Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

In Australia today, government funding policy is increasingly responding to research findings indicating that for a broad range of physical health, mental health and social problems, the most effective and enduring interventions and treatments are informed by Family and Systemic Therapy. Many funded programs now require that family engagement, support and family focused treatments are a part of the practice of social workers, psychiatrists, nurses, clinical psychologists, school counsellors, counsellors, family doctors, youth workers, pastors, paediatricians and others.

As a foundation to practice in this area, students need an entry level knowledge of the concepts and models currently used in the field of Family and Systemic Therapy. The aim of this unit is to facilitate students integration of core knowledge into their current domain of practice. To do this effectively they will need to become familiar with the practical implementations of the theoretical frameworks, recognise and then describe how these constructs can be generatively utilised and integrated into their day-to-day practice. The unit introduces students to the principles and conceptual skills involved in systemic conceptualising and formulating the problems of children, adolescents, adults, couples, families such that they can plan and deliver more effective systemic interventions in their domain of practice.

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 explore theoretical frameworks of the major schools of Family and Systemic Therapy that are relevant to their domain of practice (GA4, GA5, GA8)

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

LO3 - Reflect on and communicate what they have learnt from the systemic group tasks and collaborative-learning processes, about themselves and their work as a practitioner (GA4, GA5, GA7, GA10)

Graduate attributes

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 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:

  • Models that focus on behaviour: Structural, Strategic and Cognitive Behavioural Family Therapy
  • Models that focus on belief systems: Milan Systemic Family Therapy
  • Systemic & relational models that focus on the conversation: Solution Focused, Narrative and Collaborative Language Systems
  • Models of intervention in families: intake process, first session and subsequent sessions
  • Interventive interviewing: circular & reflexive questioning
  • Systemic conceptualisation of the family lifecycle and transitions, and importance of couple formation in family functioning
  • Systemic conceptualisation of trauma & family disruption: refugee and indigenous experience
  • Agonic and hedonic modes of family functioning as a means of reducing intense anxiety, tension and distress in traumatised relational systems
  • Understanding naturalistic theories of change and change mechanisms

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 and models being taught and that students have committed to learning. This learning-teaching principle provides the pedagogical meta-framework which is an analogue of effective family and systemic therapy. This learning principle is implemented by lecturers guiding students in forming a knowledge-sharing community, which actively respects and builds on their existing professional knowledge. This unit is complementary to and delivered concurrently with FTHY601 Practices and Processes of Family and Systemic Therapy 1, which together provide students with entry level experiential learning about the systemic processes and the practices which generate change. In this relational learning context, students are introduced to the core ideas and concepts of family and systemic therapy using an intensive workshop delivery method. Each workshop is either two or three-day in duration, with a total of 40 hours per semester. There are about 4-5 weeks between each workshop, and in these periods students are supported to continue the learning-conversations they begin during the intensive workshops. When students share descriptions of what they are learning from the lectures, readings and role plays, how they are thinking about these ideas and experiences, and by describing what they are noticing about their case work, they will acquire knowledge, assimilate it and integrate it into their practice. Consequently, the theories and constructs become a leading part of an authentic learning experience and change the way students conceptualise and work with their clients and their families.

The intensive workshops include structured, lecturer led didactic presentations with interactive and reflective conversations. Students have opportunities to practice basic skills in role plays, and subsequently reflect on what they have learnt, and the competencies they are developing. Case examples from students' existing professional practice and how they are integrating the concepts into their practice setting, are an essential contribution to the knowledge-sharing community. Between the intensive workshops students are also expected to select and read core articles and books. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The three assessments used in this unit assist students to progressively achieve the unit learning outcomes (and associated graduate attributes). Each assessment task is related to the next, thereby scaffolding student learning progressively through the three tasks. Two assessments are graded tasks and one is a hurdle task.

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

The rationale for this Open Dialogue with the author is to bridge between students' existing knowledge and the seminal family and systemic theories and concepts. The task also deepens and consolidates both students' existing and their newly acquired knowledge by their exploration of ideas that are of direct relevance for the student as a professional. These two Open Dialogues are a multi-layered reflection on and description of the experience of reading original work and engaging in a written conversation with the author, which utilises the principles of Open Dialogue.

Task 2: Seminar Oral Presentation, Graded

The rationale for this task is that the act of presenting and facilitating a seminar to the group, which is a relational learning-community, is an analogue for the multilayered task of conducting a session with a family. This seminar requires students to use conversational practices, such as open-dialogue, which allow new experiences to emerge and builds their skill and confidence in ‘collaborative-exchange’ and ‘collaborative-knowledge leadership’ processes. The task also directly contributes to the relational system and collaborative-learning, knowledge-exchange, and group cohesion. Each group member also becomes familiar with each other’s unique interests and expertise, so that students can genuinely know and respect each other as professionals. This assessment task contributes to the overall quality of the relational-learning system.

Task 3: Participation in, and reflection on role plays, Hurdle

This hurdle task involves active participation in and reflection on role plays. Role plays are a rich and multi-level experiential learning process, encapsulating the complexity of relational processes. Participation in role plays and reflections on the experience are highly impactful and memorable moments which are a necessary component of developing the required skills in real-world practice. The actual practice of specific micro-skills and reflection on the process consolidates learning into procedural knowledge.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

1.   Written Assessment 

a)     Book review – Open Dialogue with the Author 1 (1,000-1500 words).

b)     Book review – Open Dialogue with the Author 2 (1,000-1500 words).

Select seminal works, which have professional relevance and are of personal interest, from the list of seminal texts of the field discussed during the workshop, and write a Review–Response with the author, using the principles of Open Dialogue.



LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8

2.   Seminar Oral Presentation

Students are to identify a topic of direct relevance to their current work, select papers from the folio of core articles, generate a power point presentation and facilitate a generative conversation within the group. 


LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA7, GA10

3. Participation in and reflection on role plays

Hurdle task

LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA10

Representative texts and references

Anderson, H. (1997). Conversation, language and possibilities. A post-modern approach to therapy, Basic Books.

Boscola, L., Cecchin, G.,Hoffman, L. & Penn, P. (1987). Milan Systemic Therapy: Conversations in theory and practice, Basic Books

Carr, A. (2012). Family therapy: Concepts, process and practice, Wiley-Blackwell.

Dallos, R. & Draper, R. (2015). An introduction to family therapy: Systemic theory and practice, 4th Edition, Open University Press.

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

Frielander, M., Escudero, V., & Heatherington, L. (2006). Therapeutic alliances in couple and family therapy, American Psychological Association.

Haley, J. (1976). Problem solving therapy, Jossey-Bass.

Minuchin, S. (1984). Families and family therapy, Harvard University Press.

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

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

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

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs