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FTHY602 Practices and Processes of Family and Systemic Therapy 1

Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

The field of family and systemic therapy has developed a broad range of process-recognition and process-descriptions skills, and linked these with conversational-practices and intervention. Psychotherapy research is increasingly demonstrating that these ideas are a means of generating change in the treatment of individuals, dyads, couples, families and other relational systems. This unit aims to continue process-recognition and process-description skills development, also building fluency in the use of conversational practices and interventions, which were introduced in FTHY601 Practices and Processes of Family and Systemic Therapy 1. In order to competently deliver this array of processes and practice you will need to undertake deliberate extended practice, and this unit provides a framework for this next stage of that focused development. You will also learn to respectfully explore more deeply your own and others sensitive family of origin themes, use more emotionally activating interventive interviewing practices and experience the mechanisms of change used in Family and Systemic Therapy (FST). Your tutorial-team will be guided and supported to form a deeper and resilient relational system, which facilitates each other's skills development. You will continue developing skills and automaticity in the use of open dialogue, reflection, self-reflections, evaluation on your casework, sharing sections of your personal journal while balancing your own and other's right to respect, privacy and confidentiality.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe and reflect on the precision of the use of open-dialogue, interventive interviewing, methods of monitoring and evaluating change in systemic dynamics associated with the theoretical frameworks from the different models of family and systemic therapy,. (GA4, GA5, GA8) 

LO2 - Describe and reflect on the changes in systemic processes, in your tutorial-team, in your family of origin and in case examples, using the concepts of family and systemic therapy, (GA1, GA5, GA8) 

LO3 - Construct generative reflections on systemic processes and evaluate the impact on the relational process in the tutorial-team and in your client work, using the concepts and practices of Family and Systemic Therapy. (GA4, GA5, GA7, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • Exploring the family's ethics, moral and cultural values, and spirituality, as core family resources
  • Assessment skills
  • Identifying and reviewing change markers in relational systems
  • Reflection, self-reflection, and open-dialogue: Exploring the family's story of intimacy, emotional connection, emotional expression and emotional literacy
  • Monitoring micro and macro changes in relational systems
  • Reflection, self-reflection, and open-dialogue: ethics and excellence in practice
  • Introduction to the Reflecting Team process
  • Live reflecting team session

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

All relational systems that have been actively engaging over a period of time evolve in their systemic dynamics, as do the relational dynamics in families. This unit provides a lecturer guided and structured exploration of these developmental phenomena. This allows for deeper experiential learning about process and practices, and builds on material and processes introduced in FTHY601 Practices and Processes of Family and Systemic Therapy 1. This unit involves 35 hours of small group learning, delivered in intensive mode of 2-3 day workshops where you reconvene as an evolving tutorial-team of 5-6 members. You will continue to deliberately and frequently practice open-dialogue and a variety of interventive conversational skills. This unit is delivered concurrently with FTHY602 Concepts and Models of Family and Systemic Therapy 2, which provides the constructs and descriptive language to describe the process in the group, and concurrently supports acquisition, integration and performance of new conceptual and procedural learning. Because you have reactivated the tutorial teams, it is reasonable to assume that each member of your tutorial-team has evolved in how you all contribute to each other’s learning. This provides you the opportunity to apply change-monitoring skills, evaluation and reflection on the systemic dynamics, all of which are fundamental FST competencies which contribute substantially to the quality of outcomes in FST service delivery. Your process-recognition and process-description skills having also evolved are available for monitor and thus contributing to your own and other’s systemic-learning. Your individual learning contracts will need to be reactivated and renegotiated. You will need to reflect on the changes in the structure and functioning of your tutorial-team as a collaborative-learning and relational system and how it can best support the members’ new learning goals. You and your team will explore how systemic process has and is unfolding within this relational system; manage the process so that it occurs at a pace that is respectful and safe. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The three assessment procedures used in this unit are consistent with University assessment requirements, meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes. The first assessment is a hurdle task, and the next two assessments are ungraded.

Task 1: Journal Keeping: Personal-Professional Journal, Hurdle

The Journal is a comprehensive record of your thoughts and experiences which you will use in Tasks 2 & 3. You need to make this journal an emotionally honest and safe personal recording of your reflections, self-reflections, ideas, feelings, emotional responses which emerge in the course of the interaction in the tutorial team or in role play or while viewing a video recording of a family session. This journal builds your capacity for generative and precise reflection and open-dialogue as an acquired tertiary skill. By recording and discussing with your lecturers and tutorial team your observations and emotional responses you develop your capacity to manage your emotional reactions and improve flexibility, manage anxiety and improve your emotional self-regulation. The journal keeping task contributes to improving your cognitive-relational functioning, developing your capacity to manage your attentional and memory process, so that you can notice and recall sequences of interaction and place your attention on important relational episodes. This task also builds your confidence in your unique personal knowledge, your capacity to share your expertise and skills in collaborative engagement in systemic process. This task has been found to facilitate development of the complex constellation of cognitive–affective skills which under-pin development of automaticity of therapeutic responses, and sound clinical decision-making in the heat of the moment.

