Postmodern Ethics and Our Theories: Doing Therapy versus Being Therapists

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from Guilford Press for the Journal of Systemic Therapies, vol 18, number 4, pp. 18-41. Abstract Theories are often an object of contention in the family therapy field. Confused therapists can mechanically follow models, produce too many negative outcomes, or burn out. Theories are not to blame. Neither are therapists. It is the way in which they are related that makes for the quality of therapy. We have an ethical mandate to choose a model that fits our personal beliefs. This paper describes a process for creating our theories to fit ourselves. When clinical practice is a reflection of one’s deepest values, one goes beyond doing therapy to being a therapist. As a field, family therapy seems well defined. Authors perceive it as a separate discipline from other forms of psychotherapy (Framo, 1996; Lee & Sturkie, 1997; Shields, Wynne, McDaniel, & Gawinski, 1994; Stanton, 1988) especially given the increasing utilization of social constructionist, postmodern thinking (Bailey, 1996; Fruggeri, 1992; Gergen, 1991; Hoffman, 1988). The definition blurs, however, when it comes to specifying what it takes to be a family therapist. A good place to turn for an understanding of how to do therapy would seem to be theory because theories should provide focus for our work (Hardy, 1994; Taibbi, 1996). Instead, the subject of theory is a constant source of contention. For example, there is the decades-old debate on influence and power (Goolishian & Anderson, 1992; Simon, G. M., 1992, 1993, 1994; Simon, R., 1982). This is just one of many conflictual theoretical issues (Amundson, Stewart, & Valentine, 1993; Atkinson & Heath, 1990; Coyne, Denner, &...
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