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FTHY604 Research Informed Frameworks in Family and Systemic Therapy 1

Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

As a systemically informed professional working with families, your knowledge of leading edge family and systemic therapy research and the rich array of emerging case based research and evidenced-based models for highly complex and treatment resistant presentation, is fundamental to your developing competencies as a family and systemic therapist. Building on your understanding of research informed practice covered in FTHY604 Research informed frameworks of Family & Systemic Therapy 1, the aim of this unit is to broaden your familiarity with and capacity to critique the research, conceptual structure and theoretical description of the leading evidence-based and research-informed Family inclusive treatments. This unit also aims to re-activate your collaborative-learning relational system and in this context, you will become familiar with and explore the dilemmas and challenges of implementing research-informed Family and Systemic Treatments, particularly those designed for the most complex relational problems and treatment resistant clinical presentation. You will also become familiar with the research on change mechanisms, how to monitor and evaluate change process and the restraints to change. The exploration of restraints to systemic change will include the broader ethical-legal and social justice issues that are often at the core of treatment resistant clinical presentation. As an important aspect of developing your competencies in the delivery of family and systemic treatments, you also need a detailed understanding of which needs to occur so that these apparently highly complex relational systems can recover their capacity to be generative, to nurture and to care for their members.

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 application of knowledge of the research informed treatment frameworks for complex relational systems, emerging from the various schools of family and systemic therapy, (GA5, GA9) 

LO2 - Participate in reflection and critically evaluation of their performance in systemic group tasks and micro-skills practice associated with the research informed and evidence-based family therapy treatments, (GA4, GA5, GA6) 

LO3 - Apply core concepts and practices from current research on family and systemic therapy treatment and interventions to their current cases, and reflect on challenges and issues in the development of their competencies in Family and Systemic Therapy. (GA1, GA2, GA3)  

Graduate attributes

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

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

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 

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

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


Topics will include: 

  • Family and Systemic Therapy for Physical Abuse: principles and practices 
  • Family and Systemic Therapy and cascading crisis and emotional abuse 
  • Family and Systemic Therapy for Sexual Abuse: principles and practice 
  • Working systemically with couples: What is the difference between complex and straightforward cases? 
  • Solution focused couple’s treatment  
  • Emotion focused therapy (EFT) for couples 
  • Systemic conceptualisation of safety and danger within families and other relational systems 
  • Research supported sequences of intervention strategies for traumatised and traumatising families  

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 involves 40 hours of group learning, using an intensive workshop structure and is delivered concurrently with Live Supervision and Reflecting Team Practice 2, as this provides active case examples and an opportunity for you to describe challenges, clinical issues and to engage your colleagues as an active resource. 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.  In this relational learning context, you are introduced to case-based research and research-informed family and systemic therapy treatments and interventions with complex systems. Your lecturers will deliver didactic presentations, including demonstrations, role plays and you will learn to conduct a critical analysis, evaluation of the frameworks being presented and reflection on your process of learning. Your contribution to the workshops also includes case stories from your practice and/or from clients attending the live supervision session. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

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

In order to pass this unit, you are required to complete and pass both graded tasks 

Task 1:Book Reviews – Dialogues with the researcher tasks, Graded 

The rationale for this Review–Dialogue task is to bridge between your existing knowledge and the research informed and evidence based Family and Systemic treatments and interventions. There are many research informed interventions and treatment frameworks designed for complex and so-called treatment resistant families, and while this unit introduces you to most of the more rigorously researched frameworks, in this task you have the opportunity to deepen your knowledge of two frameworks directly relevant to your work.  

The Book Review-Dialogue with the researcher task invites you to choose the writings of two researchers and while reading, notice and record your inner conversation with the researcher. You may have another perspective or different explanations, or a critique or extrapolations and broader applications of the work or general observations to make about the researcher’s work. This task provides an authentic opportunity to express your thinking. The task also deepens and consolidates both your existing and your newly acquired knowledge by your exploration of research of direct personal and professional relevance. These two Review–Dialogues are a multi-layered reflection on, and description of, your experience of reading original work and writing what you might say, in the course of a conversation with the researchers, from the perspective of a practitioner. 

Task 2: Oral description and reflection on the role of research in FST practice and impact on your development of FST competencies. Graded 

The rational for this task is that the act of presenting and facilitating the seminar-like description and reflection on your learning and development within a relational learning-community, is an analogue for the multilayered task of conducting a session with a family. This presentation requires you to use conversational practices such as open-dialogue with yourself, and genuinely explore your dilemmas and challenges in learning to deliver the best possible family and systemic therapy. It is normal that in exploring personal dilemmas and challenges, differences in perspective emerge, and the task is to hold and respect these differences while maintaining a safe relational context. Thus new understandings and experiences emerge, and build your skill and confidence in ‘collaborative-exchange’ as a means of growth and change for all participants. The task also directly contributes to the relational system, and collaborative-learning, knowledge-exchange, and group cohesion. Your group becomes familiar with your and each other’s unique interests and expertise, and genuinely know and respect each other as professionals. This assessment task contributes to the overall quality of the relational-learning system. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

1a Book Review–Dialogue with researchers 1 (I,000 words)    

1b Book Review-Dialogue with researchers 2 (I,000 words)     


Select two 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 a Review–Dialogue with each researcher (1,000 words each). 



LO1, LO3. 

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA5, GA9  

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

Describe and self-reflect on the impact that research findings and research informed practices have on your emerging competencies and work with families using Family and Systemic Therapy treatments. Describe your dilemmas and challenges in integrating these findings into your work, and facilitate a generative conversation within the group around the benefits and issues. 


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, 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. 

MacKinnon, L.K. 1998, Trust and Betrayal in the Treatment of Child Abuse, 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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