Volume 20 (2009) Issue 1


Peter Stratton (PS): This issue of Human Systems focuses on practicalities of working in particularly difficult areas. We start with consideration of approaches that are worked out in the organisational context but which have wide application. The articles that follow present their authors’ work in residential care for people with learning disabilities, in bereavement. in rehabilitation after brain damage, with psychosis, and conclude with work of UNICEF to foster environmental care in secondary school children.

Other themes that the different articles share are research, an international perspective, systemic thinking and practice, application of systems to organisations, education, the therapeutic teams. Also the changing world of communication created by different aspects of the internet in expanding the relational world of people whose lives have been limited by brain injury, or in contributing to the disruption of family narratives of bereavement by wider societal forces.

Kyriaki Polychroni (KP): As it happens, Systems in this evolving world of electronic dialogue is one of the major themes of the next EFTA Training Institutes’ Chamber Meeting of Trainers to be held in Krakow, 2nd to 4th October 2009:  “Issues of Family Therapy Training in an Unpredictable World”.

PS: The opening article by Vernon E. Cronen, Peter Lang & Susan Lang sets the scene with strong theory and practicalities for handling difficult situations. The article offers two valuable updates: one of applicable “Coordinated Management of Meaning” (CMM) theory that has been created by Vernon Cronen and Barnett Pearce (See Human Systems 2004, Volume 125 Issues 1-3 for a comprehensive account of the theory and current uses). The other update is of Circular Questions as developed in KCC Foundation. The article is written in relation to management and consultation but has general application for “how to develop repertoires of connecting as a therapist through questioning”. The unpacking and integrating of circularity with CMM has direct application in all of the papers that follow in this issue.

Mark Haydon-Laurelut, Diane Bissmire & Helen Hall pick up the themes of using questions and hypotheses in consultation to staff and management of residential accommodation. They provide a general introduction to systemic thinking including appreciative inquiry and then apply the ways of working to the context of a Community Learning Disability Service. Readers might best take the article as a worked example of explaining systemic approach to other professionals and managers. It could also be a useful template for others who need to convince colleagues of the value of a systemic approach, while giving them the experience of how positive it can be.

Julio Correa & Neil Hobbs tackle the immense problem of how societal systems attempt to supplant personal and family definitions of grief and bereavement and control their expression. In a concise article they offer the beginnings of a way of supporting family narrative to combat a whole array of forces that may deprive people of the meaning of their grief. The scope of the article covers dominant religions and societies, technical hegemony all of which have particular resonance in Argentina. Their objectives are around attempting to replace guilt and punishment in the cultural myths with understanding by opening emotional comprehension about loss events. Their hypothesis is that a continuous exercise of the family group narrative model of storytelling would feed healthy family groups’ functioning as well as individuals, groups and communities in their striving for their right of free speech and for the self-support of their own versions of constructed reality within the social systems. The article offers ways of working with families to regain their authentic relational construction of their grief in the face of contradictory societal and technological pressures.

Note: towards the end of the article is a reference to ‘the phronetic agent’. We had to look it up (Vernon Cronen would not have needed to) and it looks like a useful label for what systemic practitioners attempt. Pleasingly, the website Answer.com gave the following Greek connection: “Phronesis is the capability to consider the mode of action in order to deliver change, especially to enhance the quality of life. Aristotle says that phronesis is not simply a skill, however, as it involves not only the ability to decide how to achieve a certain end, but also the ability to reflect upon and determine that end”.

Ceri Bowen, Terri Hall, Gavin Newby, Bernie Walsh, Stephen Weatherhead & Giles Yeates offer the perspectives of a team who work in the necessary reality orientation of helping people who have suffered brain injury, and their families. This paper provides a route into the skills and insights that have been built up by people working from within a variety of professional expertise and context. Its particular value is in describing the consequences and resources in terms of the person’s relationships rather than as individual deficits in brain operation. This makes it readily usable by family therapists who may in their generic practice from time to time encounter adults and children with acquired brain injury. It also provides the basis for informed discussion with colleagues in other professions.

Eleni Aivalioti, Panos Trikas, Panos Chrisos, Popy Papageorgiou, Kostas Katahanakis & Nicholas Paritsis report a randomised control trial for people with schizophrenia. Our field is in urgent need of good outcome research and even though the sample is small, this study meets the criteria of random allocation to the two conditions, a realistic comparison of treatments, reporting of ‘intention to treat’, and use of established outcome measures. It should therefore be included in systematic reviews and be considered in meta-analyses. As such, it is a major contribution to the field but the article has a further importance.

In my view, I know you share this perspective as well Kyriaki, the field of systemic therapy has been impoverished by a failure to remain engaged with wider developments in systems theory. After the initial impetus in the early development of systemic therapy, we have relied on that formulation of what it means to be systemic. That orientation still serves us well but, we believe, there is no question that there have been major developments in systemic application in a variety of other fields and that we have much to learn from these.

KP: Most definitely, Peter. I feel it unfortunate that this view is not shared by more of us in the field. Nicholas Paritsis though and his team have been taking account of these developments and over a long period have developed their approach of Human Systems Therapy. We are very pleased to include this work in the journal Human Systems.

PS: Finally, Marcela Lombana Bermúdez describes research into the work of UNICEF in Columbia. The project aims to foster a greater environmental awareness and concern among young people. UNICEF tends to be best known for its relief work (as we write, its major campaign is for Tamils in Sri Lanka displaced by war), but its wider preventive work also needs support. It has, for example, distributed 19 million mosquito repellent bednets in Africa to protect children from malaria and other infections. So, it is good to see in this article that a systemic approach is being incorporated in some of its work. The project shows a truly systemic approach in the broader priorities of fostering dialogic involvement with an aim to engage the young people in wider social networks. The research itself offers an invitation to readers that we can best describe in Marcela’s own words: “My intention, as a researcher, is to invite the reader to generate an intercultural dialogue in relation with this research-practice and to create other conversations, practices and studies that may be meaningful for both their professional and personal life”.

Well, Kyriaki, Human Systems seems to go from strength to strength.

KP: Yes, Peter, that’s my feeling also. Perhaps it would be helpful here to inform our readers that the next issue will be a significant Special on the many influences of Salvador Minuchin, with important colleagues from around the world reporting on how they utilise his approach today. It will include a substantial interview I had the honour of having with him - along with his wife, Pat - while he was providing workshops at the Anthropos Institute in 2008. An interview which presents this pioneer’s current thinking.

PS: We hope to make this a most interesting issue. Carrying on, in 2010 we will start with a Special Issue on qualitative research, presenting a range of methodologies and applications. We invite colleagues that have worked on or are currently doing work on qualitative research to send us your articles (see call for papers that follows).

KP: I think it would be relevant to mention here our intention to follow-up on Volume 19, “Personal and Professional Development in Training”, where a compilation of approaches to training throughout Europe were made available internationally through the journal. As of our next issue, we will comprise a section where we invite colleagues to contribute to an interactive process by taking-up ideas from articles published in Human Systems and to send us a commentary or reflection on how it relates to their own context. In this way, we hope to facilitate the exchange of experiences, so as to mutually learn from and support each other in our professional development. We hope that readers will join us in this collaborative conversation.

 Peter Stratton and Kyriaki Polychroni,
Joint Editors

Showing 7 items
Editorial Peter Stratton & Kyriaki Polychroni 002-005 Full text download 
Circular Questions and Coordinated Management of Meaning Theory Vernon E.Cronen, Peter Lang & Susan Lang 007-034 Full text download 
Systemic Staff Consultation in Staffed Accomodation: What do we mean by Systemic? What do we mean by working systemically? Mark Haydon-Laurelut, Diane Bissmire & Helen Hall 035-050 Full text download 
The Group Narrative of Bereavement: Hypothesis about Competition of Social Narrative and Family Narrative Models Julio E. Correa & R. Neil Hobbs 051-064 Full text download 
The Impact of Brain Injury on Relationships Across the Lifespan Ceri Bowen, Teri Hall, Garvin Newby, Bernie Walsh, Stephen Weatherhead & Giles Yeates 065-080 Full text download 
Reduction of Psychotic Symptoms in People with Schizophrenia, Using Human Systems THerapy. A Randomized Controlled Trial Eleni Aivalioti, Panos Trikas, Panos Chrisos, Popy Papageorgiou, Kostas Katahanakis & Nicholas Paritsis 081-098 Full text download 
Reflections about the Research Process with Young People of UNICEF Colombia Marcela Lombana Bermudez 099-111 Full text download 
Showing 7 items