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editorial

After the Congress of the European Family therapy Association in Istanbul, September 2013, we offered Human Systems as a vehicle to publish the most important papers. We did not foresee the popularity of the initiative, and we have been proud to publish a total of 43 papers which constitute a unique survey of the theories and practices of family therapy throughout Europe and beyond. The papers are published as Volumes 24 and 25 and can be purchased through our website as a complete set.

For 2015 we return to submitted papers. This first, open, issue comes from leading figures in European and North American family therapy. It combines theory, practice and research and ranges from established (Brief Therapy) to novel (Positive Systemic Practice) approaches, from potential future developments to revisiting our origins, and through humour, blame, and money. We start with an exposition be Ciara Cassells, Alan Carr, Mary Forrest, Jane Fry, Fidelma Beirne and Tom Casey of Positive Systemic Practice (PSP). This is an approach developed by Alan Carr’s group in Dublin and is a prime example of using current research indicators to develop a well defined form of therapy. The authors provide clear evidence of the effectiveness of PSP and in the process, of a therapy based in the therapeutic alliance.

Next, Paolo Bertrando and Gabriella M. Gilli explore relationships between humour and therapy, taking inspiration from Gregory Bateson’s’ writings. They offer a compelling analysis of the differing possible relationships between therapy and humour, reaching a convincing synthesis by which therapists can ally their practice to principles of humour. The rigorous (though good-humoured) theorising of Bertando and Gilli is followed by an empirical analysis of the discourses of two families. The frame with which George Blanchard, Tim Auburn and Rudi Dallos approach the material is in terms of blaming. They report a qualitative research into the ways that families may account for a child’s disruptive behaviours. As is characteristic of such intensive analyses of data from a small number of people, they find fascinating patterns and describe them in ways that will enable therapists to recognise them and be helped to appropriately systemic responses.

The first three papers find ways of talking about how therapists might operate while specifying a stance of flexible inconclusiveness. What Blanchard, Auburn and Dallos call ‘systemic vagueness’. The theme of qualitative research continues as Tom Strong, Sally St. George, Dan Wulff, Tanya Mudry and Inés Sametband tackle another common and equally serious area of family difficulty, that of monetary concerns. They analyse family discourses in terms of Karl Tomm`s frameworks of Pathologizing Interpersonal Patterns and Healing Interpersonal Patterns. In this way they identify different ways that money can function in family discourses, but also conclude that financial problems do not always result in family discord. Like any good research paper they draw out practical suggestions to help therapists who encounter families with significant financial concerns.

Ana Teixeira de Melo and Madalena Alarcão extend the considerations of research possibilities by combining Grounded Theory with systemic complexity theory. Their article offers something that has not been very visible in our field for many years and that is making use of advances in wider systemic theory. They provide an overview of complexity theory and of the limitations of attempts made so far to apply it to family processes and proceed to examine the implications of developing a Grounded Theory of Family Complexity. Melo and Alarcão counsel against simplistic drawing of similarities and because family therapists feel we are always dealing in complex situations it is worth remembering E. Poli’s (2013) note on the difference between complicated and complex social systems.

Wendel Ray is doing amazing work to preserve and develop the available archives of our field. His paper with Jana Sutton offers a verbatim transcript of one of our historic discussions, that between John H. Weakland, Richard Fisch, Paul Watzlawick, Steve de Shazer, and Gerald Patterson. In 1976 this group formed a panel to discuss Brief Therapy. Ray and Sutton have judged the discussion to be very clearly articulated and so have let these five pioneers to speak for themselves before drawing out the implications. It provides a fascinating insight into the early thinking about the brief therapy approach which can now be seen as a fully formed approach to therapy or as an essential perspective added to other schools of systemic therapy.

Finally, the Editors wish to offer recognition of the tremendous work done by our volunteer translators. Providing translations of each of the Abstracts is a major work and we are very grateful to all who have provided versions for the benefit of readers

Peter Stratton
Joint Editor
To view list of papers included click here.

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