Volume 27 (2016)
Issue 1

Special Edition: 9th EFTA-TIC Meeting (Belgrade 2015)
    Embracing New Knowledge:
    Training for Intergrative and Innovative Systemic Practice


In September of last year, the European Family Therapy Association (EFTA-TIC) held its 9th Meeting of Trainers. The meeting was held in Belgrade, Serbia and was hosted locally by Professor Nevena Calovska-Herzog and her associates of the Association of Systemic Therapists of Serbia.
The theme of the meeting was: «Embracing New Knowledge: Training for Integrative and Innovative Systemic Practice».

Since their inception in 2003, the TIC Meetings have evolved into a unique series of popular gatherings that bring together experienced trainers in systemic psychotherapy and practice from all corners of Europe and beyond: over 100 colleagues from 22 countries participated in Belgrade and afterwards evaluated their experience as extremely positive.
Through setting up an annual context specifically designed to maximize networking and interaction, EFTA-TIC provides a platform for mutual learning and exchange between systemic teachers, practitioners and researchers.

The papers that emerged from the variety of presentations at the Belgrade meeting are published in this two-issue Special Edition of Human Systems. Through this publication, we hope to nurture the expanding of our perspectives and to foster novel conversations on our training practices.

The past year also marked the loss of two of our dear colleagues who served on the Advisory Board of Human Systems: Luigi Onnis, to whom the EFTA-TIC Special Issue is dedicated, and Patricia Minuchin. We commence this issue by honoring them.

As systemic trainers our common encounter lies in stimulating and guiding our trainees in their journey to becoming future systemic practitioners, equipped with professional and personal skills with a felt sense of confidence and satisfaction in their professional and personal skins with commitment to continual self-reflexivity and openness to new learning. Ours is a fascinating role filled with much satisfaction and many challenges.
The articles in this issue center around this fascinating and challenging encounter.

In our first paper, Charlie Azzopardi from Malta is concerned with the positioning of family therapy as a profession among the other psychotherapies and how the diversity of our approaches and conceptualizations is often perceived as confusing.
He argues that, limiting the systemic perspective with variations of terminology referring only to the family or to modern conceptualizations, results in a cacophony that does not permit our therapeutic profession to improve its political ground among psychotherapies and other similar professions.
In bringing to the foreground the importance of designating a common nomenclature for our profession, Azzopardi offers the term «Systemic family psychotherapy» as an appropriate title. He advocates that the training in  systemic therapy and its all-encompassing and embracing principles needs to involve the teaching of family therapy within the context of a multitude of other psychotherapeutic approaches, and uses his personal training as an example where, as he evolved, he came to appreciate that Systemic complexity does not benefit from clinical purity. To be effective requires a wide range of diverse tools, each time relevant to different client needs. In essence this proposal is about positioning the ‘systemic’ paradigm as a meta- paradigm embracing a diversity of existent, complimentary and conflicting models – a proposal with significant implications for training.

Our second paper illustrates the effectiveness of training in the systemic paradigm and is concerned with training mental health professionals working in the public sector. Valeria Pomini, Maria-lo Akalestou, Vlassis Tomaras and Katia Charalabaki vividly describe the marked lack of such training, and the negative effect of its absence within the context of the present day Greek socioeconomic crisis characterized by an immense decrease in financial resources, the influx of migrant families and job insecurity.
The authors describe a 3-year Continuing Professional Development Program (CPD) organized by the Hellenic Systemic Thinking and Family Therapy Association (HESTAFTA) which they implemented with mental health professionals working in remote regions in Greece. Their goal was to promote systemic, family and relational oriented practices and foster resilience by offering participants the opportunity to come out of geographical isolation and meet, learn and exchange emotions, experiences and ideas.
This work is an illuminating example of the benefits of such training programs: participating professionals gained awareness of the effectiveness of systemic interventions with the burdened families they treat and, through a wider and deeper systemic understanding of the organizations within which they work, altered their perspectives on problems they were facing within their work setting. Most importantly, the training group provided the safe context where feelings of frustration, hopelessness and fear linked to financial and job insecurity could be unfolded while the significance of exchange and support within a team working in a specific setting for averting professional burnout was experienced.
Pomini et al conclude with the learning that the trainers/supervisors gained from the training experience and refer to future implications and challenges that emerge.

Our next paper is concerned with the challenges that inevitably arise in difficult clinical and training situations and how to train therapists to overcome impasses. Umberta Telfner and Marilena Tettamanzi from the Milan Center of Family Therapy explore how, as systemic trainers who teach complexity, we need to help students and ourselves remain “responding agents” by utilizing active self-reflexivity on both our personal and clinical processes. The authors, utilizing their experience with Heinz von Foerster, offer an insightful exposition as to impasses that unavoidably emerge – in therapy and training – from our inevitable blind spots.
The importance of full awareness/acceptance of the therapist’s and trainer’s ignorance is seen as an essential principle underlying the systemic model since, without it there is a higher risk of “collusion” with the system where we adapt to the homeostasis and chronicity of the context. The power of accessing one’s emotions so as to recognize an impasse and introduce new processes is highlighted. Taking into account the isomorphic processes of therapy and training, Telfner and Tettamanzi go on to describe different kinds of impasses and the manners that help the therapist/trainer “re-emerge”.
By putting forth important questions to be explored in self-reflection, resonance and in supervision, these colleagues provide us with a well-defined “bag full of tricks” for getting unstuck and overcoming impasses.

