Credit points


Campus offering

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FTHY603 Practices and Processes of Family and Systemic Therapy 2

Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Increasingly, government policy and funding bodies are responding to research findings indicating that the most cost effective and enduring interventions and treatments are informed by Family and Systemic Therapy. As a systemically informed professional working with families, your knowledge of leading edge family and systemic therapy research, and the emerging evidenced-based models for high prevalence mental health presentation, are fundamental to your development. Building on your understanding of theory and models covered in FTHY600 and FTHY602 Concepts and Models of Family and Systemic Therapy 1 & 2, in this unit you will become familiar with and examine the research and treatments for complex problems of adolescence, mental illness and drug, alcohol and other issues in adolescent and adults. You will apply systemic thinking to the wider ethical-legal and social justice issues related to these presentations. The aim of this unit is unit is to develop your knowledge of what contributes to precision and quality of outcomes for your clients, and how applied research contributes this essential knowledge. You will have a collaborative-learning community to discuss and address the challenges that integrating d these ideas into your practice as a family and systemic therapist.

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 - Communicate and demonstrate knowledge of the research informed treatment frameworks emerging from the various schools of family and systemic therapy, (GA4, GA8, GA9) 

LO2 - Participate in reflection and evaluation of your performance in systemic group tasks and micro-skills practice associated with the research informed and evidence-based family therapy treatments, (GA4, GA6, GA7)

LO3 - Apply core concepts and practices from current research on family and systemic therapy treatment and interventions to your current cases, and reflect on the development of your competencies in Family and Systemic Therapy. (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8)

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

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

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

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:

  • Complex Presentation of Adolescents focused problems, involving cultural and social marginalisation compromised health & mental health, school participation & performance, juvenile justice, and parental mental health: i) Brief strategic Family Therapy (BSFT), ii) Functional Family Therapy (FFT).
  • Managing ‘Therapeutic Stuckness’ and active ingredients contributing to change in complex relational systems.
  • Measuring changes in family functioning and utilising family strengths & relational resources.
  • Attachment Based Family Therapy (ABFT) for Adolescent depression & suicide, Attachment Focused Family Therapy (AAFT).
  • Ethics and best practice in effectively utilising family and systemic therapy within adult psychiatric treatment including Indigenous mental health treatments
  • Open-Dialogue approach in treating first-episode psychosis in adolescents: principles and practice.
  • Systemic conceptualisation, motivational interviewing, and psychoeducation in the treatment of problematic usage of drugs & alcohol.
  • Process and practices of family and systemic models of treatment of problematic usage of drugs & alcohol. 
  • Gambling and other Addictions: The Family's experience and research informed systemic treatments.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is delivered in the context of a collaborative-learning and relational system, which is congruent with the systemic concepts, models and research you are learning. This learning-teaching principle provides the pedagogical meta-framework which is an analogue of effective family and systemic therapy. This unit delivered concurrently with FTHY605 Live Supervision and Reflecting Team Practice 1 and involves 40 hours of group learning, using an intensive workshop structure. Each workshop is either two or three days in duration, with a total of 40 hours per the semester. There are about 4-5 week between each workshop, and in these periods you are supported to continuing the learning-conversations you began during the intensive workshops and complete a Book Review-response to the research task. In this relational learning context, you are introduced to the leading evidence based and research informed family and systemic therapy treatments and interventions, using lecturer led didactic presentation, including demonstrations, role play and critical analysis, evaluation and reflection on your process of learning. Your contribution to the workshops includes case stories from your practice and/or from clients attending the live supervision session.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

The three assessments used in this unit are consistent with University assessment policy requirements. Together, the assessments help you to progressively achieve the unit learning outcomes (including the specified graduate attributes), and to demonstrate that you have done so. Each assessment task is related to the next, so each helps you with the next learning step.

Task 1: Book review – response to the research a, b & c, Graded

The process of responding to FST evidence-based and research-informed models, which are of direct personal or professional relevance, integrates, deepens and consolidates both your existing and your newly acquired knowledge. Writing these responses is a multi-layered reflexive task and provides you direct engagement with the material.

Task 2: Oral reflection and self-reflection on development of competency in Family and Systemic Therapy, Graded

The act of constructing and presenting your narrative of the multiple learning experiences to your relational learning-community, is an analogue for the multilayered task of being genuinely present in a session with a family, with a clear and precisely formulated purpose. This presentation requires you to use conversational practices such as open-dialogue, which allow new experiences to emerge, and build your skill and confidence in ‘collaborative-exchange’. The task also directly contributes to collaborative-learning, ease and group cohesion. Your group will become more familiar with your unique learning process and expertise, and increase your genuine understanding and respect for each other as professionals.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

1.   a) Book Review–Response to the research 1

(I,000 words)

b) Book Review–Response to the research 2

(I,000 words)

a)  Book Review–Response to the research 3

(I,000 words)

Select three books, which have professional relevance and are of personal interest, from the list of core research literature of the field discussed during the workshop, and write Review–Response to the research (1,000 words).

Specifically identify what you draw from the material and what you draw from your experience. You can reflect critique, theorise, and hypothesise about your current cases. Implement some of the findings and comment on whether these ideas can contribute to your existing practice.

You can include some or all of these elements in your description of your experience of reading this original research work.




LO1, LO2

GA4, GA6 GA7, GA8, GA9

2.      Oral description and self-reflection on the role of research in FST practice and impact on development of FST competencies.

Describe and self-reflect with the assistance of a PowerPoint presentation, on the impact of research findings and research informed practices on your FST work with families. Describe your dilemmas and challenges in integrating these findings into your work and facilitate a generative conversation within the group.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Anderson, H. & Gerhart, D., Eds., (2007) Collaborative Therapy: Relationships and Conversations that Make a Difference, NY, Routledge.

Carr, A. (2012), Family Therapy: Concepts, Process and Practice, NY, Wiley-Blackwell,

Diamond, G.S., Diamond, G.M., & Levy, S.A., (2014) Attachment-Based Family Therapy for Depressed Adolescents, Washington DC, APS Press.

Gerhart, D., (2017) Mastering Competencies in Family Therapy: A practical approach to theory and clinical case documentation, Boston, MA, Cengage Learning.

Jewell, T., Blessitt, E., Stewart, C., Simic, M. & Eisler, I., (2016), Family Therapy for Child and Adolescent Eating Disorders: A critical Review, Family Process, Vol 55, No.3, September, Special Issue: Empirically Supported Treatments in Couples and Family Therapy. 

Henggler, S.W., Schoenwald, S.K., Rowlands, M.D., & Cunningham, P.B., (2002) Serious Emotional Disturbance in Children and Adolescents: Multisystemic Therapy, NY, Guilford.

Seikkula, J. & Olsen, M.E. (2003), The Open Dialogue Approach to Acute Psychosis: Its Poetics and Micropolitics, Family Process, Vol 42, September, 403–418.

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

Shotter, J., (2015), Tom Andersen, Fleeting Events, the Bodily Feelings They Arouse in Us, and the Dialogical: Transitory Understandings and Action Guiding Anticipations, ANZJFT, Vol 36, March, 72–87.

Sexton, T.L., (2011) Functional Family Therapy in Clinical Practice: An Evidence-Based Treatment Model for working with troubled Adolescents, NY, Routledge. 

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