Task 2: Major written report 3,000 word, Ungraded with Feedback

The rationale for this assessment task is that the process requires you to begin by looking for the themes emerging from your journal, as you need to do for client families. This systemic theme-recognition and reflection process is a fundamental FST competency. Succinctly summarising and integrating these themes into a written piece of this length, is a cognitive-affective discipline and generates growth in precision of expression, thoughtful selection of what you wish to say and how you say it, consequently improves your self-awareness and self-reflection on core themes you are finding in your journal. These fundamental competencies need deliberate extended practice and are known to contribute to the quality of the therapeutic alliance and effectiveness of FST practice.

Task 3: Presentation of learning from reading, tutorial team dynamics, family of origin work, Ungraded with Feedback

In this task you practice Systemic formulation and building a balanced alliance in the collaborative learning relational system, all of which are fundamental FST competency. This task requires you to draw a link between day-today phenomena and appropriate and succinct use of the FST concepts and language-practices, to describe ‘what’s there’ and how you and others responded to a particular experience. This task provides you with authentic practice of these FST competencies. In return your learning experience is enriched at multiple levels. By producing a coherent and succinct narrative about your learning, how you are facing the dilemmas and challenges of integrating the relational language of FST into your practices, you are generating a systemic formulation. The act of sharing your understanding, which is an analogue for systemic formulation, within the larger training group, provides you with both additional practice and valuable feedback. Research indicates that sound and genuine systemic formulations evoke respect, curiosity and improve the therapeutic alliance, and contribute to a safe process of an ‘exchange of differences in perspective’. This task allows you to practice and genuinely build your confidence, and as an analogue of one of the core processes of FS, generates change in you, contributes to the richness of learning for your colleagues and can be directly translated to your work with families. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

1.      Journal Keeping

Develop a Personal-Professional Journal which provides you a multi-layered record of your experiences and inner conversation generated in the collaborative-learning relational system. 

Hurdle Task

LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1,GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9

2.      Major report 3,000 word

Based on the material collected in your personal-professional journal, your readings of the FST literature, your case work and your conversations with your colleagues, prepare a major report on how and what you have learnt about your participation in the systemic dynamics. Focus on what were the specific experiences and moments that changed your practice and your understanding of what are systemic relational processes. Produce a coherent and succinct narrative that illustrates your integration of the systemic concepts and the relational language practices of FST. 


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1,GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9

3.      Presentation of learning from reading, tutorial team dynamics, family of origin work

Based on the material collected in your personal-professional journal prepare an oral presentation (and PowerPoint) of what you have learnt about your participation in the systemic dynamics in the tutorial team over the semester.

Use the concepts and language of FST to describe ‘what’s there’ and how you respond to these experiences. Produce a coherent and succinct narrative about this process, that describes your integration of the systemic concepts and the relational language practices of FST. Share your understanding within the larger training group, thus contributing to the process of an ‘exchange of differences in perspective’. This is an analogue of one of the core processes of FST, which generates change in families.


LO2, LO3

GA1,GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Anderson, T. (1987). Reflecting Team: Dialogue and Meta-dialogue in clinical work, Family Process, 26, 4: 415-427.

Anderson, H. & Gerhart, D. (Eds.) (2012). Collaborative Therapy: Relationships and Conversations that Make a Difference, NY, Routledge

Gerhart, D., (2014). Competencies in Family Therapy: A Practical Approach to Theory and Clinical Case Documentation 2nd Ed, Belmont, CA, Brooks/Cole.

Holmes, S. & Cantwell, P. (1994). Social construction: A paradigm shift for systemic therapy and training. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 15(1).

Cantwell, P. & Holmes, S. (2004). 'Cumulative process', Journal of Systemic Therapies, 15, 123-129.

Lipchik, E. (2002). Beyond technique in solution focused therapy. Guilford, New York.

Seikkula, J. & Trimble, D. (2005). Healing Elements of Therapeutic Conversation: Dialogue as an Embodiment of Love, Family Process, Vol 44, December, 461–475.

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