Haviva Ayal and Sara Iwanir, colleagues from Israel, approach the overcoming of impasses through interventions based on an alternative manner of perceiving stress. Contrary to the customary view of stress as a fierce enemy, the authors examine the useful outcomes in systemic therapy and training of perceiving stress in a more positive light.
Through detailed vignettes, they illustrate how Positive Perceived Stress (PPS) can facilitate the creation of interventions/observations and can enhance the change process both in therapeutic and supervisory contexts.
Ayal and Iwanir conclude that the context of safety and secure attachment are fundamental for clients and trainees to open up to more intense interventions and utilize their consequent stress in an enhancing direction for change and learning, and close with their conviction that the “main tool of therapy is the therapist”.

This brings us to the following paper by Athina Androutsopoulou, Maria Viou, Niki Nikolaou, Christina Moschakis, Varvara Maria Nikolopoulou, Niki Kontoni and Elina Diamantaki. With their conceptualization of therapy as dialogic, the authors offer us a prime example of qualitative study exploring the way therapist’s inner dialogue may shape client’s and observer’s own inner dialogue, helping or hindering the therapeutic process. Their study was conducted through simulations in the training context, with their specific “Inner Dialogues – Therapists Observer Client” (ID-OC) activity – a very interesting training technique that aims to familiarize students with the concept of inner dialogue through role-played sessions. The analysis of the recorded inner dialogue narratives showed how the therapist’s inner dialogue, as performed in various acts, shaped that of the client and the observer, and influenced the process and the resolution of the session: therapists’ self-reflection brought accurate assessment of thoughts and difficulties of the client and mutual connection while, on the other hand, frustration towards the client and therapist’s self doubt were related to misconnection.
Implications for the training process are discussed with the suggestion that this method can act as an indicator of the trainees’ therapeutic skills and so reflect the area where he/she needs further development, personally and professionally.

The use of experiential role-playing and simulations in the personal growth of the potential family therapist is also the focus of our last paper in this first issue. Gianmarco Manfrida, Valentina Albertini and Maurizio Coletti, from Italy, expand the family genogram to include sculpting. By integrating the dynamic family sculpture tool with the genogram, the feelings that emerge become more potent and, although still within the boundaries of the trainee’s request for education, offer a therapeutic experience which calls forth possible alternatives of viewing internalized family story.
The article walks the reader through, “step by step”, into the use of this teaching technique and provides a specific illustration of its application in training. The combined experience of the genogram and sculpture is shown to better enable students to confront their personal history both on a rational and emotional level, enriching them with deeper self-knowledge and confidence in starting their journey as therapists.

In our second issue of this Special Edition, we will offer another rich variety of ideas and practices as presented at the Belgrade EFTA-TIC Trainers’ Meeting.

Kyriaki Polychroni
Joint Editor

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Kyriaki Polychroni & Peter Strattton Dedication to Luigi Onnis i-ii Free Fulltext Access Free Fulltext Access 
Kyriaki Polychroni Editorial 003-007 Free Fulltext Access Free Fulltext Access 
Kyriaki Polychroni In Memory of Pat Minuchin 009-011 Free Fulltext Access Free Fulltext Access 
The Complex Politics of Family Psychotherapy: Implications for Training Charlie Azzopardi 011-019 Access Abstract Access Fulltext 
Valeria Pomini, Maria-Io Akalestou, Vlassis Tomaras & Katia Charalabaki Systemic Training for ‘Frontier’ Mental Health Professionals: An Experience from Greece, in The Face of the Financial Crisis 021-037 Access Abstract Access Fulltext 
Umberta Telfener & Marilen Tettamanzi A Bag Full of Tricks: When Therapy Feels Stuck. How To Get Over an Impasse In Difficult Situations 039-053 Access Abstract Access Fulltext 
The Enhancing Power of Positive Perceived Stress (PPS) in Systemic Therapy and Training  Haviva Ayal & Sara Iwanir 055-062 Access Abstract Access Fulltext 
Therapist Inner Dialogue and First Session Resolution: Qualitative Data from the Training Activity Inner Dialogues -Therapist Observer Client (ID-TOC) Athena Androutsopoulou, Maria Viou, Niki Nikolaou, Christina Moschakis, Varvara-Maria Nikolopoulou, Niki Kontoni, & Elina Diamantaki 063-080 Access Abstract Access Fulltext 
Family Genogram and Live Sculptures for Trainees: A Socio-Constructionist Tool for Personal Growth in Family Therapy Training Gianfranco Manfrida, Valentina Albertini & Maurizio Coletti 081-093 Access Abstract Access Fulltext 
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