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FTHY601 Concepts and Models of Family and Systemic Therapy 2

Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Increasingly, government policy and funding bodies are responding to research findings indicating that the most cost effective and enduring interventions and treatments are informed by Family and Systemic Therapy. As a systemically informed professional working with families, students' knowledge of leading edge family and systemic therapy research, and the emerging evidenced-based models for high prevalence mental health presentation, are fundamental to their development. Building on students' understanding of theory and models covered in FTHY600 and FTHY602 Concepts and Models of Family and Systemic Therapy 1 & 2, in this unit students will become familiar with and examine the research and treatments for complex problems of adolescence, mental illness, and drug, alcohol and other issues in adolescence and adulthood. Students will apply systemic thinking to the wider ethical-legal and social justice issues related to these presentations. The aim of this unit is for students to develop their knowledge of what contributes to precision and quality of outcomes for their clients, and how applied research contributes this essential knowledge. Students will have a collaborative-learning community to discuss and address the challenges that assist the integration of these ideas into their practice as a family and systemic therapist.

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 specialised knowledge of the research informed treatment frameworks emerging from the various schools of family and systemic therapy (GA4, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Reflect on and evaluate their performance in systemic group tasks and micro-skills practice associated with the research informed and evidence-based family therapy treatments (GA4, GA6, GA7)

LO3 - Apply core concepts and practices from current research on Family and Systemic Therapy treatment and interventions to their current cases, and reflect on the development of their competencies in family and systemic therapy (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8)

Graduate attributes

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

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:

  • Complex presentation of adolescence focused problems, cultural and social marginalisation compromised health & mental health, school participation & performance, juvenile justice, and parental mental health: i) Brief strategic Family Therapy (BSFT), ii) Functional Family Therapy (FFT).
  • Managing ‘therapeutic stuckness’ and active ingredients contributing to change in complex relational systems.
  • Measuring changes in family functioning and utilising family strengths & relational resources.
  • Attachment Based Family Therapy (ABFT) for adolescent depression & suicide, Attachment Focused Family Therapy (AAFT).
  • Ethics and best practice in effectively utilising family and systemic therapy within adult psychiatric treatment including Indigenous mental health treatments.
  • Open-dialogue approach in treating first-episode psychosis in adolescents: principles and practice.
  • Systemic conceptualisation, motivational interviewing, and psychoeducation in the treatment of problematic usage of drugs & alcohol.
  • Process and practices of family and systemic models of treatment of problematic usage of drugs & alcohol. 
  • Gambling and other addictions: The family's experience and research informed systemic treatments.

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 students are learning. This learning-teaching principle provides the pedagogical meta-framework which is an analogue of effective family and systemic therapy. This unit is delivered concurrently with FTHY605 Live Supervision and Reflecting Team Practice 1 and involves 40 hours of group learning, using an intensive workshop structure. Each workshop is either two or three days 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 began during the intensive workshops and complete a book review-response to the research task. In this relational learning context, students are introduced to the leading evidence based and research informed family and systemic therapy treatments and interventions, using lecturer led didactic presentations, including demonstrations, role play and critical analysis, evaluation and reflection on the process of learning. Students' contribution to the workshops includes case stories from their practice and/or from clients attending the live supervision session.  

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. Each assessment task is related to the next, thereby scaffolding student learning progressively through the three tasks.

Tasks 1 and 2: Book review – Open Dialogue with the researchers, Graded

The process of conducting written Open Dialogue with specific authors of Family and Systemic Therapy evidence-based and research-informed models, which are of direct personal or professional relevance, integrates, deepens and consolidates both existing and newly acquired knowledge. Writing these responses based on the principles of an Open Dialogue is a multi-layered reflexive task and provides students with direct cognitive affective engagement with the material.

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

The act of constructing and presenting a narrative of the multiple learning experiences to students' relational learning-community is an analogue for the multilayered task of being genuinely present in a session with a family, with a clear and precisely 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. Each group will become more familiar with their members' unique learning process and expertise, and will increase their genuine understanding and respect for each other as professionals.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

1. Book Review–Response to the researcher 1 (1000-1500 words)

Select one book which has professional relevance and is of personal interest, from the list of seminal research literature in the field discussed during the workshop, and write an Open Dialogue with the researcher.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9

2. Book Review–Response to the researcher 2 (1000-1500 words)

Select one book which has professional relevance and is of personal interest, from the list of seminal research literature in the field discussed during the workshop, and write an Open Dialogue with the researcher.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9

3. Reflection and self-reflection on development of competency in Family and Systemic Therapy.

This oral presentation task 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’.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Anderson, H. & Gerhart, D., Eds., (2007). Collaborative therapy: Relationships and conversations that make a difference, Routledge.

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

Carr, A. (2014). The evidence base for family therapy and systemic interventions for child-focused problems. Journal of Family Therapy, 36, 107-157

Escudero, V. & Friedlander, M.L. (2017). Focused issues in family therapy. Therapeutic alliance with families: Empowering clients in challenging cases, Springer International Publishing.

Friedlander, M.L., Escudero, V., & Heatherington, L. (2006). Therapeutic alliance in couple and family therapy: An empirically informed guide to practice, American Psychological Association.

Diamond, G.S., Diamond, G.M., & Levy, S.A. (2014). Attachment-based family therapy for depressed adolescents, APS Press.

Gerhart, D. (2017). Mastering competencies in family therapy: A practical approach to theory and clinical case documentation, 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, 55, Special Issue: Empirically Supported Treatments in Couples and Family Therapy. 

McLeod, J. (2022). Doing research in counselling and psychotherapy (4th ed.). Sage

Seikkula, J., & Olsen, M.E. (2003)., The open dialogue approach to acute psychosis: Its poetics and micropolitics, Family Process, 42, 403–418.

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

Sexton, T.L. (2011). Functional family therapy in clinical practice: An evidence-based treatment model for working with troubled adolescents, Routledge.

Shotter, J. (2015). Tom Andersen, Fleeting events, the bodily feelings they arouse in us, and the dialogical: Transitory understandings and action guiding anticipations, ANZJFT, 36, 72–87.

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.

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