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FTHY602 Practices and Processes 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 developed a broad range of process-recognition and process-descriptions skills, and linked these with conversational-practices and intervention. Psychotherapy research is increasingly demonstrating that these ideas are a means of generating change in the treatment of individuals, dyads, couples, families and other relational systems. In order to competently deliver this array of processes and practice, students will need to undertake deliberate extended practice, and this unit provides a framework for this next stage of that focused development. Students will learn to respectfully explore more deeply their own and others sensitive family of origin themes, use more emotionally activating interventive interviewing practices and experience the mechanisms of change used in Family and Systemic Therapy. This unit aims to continue process-recognition and process-description skills development, while building fluency in the use of conversational practices and interventions, which were introduced in FTHY601 Practices and Processes of Family and Systemic Therapy 1. Each student's tutorial-team will be guided and supported to form a deeper and resilient relational system, which facilitates one another's skill development. Students will continue developing skills and automaticity in the use of open dialogue, reflection, self-reflections, evaluation on their casework, sharing sections of their personal journal while balancing their own and other's right to respect, privacy and confidentiality.

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 reflect on the precision of the use of open-dialogue, interventive interviewing, methods of monitoring and evaluating change in systemic dynamics associated with the theoretical frameworks from the different models of Family and Systemic Therapy (GA4, GA5, GA8) 

LO2 - Describe and reflect on the changes in systemic processes, in their tutorial-team, in their family of origin and in case examples, using the concepts of Family and Systemic Therapy (GA1, GA5, GA8) 

LO3 - Construct generative reflections on systemic processes and evaluate the impact on the relational process in the tutorial-team and in their client work, using the concepts and practices of Family and Systemic Therapy (GA4, GA5, GA7, GA9)

Graduate attributes

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

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 

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


Topics will include:

  • Exploring the family's ethics, moral and cultural values, and spirituality, as core family resources
  • Assessment skills
  • Identifying and reviewing change markers in relational systems
  • Reflection, self-reflection, and open-dialogue: Exploring the family's story of intimacy, emotional connection, emotional expression and emotional literacy
  • Monitoring micro and macro changes in relational systems
  • Reflection, self-reflection, and open-dialogue: Ethics and excellence in practice
  • Introduction to the reflecting team process
  • Live reflecting team session

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

All relational systems that have been actively engaging over a period of time evolve in their systemic dynamics, as do the relational dynamics in families. In this unit, exploration of these phenomena will be undertaken through lecturer guided and structured exploration. This allows for deeper experiential learning about process and practices, and builds on material and processes introduced in FTHY601 Practices and Processes of Family and Systemic Therapy 1. This unit involves 35 hours of small group learning, delivered in intensive mode of 2-3 day workshops where students reconvene as an evolving tutorial-team of 5-6 members. Students will continue to deliberately and frequently practice open-dialogue and a variety of interventive conversational skills. This unit is delivered concurrently with FTHY602 Concepts and Models of Family and Systemic Therapy 2, which provides the constructs and descriptive language to describe the process in the group, and concurrently supports acquisition, integration and performance of new conceptual and procedural learning. Because the tutorial teams have been reactivated, it is reasonable to assume that each member of the tutorial-team has evolved in how they all contribute to each other’s learning. This provides students the opportunity to apply change-monitoring skills, evaluation and reflection on the systemic dynamics, all of which are fundamental Family and Systemic Therapy competencies which contribute substantially to the quality of outcomes in Family and Systemic Therapy service delivery. Students' process-recognition and process-description skills have also evolved and are available to be monitored and thus contribute to their own and other’s systemic-learning. Students' individual learning contracts will need to be reactivated and renegotiated. Students will need to reflect on the changes in the structure and functioning of their tutorial-team as a collaborative-learning and relational system and how it can best support the members’ new learning goals. Students and their team will explore how the systemic process has and is unfolding within this relational system; as well as manage the process so that it occurs at a pace that is respectful and safe. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

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

Task 1: Journal Keeping: Personal-Professional Journal, Hurdle

The Journal is a comprehensive record of students' thoughts and experiences which they will use in Tasks 2 & 3. Students make this journal an emotionally honest and safe personal recording of their reflections, self-reflections, ideas, feelings, and emotional responses which emerge in the course of the interaction in the tutorial team, in role play or while viewing a video recording of a family session. This journal builds the capacity for generative and precise reflection and open-dialogue as an acquired tertiary skill. By recording and discussing observations and emotional responses with their lecturers and tutorial team, students can develop their capacity to manage emotional reactions, improve flexibility, and improve their emotional self-regulation. The journal keeping task enhances students' cognitive-relational functioning, developing their capacity to manage attentional and memory process, so that they can notice and recall sequences of interaction and place their attention on important relational episodes. This task also builds students' confidence in their unique personal knowledge, as well as their capacity to share their expertise and skills in collaborative engagement in systemic process. This task has been found to facilitate development of the complex constellation of cognitive–affective skills which under-pin development of automaticity of therapeutic responses and sound clinical decision-making in the heat of the moment.

