family therapy) in all sectors that serve millions of clients in all kinds of ways. That would also improve the systemic qualities of those services, and provide, or point those who need it to, earlier specific relationship help. So, I invite you all to prepare to give

another cheer for these previously quieter parts of the wider system and of the field of family therapy. Applying our mature systemic principles and logical thinking to our wider systems and services, we find serious gaps and opportunities. The only excuse for a selectively applied principle is that it is in training for its full time job. So, how can AFT and we help to harness systemic therapy and practice to some bigger wagons?


Systemic AFT It remains for us to consider what family

therapists in general and in AFT learn and take responsibility for – what views we bring together as we integrate a way forward, to push our principles to work in new fi elds.

No organisational push T e family therapy profession now

shares the standards of the UKCP, of its systemic therapies college, as well as those of our own organisations within it, e.g. AFT. Naturally, UKCP standards focus us most strongly on our psychotherapy responsibilities to individual clients and allied issues. Of course, we share the common values of confi dentiality with all psychotherapies. But the ethics of being systemic uniquely adds a broader relational dimension to our profession and practice as we have seen. Confi dentiality is part of the ethics we all share, but it is not the whole of systemic ethics (Wulff et al., 2011). Systemic ethics do not feature so much

in UKCP codes of conduct. AFT has always tried harder, founded as a more promotional than a professional body. It is an ‘association for family therapy and systemic practiceAFT

in the UK’ not an

association of or for family therapists. It does more, but what it’s done for that fi rst cheer suffi ces within its constitutional aims to any outside observer. Protecting our jobs and ourselves in them – which of course we equate to high standards of service to the needs of our clients – takes all our time and energies. We feel we really can’t be expected to do any more. And, in fact, no one expects more of us. Except… except that we ourselves, family therapists with our systemic mantra, must surely be personally and collectively bothered.

What we can do in AFT AFT has a systemicNC organisational

role. AFT’s constitution states our aims to promote family therapy and systemic practice in the UK by every means possible. AFT already works harder with minimal resources than it has to. But, we have more to do by reason of our own logic, of our own ethic, of our personal conscience, of our passion for being systemic. It is our nature as systemic kinds of people to do more, even if no outsider will bother when we don’t. Systemic practiceAFT

is a hard campaign to tackle (see footnotes in Child, 2010). But

AFT can’t really avoid its responsibility for family therapy in the community. I have presented an imperative case for it on logical, systemic and ethical grounds. If we and AFT don’t take up these two causes more strongly – systemic practiceAFT

and family

therapy in the community – we are not being systemicNC

; we are not being true to

our own logic and values; we are not being ethical to all our potential clients; and we are not making the most of what we sign up to do under AFT’s constitutional aims. To support these two wings of family therapy is to bet er serve a far greater clientele than is permit ed by our present dominating, important but narrow front in the NHS. Earlier draſt s of this article included

some ideas about what AFT might do that are now happening; the non-statutory sector wing is looking over the lip of its nest. Here are some remaining ideas to consider.

For systemic practice For systemic practiceAFT , we in AFT

might: 1. Use AFT’s links with other professional bodies – e.g. Young Minds, UKCP, governments – to talk about common good systemicORD professions.

practices across all

2. AFT could fi nd out and celebrate more of what systemic practiceAFT


achieved; how far it has become lost or is thriving. What about funding a research dissertation or report on the history of how family therapy infl uenced and reshaped CAMHS and other services across the UK? Can we help roll out what’s happening in Somerset, in Relate and in Hackney, and not just leave it to individual local enterprise?

3. Not surprisingly, there are few members of AFT who champion systemic practiceAFT

now. AFT could at ract

systemic practitioners back by making more of that sector. AFT would know what to do if it thinks of systemic practitioners as if they are an excluded minority group.

4. AFT needs to continue to have a discussion about what kinds of family therapy literature, workshops, and training best serve the purposes of systemic practiceAFT

in its own right.

T ese resources must always have been a key support. My view is that many elements of family therapy can be shared as good

Context February 2012

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

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