Credit points


Campus offering

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FTHY600 Concepts and Models 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 generated a number of richly elaborated theories, concepts and constructs, which now contribute to the evidence-based and research informed population specific methods of treatment. This unit aims to broaden the lens on the material covered in FTHY600 Concepts and Models of Family and Systemic Therapy 1 and also to continue building the collaborative-learning relational system that allows you to integrate Family and Systemic core knowledge into your current domain of practice. For you to enrich your practice in this area you will need entry level knowledge of the ideas of family developmental processes, family life cycle and how family systems are impacted by and adapt to political, social and economic upheavals, specific relational trauma, and the multiple forms of disruptions to families becoming a successfully nurturing relational system. This unit introduces ideas of family developmental life cycle and links these with the concepts and models of family and systemic therapy, thus providing the next level of concepts and theories as applied to the specific problems in family systems. This unit also focuses on specific periods of vulnerability in family development and the more prevalent pathological adaptation, with particular emphasis on ethical-legal issues in systemic work with families with children and/or adolescents as the presenting problem.

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 comment on specific stages in the family developmental lifecycle and the relevant theoretical frameworks of the major schools of family and systemic therapy. (GA3, GA4, GA8)

LO2 - Translate selected core family and systemic therapy concepts in family and systemic therapy into your current day-to-day practice (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8)

LO3 - Participate in and reflect on systemic processes, including case studies, systemic group tasks, role plays and self-reflection after micro-skills practice. (GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8)

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

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 


Topics will include:

  • Systemic Conceptualisation of Couple formation and the impact on family functioning.
  • Systemic and Ethical-Legal understanding of violence and abuse in couples & families.
  • Couple and family functioning: focus on anxiety, depression, anorexia and chronic illnesses in the family.
  • Systemic Conceptualisation and best practice in the treatment of problems in children; focus on Childhood and Adolescent depression, acting out, ADHD, ODD.
  • Schools and families as co-regulating relational systems.
  • Ethics and best practice in the helping children and adolescents recover from unexplained medical symptoms and illnesses.
  • Framing of trauma in the family's history, including cultural & spiritual trauma of Indigenous families: translating current findings into practice.
  • Generating a useful and treatment-relevant formulation of specific trauma experiences and including it in treatment planning.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit builds on FTHY600 Concepts and Models of Family and Systemic Therapy 1 and is also delivered in the context of a collaborative-learning and relational system, which is congruent in the usage of conversational practices, modes of interaction and relational ethics, with the systemic concepts and models being taught. This teaching learning principles continues to be implemented by your lecturers who guide you in nurturing your knowledge-sharing community, which actively respects and builds on your existing professional knowledge This unit is complementary to and delivered concurrently with FTHY603 Practices and Processes of Family and Systemic Therapy 2, which provides you with experiential learning about the systemic processes and the practices which generate change. In this unit you are introduced to the ideas of family developmental lifecycle and the next level of basic concepts and models of family and systemic therapy using an intensive workshop delivery method. Each of workshops is either two or three-day in duration, with a total of 40 hours per the semester. There are on average 4 weeks between each workshop, and in these periods you are supported to continuing the learning-conversations you began during the intensive, and complete the book review tasks. When you share descriptions of what you are learning from the lectures and readings, how you are thinking about these ideas and experiences, and by describing what you are noticing about your own case work, your knowledge is acquiring meaning, and you are assimilating and integrating this knowledge into your practice. Consequently, the theories and constructs become a part of an authentic learning experience and impact on the way you conceptualise and work with your clients and their families.

The intensive workshops include structured, lecturer led didactic presentations with interactive and reflective conversations. You have opportunity to practice basic skills in role plays, and subsequently reflect on what you have learnt, and the competencies you are developing. You can use case examples from your existing professional practice and consider how you are integrating the concepts into your practice setting. These are all valued contributions to your knowledge-sharing community. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The two assessment procedures used in this unit are consistent with University assessment requirements, meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes. The two assessments are graded tasks.

Task 1: Book review – Open-Dialogue with the Author 1& 2, Graded

By conducting these open-dialogues and responding to the authors’ ideas, you bridge the gap between your existing knowledge and Family and Systemic theories and concepts. The process of exploring FST ideas of direct relevance for you as a professional, deepens and consolidates both your existing and your newly acquired knowledge. Engaging in these Open-Dialogues, which are a multi-layered reflexive task providing direct engagement with the authors, you can reflect, critique, theorising, hypothesising about your current cases, appreciating what these ideas can contribute to your practice. You can metaphorically discuss with the author what you draw from the material and also using your experience, question what the author proposes, and you can write what the author may say in response to your thoughts. You can include some or all of these elements in your description of your experience of reading this original work.

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 clearly 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 becomes more familiar with your unique learning process and expertise, and increases the genuine understanding and respect that you develop for each other as professionals.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

1.   Written Assessment 

Select three books, which have professional relevance and are of personal interest, from the list of core literature of the field related to the material presented and discussed during the workshop.

(a) Book review 1 – Open-Dialogue with the Author

Prepare a written open-dialogue with the author (1,000 word) of one of these books Articulate your response to the author about his/her ideas and describe what you have used from the array of ideas and practices.

(b) Book review 2– Open Dialogue with two Authors

Prepare a written (1500 words) Open-Dialogue with two selected book authors. Provide a rationale for bringing the authors together in the conversation and articulate to the authors your thoughts about their contribution to your thinking and usage of their ideas.



LO1, LO2

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8

2.   Oral reflection and self-reflection on development of competency in Family and Systemic Therapy

Describe and reflect on significant and enduring learning experiences of direct relevance to your current work, and personal development. 


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8

Representative texts and references

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

Dallos, R. & Draper, R., (2010), An Introduction to Family Therapy: Systemic Theory and Practice, 3rd Edition, Berkshire, McGraw-Hill .

Fleuridas C. et. al. 1986. The evolution of circular questions: Training family therapist, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 12, 2: 113-127.

Frielander, M., Escudero, V. & Heatherington, L. (2006) Therapeutic Alliances in Couple and Family Therapy Washington: American Psychological Association.

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

Tomm K. (1987). Interventive Interviewing I: Strategizing as a fourth guideline for the Therapist. Family Process, 26, 1: 3-14.

Tomm K. (1987). Interventive Interviewing II: Reflexive questioning as a means to enable self-healing, Family Process, 26, 2: 167-183.

Tomm K. (1987). Interventive Interviewing III: Intending to ask lineal, circular or reflexive questions? Family Process, 27, 1: 1-27.

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