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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. For students of this unit to enrich their practice in this area they will need foundation 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. The aim of this unit is 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 students to integrate Family and Systemic core knowledge into their current 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 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 into their current day-to-day practice (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8)

LO3 - 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. These teaching learning principles continue to be implemented by the lecturers who guide students in nurturing their knowledge-sharing community, which actively respects and builds on their existing professional knowledge This unit is complementary to and delivered concurrently with FTHY603 Practices and Processes of Family and Systemic Therapy 2, which provides students with experiential learning about the systemic processes and the practices which generate change. In this unit students 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 the workshops is either two or three-days in duration, with a total of 40 hours per semester. There are on average 4 weeks between each workshop, and in these periods students are supported to continue the learning-conversations they began during the intensive, and complete the book review tasks. When students share descriptions of what they are learning from the lectures and readings, how they are thinking about these ideas and experiences, and by describing what they are noticing about their own case work, their knowledge is acquiring meaning, and they are assimilating and integrating this knowledge into their practice. Consequently, the theories and constructs become a part of an authentic learning experience and impact on the way students conceptualise and work with their clients and families.

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

Assessment strategy and rationale

The three assessments used in this unit assist students to achieve the unit learning outcomes (and associated graduate attributes).

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

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

Task 3: Reflection, self-reflection and communication of student development of competency in Family and Systemic Therapy, Graded

The act of constructing and presenting the student's narrative of the multiple learning experiences to their 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 oral presentation requires students to use conversational practices such as open-dialogue, which allow new experiences to emerge, and build their skill and confidence in ‘collaborative-exchange’. The task also directly contributes to collaborative-learning, ease and group cohesion. The group becomes more familiar with student's unique learning process and expertise, and increases the genuine understanding and respect that students develop for each other as professionals.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

1.   Written Assessment 

Book Review 1 – Open-Dialogue with the Author

Select one book which has professional relevance and is of personal interest, from the list of seminal literature of the field related to the material presented and discussed during the workshop. Prepare a written open-dialogue with the author (1000-1500 words). Students need to articulate a response to the author about his/her ideas and describe what they have used from the array of ideas and practices.


LO1, LO2

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8

2. Written Assessment 

Book review 2– Open Dialogue with two Authors

Select two books which have professional relevance and are of personal interest, from the list of seminal literature of the field related to the material presented and discussed during the workshop. Students are to prepare a written (1500-2000 words) open-dialogue with two selected book authors. Students provide a rationale for bringing the authors together in the conversation, and articulate to the authors their thoughts about the authors' contribution to their thinking and application of the ideas.


LO1, LO2

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8

3. Reflection, self-reflection and communication of student development of competency in Family and Systemic Therapy.

Students describe and reflect on significant and enduring learning experiences of direct relevance to their current work, and personal development.


LO2, LO3

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8

Representative texts and references

Andersen,T. (1991). Reflecting teams: Dialogue and dialogues about dialogues, Norton

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

Byng-Hall, J. (1995). Rewriting family scripts. Improvisation and change, Guilford.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.

Dallos, R. (1997). Interacting stories: Narratives, beliefs and therapy, Karnac

DeShazer, S. (1988). Clues: Investigating solutions in brief therapy, Norton

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

Framo,J. (1992). Family of origin therapy: An intergenerational approach, Springer

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

Goldner, V. (1985). Feminism and family therapy. Family Process, 24, 31-47.

Leupnitz,D. (1988). The family interpreted, Basic Books

Papp, P. (1983). The process of change, Guilford

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.

White, M., & Epston, D. (1990). Narrative means to therapeutic ends, Norton

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