Task 2: Major written report 3,000 word, Pass/Fail

The rationale for this assessment task is that the process requires students to begin looking for the themes emerging from their journal, as they need to do for client families. This systemic theme-recognition and reflection process is a fundamental Family and Systemic Therapy competency. Succinctly summarising and integrating these themes into a written piece of this length, is a cognitive-affective discipline and generates growth in precision of expression, consequently improving self-awareness and self-reflection on core themes that students find in their journal. These fundamental competencies need deliberate extended practice and are known to contribute to the quality of the therapeutic alliance and effectiveness of Family and Systemic Therapy practice.

Task 3: Presentation of learning from reading, tutorial team dynamics, family of origin work, Pass/Fail

In this task students practice systemic formulation and how to build a balanced alliance in the collaborative learning relational system, all of which are fundamental to Family and Systemic Therapy competency. This task requires students to draw a link between day-to-day phenomena and appropriate and succinct use of the Family and Systemic Therapy concepts and language-practices, to describe ‘what’s there’ and how students and others responded to a particular experience. This task provides students with authentic practice of these Family and Systemic Therapy competencies. In return students' learning experience is enriched at multiple levels. By producing a coherent and succinct narrative about their learning, how they are facing the dilemmas and challenges of integrating the relational language of Family and Systemic Therapy into their practices, students are generating a systemic formulation. The act of sharing their understanding, which is an analogue for systemic formulation, within the larger training group, provides students with both additional practice and valuable feedback. Research indicates that sound and genuine systemic formulations evoke respect and curiosity, while improving the therapeutic alliance, and contribute to a safe process of an ‘exchange of differences in perspective’. This task allows students to practice and genuinely build their confidence, and as an analogue of one of the core processes of Family Systems, generates change in students, contributes to the richness of learning for colleagues and can be directly translated to work with families. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

1.      Journal Keeping

Develop a Personal-Professional Journal which provides students with a multi-layered record of their experiences and inner conversation generated in the collaborative-learning relational system. 

Hurdle Task

LO1, LO2

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA8

2.      Major report (3,000 words)

Based on the material collected in their personal-professional journal, reading of the Family and Systemic Therapy literature, case work and conversations with colleagues, students are to prepare a major report on how and what they have learnt about their participation in the systemic dynamics.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9

3.      Presentation of learning from reading, tutorial team dynamics, and family of origin work.

Based on the material collected in their personal-professional journal students prepare an oral presentation (and PowerPoint) of what they have learnt about their participation in the systemic dynamics in the tutorial team over the semester.


LO2, LO3

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Anderson, T. (1987). Reflecting team: Dialogue and meta-dialogue in clinical work, Family Process, 26, 415-427.

Anderson, H. & Gerhart, D. (Eds.) (2012). Collaborative therapy: Relationships and conversations that make a difference, Routledge

Byng-Hall, J. (1985). The family script: A useful bridge between theory and practice. Journal of Family Therapy.

Cantwell, P. & Holmes, S. (2004). Cumulative process, Journal of Systemic Therapies, 15, 123-129.

Falicov, C. J. (1995).Training to think culturally: A multidimensional comparative framework. Family Process, 344, 373-388.

Gerhart, D. (2017). Mastering competencies in family therapy: A practical approach to theory and clinical case documentation. 3rd Ed, Belmont, Brooks/Cole.

Holmes, S. & Cantwell, P. (1994). Social construction: A paradigm shift for systemic therapy and training. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 15

Seikkula, J. & Trimble, D. (2005). Healing elements of therapeutic conversation: Dialogue as an embodiment of love, Family Process, 44, 461–475.

Seikkula, J (2008). Inner and outer voices in the present moment of family and network therapy. Journal of Family Therapy, 30, 478-491.

Stratton, P., Lask, J., Bland, J., Nowotny, E., Evans, C., Singh, R., Janes, E., & Peppiatt, A. (2014). Detecting therapeutic improvement early in therapy: validation of the SCORE-15 index of family functioning and change. Journal of Family Therapy, 36, 3-19

 Weingarten, K. (2010). Reasonable hope: Construct, clinical applications, and supports. Family Process, 49

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